Wednesday, 28 September 2011

The Tree of Life (2011)

Yes I am horrifically late in watching The Tree of Life. But I've finally had the chance to see it at the local, independent cinema and here is my review regardless.

Running Time: 139 mins
Directed By: Terrence Malick
Starring:  Sean Penn, Brad Pitt , Jessica Chastain, Hunter McCracken
Screenplay: Terrence Malick
UK Release Date: 8th July - UK

Quick Plot: On the anniversary of his brother's death, Jack looks back on his life as a child, focusing on his relationship with his parents as he questions the importance of life.

Review: With talks of that big important 'O word' surrounding The Tree Of Life I was deeply intrigued by the film.
Let's get one thing straight; The Tree Of Life is not for everyone. I have proof, as a total of seven people left the screening (I was sitting on the edge as it's set out is like a theatre so I noticed) and at the end a group of women cheered and shouted 'thank goodness that's over'- which angers me anyway because they must have known the film wasn't going to be straight forward. It got booed at the Cannes by the non-critics and I can kind of see why so I'd say about 20% of people would like it as it's extremely different to the norm and I guess it's tedious. The way that Malick runs together his shots is quite unusual in comparison to films on a wider scale so this can cause a discomfort for some people, but for others like me I found it curious and exciting.
I've never seen a Terrence Malick film before (I know it's bad but I'm working on it) so I didn't know quite what to expect other than seeing the trailer and hearing the excellent reviews. The film begins with a narrator, who we later learn is the Mother (Jessica Chastain), reading a quote from the bible "Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation ... while the morning stars sang together and all the sons of God shouted for joy?". And quite obviously the film as a whole endeavours to this quote. A change of time brings us to Jack's life in the present and we soon learn it is the anniversary of his brothers death. As the film continues there are flashes between the creation of life in an absolutely stunning montage of sequences, the life Jack had as a child with his two younger brothers and parents and quick glances on this day that Jack is looking back at his life. I don't believe any of that is too confusing. I mean, of course any film is confusing with a continual change of time from flashbacks to current but that's what makes some films so interesting- Tree Of Life especially. In the sequences of the start of life in bright colours, beautifully glamorous shots and a fantastic score, it reminded me lot of Fantasia. Even though I enjoyed the other parts of the film, I would not have minded watching these sequences for two hours as the visuals combined with the score was breathtaking.
However the other part of the narrative, the main plot between the family, from when the boys are born to watching them grow older, were undoubtedly my favourite. Before I speak about the truly fantastic performances by the younger cast, I've first got to obviously mention the others. Brad Pitt is probably going to get the most recognition for his role as the Father around awards season which is completely deserved. Without a big built up storyline, you only see what you see, as silly as that sounds. Appearing ruthless, Pitt's character of the boy's father shows all the signs of love when they are young whilst they grow up he becomes firmer and stricter which of course the boys would rather go without. Yet Pitt develops the character as far as he can with Malick's confounding story, showing the signs of love and appreciation of the boys but foolishly letting his personal failures inflict his sons. Chastain too is marvellous, speaking the most when she's narrating she plays a perfect contrast to Pitt, the graceful and caring Mother of the boys. It deeply pains you when you hear her cries over her lost son because of her psychical acting with the younger actors. Sean Penn too is great but doesn't have the screen time to be noted as fantastic though we know he has it to be, his character of Jack is nothing compared with the deeper narrative. The three young lads, most importantly Hunter McCracken as young Jack, are all truly flawless. With very little to each of their names they put on a great front, most of the time not having much dialogue their characters are shown purely through their actions. It seems effortless their fixed bond deep within each other as brothers but at the same time they're being kids because that is their role. You only know their names and hardly that. There is no specific age other than when the middle brother dies and you only know they're located in America. You don't know much about them at all but after the first hour of the film you connect with young Jack which I think is all down to the music, mastered shots and McCracken's performance.
With the main focus of the narrative being the loss of one of the brothers, the pain is a heartbreaking journey through the lives of this family and life on Earth; how we came to be and how graceful the world is.

The Tree Of Life is simply beautiful. It makes you think about your own life and others in a way that's unique in films. It's not for everyone.


The Tree of Life trailer
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Sunday, 25 September 2011

Jurassic Park (2011/1993)

Running Time: 126 mins
Directed By: Steven Spielberg
Starring: Sam Neill, Laura Dern, Jeff Goldblum, Richard Attenborough, Samuel L. Jackson, Joseph Mazzello, Ariana Richards
Screenplay: Michael Crichton, David Koepp
UK Release Date: UK - 23rd September

Quick Plot: It's back, bigger and better than ever! Billionaire John Hammond creates his very own prehistoric theme park through the use of cloned dinosaurs but before the park can be opened to the public, it has to be tested. Scientists Dr. Alan Grant, Dr. Ellie Sattler, Dr. Ian Malcolm and his very own grandchildren are the lucky ones who can go to the park. Sounds safe, right?

Review: For the unfortunate cinema-goer I am, I was born too late to witness some of the truly brilliant films in cinematic history. Thus I was, of course, a year late in being born to see Jurassic Park in all it's glory. But thankfully I grew up watching the film with a joint fascination with my cousin for dinosaurs. A few months back when I heard about Jurassic Park having a re-release (and NOT in 3D) I was overjoyed.
The thing about Jurassic Park is that at first glance, your first thought is 'what a fantastic fictional story' but based on the thorough plot line, the idea of 'Jurassic Park' seems plausible and exciting in real life. Still, today seeing the film in 2011 I heard gasps and 'wows' from the audience which was sensational. But the best of all was the delighted reactions from the really younger children who I seemed enjoyed it very much. To the people who were obviously not watching Jurassic Park for the first time I'm sure they would agree with me in saying that it was as if it was a totally new experience. Even though I knew how the film was going to end, I was on edge in hope that Dr. Malcolm wasn't eaten by the T Rex, little Tim and Lex weren't eaten by the monstrous velociraptors and that in the end that everyone would be ok. The kitchen scene was especially more tense on the big screen because everything around me was even more silent. Jurassic Park is a frightening film but in a way in which there is no need for excessive amounts of gore or other horror like features. It's in the timing that Spielberg has with his shots. In the kitchen scene, you're with the kids. The puff from the velocipraptors nose onto the window of the door overwhelms you - you're scared. The loud screeches they make - you're scared. It's a never ending cat and mouse chase in theory, but with dinosaurs.
Being restored in high definition has meant that Jurassic Park is even more glorious than it was before. Even though the CGI effects for 1993 was groundbreaking, now in high definition, you really do realise the beauty that Steven Spielberg created in the Jurassic Park. Not only in the Dino's them self but the whole landscape in detail. The trees, the rain, the mud, the water - everything. The phrase 'breath of fresh air' is what the opening and closing scenes of Jurassic Park on the cinema screen felt like.
The film hasn't exactlly got exceptional performances by any of the cast (though Jeff Goldblum does play the hilarious character of Dr. Ian Malcolm very well) but the absolutely iconic theme from the masterpiece musical score by John Williams, the beautiful CGI and SFX sounds and quite simple yet, totally enchanting storyline is enough for Jurassic Park to still count as one of the most brilliant films in history.

Jurassic Park is re born and it's truely incredible. It's a big, enjoyable adventure for nearly all of the family and if you're a big fan of the film you do not want to miss out on the re release.


Jurassic Park Theatrical Re-Release Trailer
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Wednesday, 21 September 2011

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (2011)

Running Time: 127 mins
Directed By: Tomas Alfredson
Starring: Gary Oldman, Colin Firth, Mark Strong, Tom Hardy, Benedict Cumberbatch, John Hurt, Ciaran Hinds, Kathy Burke
Screenplay: Peter Straughan, Bridget O'Connor
UK Release Date: UK - 16th September

Quick Plot: Set in the height of the cold war aka. 1970 London, semi-retired MI6 agent George Smiley is recalled back to find a double agent working for Soviets.

Review: For critics, Tinker Tailor Solider Spy has been one of the most anticipated films of the year and that's no surprise looking at the absolute extraordinary cast and the fact the novel by John le Carré and the mini series in 1979. It's also no surprise the film is very good which is mostly down to the cast.
Gary Oldman is possibly the main reason Tinker Tailor Solider Spy has been receiving such incredible reviews and a lot of talk. His take on our central character George Smiley is exquisite and I wouldn't be surprised if it wins him an Oscar nomination in the least; he deserves it. The film starts off with a tense and great cold open scene indicating the greater plot and then follows Smiley into his life after going into early retirement. With exception of the soundtrack and sounds of the scenes, it's silent and you're following George Smiley into his life and wondering what is going to happen. After the film quickens it's hard to find times of the film to really sympathise with George but on a whole, with him being our main character, you're on his side throughout. Oldman is undoubtly the standout performance but in my opinion, Benedict Cumberbatch and Tom Hardy's roles were closely followed. They have different jobs within their roles but altogether contribute to the fine work of acting talent in the entire film.
Cumberbatch, who is really making his mark in film and TV recently, shines throughout the film. One key scene and a favourite of mine, which I had the luck of seeing a month ago at big screen, was still as tense and remarkable on my first viewing. Being younger than the more experience actors in the film, Cumberbatch's acting comes off on the others making his role more important than it seems. With a few more emotional scenes than you expect, Cumberbatch really did a fantastic job. Hardy never seems to fail to show that he has a wide range of proficiency's within his work. Again a younger character among the rest of the cast, but with still as much importance with them all. My other favourite scenes involved him and his flashbacks in telling the important stories. King Colin Firth, John Hurt and Mark Strong are just as great as all of their other works and their parts do not at all go by unnoticed, but on a personal note, Hardy, Cumberbatch and Oldman stole the show. A worthy mention is Kathy Burke in a key scene, having a few laughs which is natural for her but is must be mentioned as she is wonderful.
From the moment Tinker Tailor Solider Spy begins, you're constantly being thrilled by the beautifully exciting suspense we are put through! With some very clever shots of the bottom of people's bodies and not clear picture of Smiley's wife and another key character's face, as part of the audience you're singling out characters by just the way they're represented. Everything is a mystery until the end, so Tomas Alfredson has very cleverly mastered the cinematography, creating a constant cold feel adding your own suspicion to the the characters individually.
The film is undoubtedly long and for some it can seem tedious. I don't agree that Tinker Tailor Solider Spy is purely a 'critics' film because the cast and story does appeal to many different types of audiences. But it's not for everyone because of the length. If it was a simple hour and a half long thriller more people would like it but it'd be basic. Because of the duration it allows for the film to involve a list of greatly developed characters, a long interesting mystery story and it keeps you thinking. Saying that, the film's greatness is solely down to the accomplished cast. Being great in all of their previous work alone, together they seem to bounce off one another making each other greater unknowingly.

Tinker Tailor Solider Spy is showcasing the fine acting talents Britain have to offer. It's not a thriller glamorising in guns, girls and excessive amount of murders, but you're on edge all the time. Long but worth it.


Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy official trailer
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Sunday, 18 September 2011

Jane Eyre (2011)

Running Time: 121 mins
Directed By: Cary Fukanaga
Starring: Mia Wasikowska, Jamie Bell, Michael Fassbender, Sally Hawkins, Judi Dench
Screenplay: Moira Buffini
UK Release Date: UK - 9th September

Quick Plot: Charlotte Brontë's classic novel Jane Eyre tells of how the young, beautiful, Jane flees from her compelling school Thornfield Hall becoming a governess meanwhile falling in love with the man she works for; mysterious Mr. Rochester.

Review:  Period dramas are a little harder to come by these days, so a classic like Jane Eyre is a real treat for the cinema. The novel is one of the most famous pieces of literature so I knew the name Jane Eyre but when I first watched the trailer (because Fassbender's name was attached) I really had no idea what to expect as far as the storyline goes. But what it turns out to be something of a favourite of mine, a beautiful, dramatic, deep love story with a frightening progress.
Mia Wasikowska is undoubtedly the best actress to have been the young, plain, magnificent Jane. Because of course, Jane isn't really plain at all. She is such a beautiful character inside and out, a famous woman in literature, played by a truly talented fine actress in this adaptation. Though I have yet to see The Kids Are All Right, her role as Alice in the slightly disappointing Alice In Wonderland, was exquisite. Making the film the least bit enjoyable, she really has something special in her characters which definitely showed through Jane. With the other acclaimed talents of Michael Fassbender, Judi Dench, etc.. for Wasikowska to hold the attention on herself is a huge accomplishment. Not that Fassbender and Dench were unobserved in the film. Jane Eyre is a character who from the young age (played by Amelia Clarkson) is very much grown up in that she puts everyone before her, knows the morals of life and is very much independent. Wasikowska plays Eyre respectfully in the sense that even though she is the closest in age to the story of Jane Eyre, she plays her in her true role of being a grown up. Emotionally and psychically she proves to everyone that Eyre is sophisticated yet delicate, with passionate and moving scenes the character thoroughly develops throughout the entire film giving Wasikowska the fantastic opportunity of out stretching the role of Eyre to the limit.

Fassbender is something of a continually exceeding actor who is really making his mark recently and am sure will continue to do so. Mr. Rochester is a very dark character at first who later on we discover is not quite what he seems and you later on feel for Rochester because of the way Fassbender whole heartily plays the character. The scenes between Eyre and Rochester are possibly the greatest of the film because they're not all about the romance. With awkward encounters, funny and empathic confrontations the romance first lies deep into the chemistry of the actors which grows into a beautiful love story later on. Wasikowska has the elegant side of Jane whereas Fassbender plays the dark and handsome Rochester with a bit of mystery to him but never once being cold hearted or selfish- which you first believe he will be. Dench and Jamie Bell too, are fantastic ensembles to the film, both help push the story forward as it sadly seems to lag a bit at the beginning. Bell, I noticed, proves that he can play a role of a gentleman in the period drama age very well and had the charm that Eddie Redmayne has in most of his films.
The film is quite tense in places. With the dark secret Rochester holds, the film puts you on the edge of your seat many times. This adds to the beauty of the period drama genre which I admired hugely. Though at first I felt the film dragged, the cinematography and soundtrack kept me hooked into the time of the film. With stunning cuts of the Yorkshire land, the graceful buildings and pretty flowers and trees, Jane Eyre is definitely a treat for the eye.
The way the film progresses is another reason why I adored it. Starting near the end and then working it's way forward from an early flashback gets the audience involved in working out where you are now and why Jane Eyre is the way she is. From some disturbing scenes of Jane as a young child to her as a grown, loving adult, you sympathize with Jane Eyre and feel as if you know about her life. Nearly all scenes are with her in it, so you are confused and baffled but also overjoyed and in love at the same time with her.

Absolutely stunning cinematography with a beautifully talent cast, bringing one of the most famous love stories to life. Wasikowska steals the show in quite simply one of the best period dramas the cinema has seen.

Jane Eyre 2011 official trailer

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Saturday, 10 September 2011

Friends With Benefits (2011)

Running Time: 109 mins
Directed By: Will Gluck
Starring: Mila Kunis, Justin Timberlake, Patricia Clarkson, Richard Jenkins, Woody Harrelson, Richard Jenkins, Bryan Greenberg, Andy Samberg, Emma Stone
Screenplay: David A. Newman, Keith Merryman, Will Gluck
UK Release Date: UK - 9th September

Quick Plot: Jamie and Dylan have both had their fair share of failed relationships, after becoming friends they realised that they are perfect for one have sex with. Deciding to have a no strings attached- sex only- relationship they promise to not let feelings get in the way. Can't be hard right?

Review: Now where have I seen this film before? I remember, it's like that No Strings Attached that came out earlier this year. Same storyline and both star one of the girls from Black Swan and two actors from That's 70's Show! I would continue in this sarcastic manner if Friends With Benefits wasn't good but thankfully it was the opposite.
So Friends With Benefits isn't anything special or unique, especially with a similar (or replica- whatever you prefer) film having been released not so long ago. Yet, Friends With Benefits is really good for it's genre and I believe that's because of director, Will Gluck. Easy A took most of the world by storm last year and it's easy to see that Gluck has a speciality at making real life situations hilarious and thoroughly believable, though it's not extraordinary it's certainly something that's hard to come by in comedy films today.
Unlike No Strings Attached the characters of Jamie and Dylan are extremely likable. Mila Kunis' role as the 'emotionally damaged', waiting for 'Prince Charming' Jamie, is different from most rom com's leading ladies though still clichéd and similar. But because of Kunis fine talent of humour and good acting, the character is amiable to the audience which is obviously the film's aim. And even though we hate to admit it, Justin Timberlake is a far better actor than we ever expected. Though Dylan doesn't quite reach the impressiveness that The Social Network's Sean Parker did, you can see that Timberlake isn't the usual singer turnt actor we're so use to, he's passionate enough to give it his all (Though I very much miss your music JT please make another album). The pair certainly have chemistry which holds the film together and their on going bickering is charming. They're at their best in scenes together which luckily for us is about 90% of the film. Jamie's eccentric, party going Mom, Patricia Clarkson is another of the comedy stand outs and sadly Dylan's gay colleague, Woody Harrelson, isn't quite as funny as you want. Luckily the leads keep the film together as far as the characters can go.
From the trailer you knew the film essentially bases around lots of sex but the bedroom scenes aren't glorified in being the big scenes. They are important in being the funnier scenes but some are edited into sweet montages which gives off more of an emotional surge than I think it means to. With cute clichés such as the realisation that they are in love to the big act of trying to win the person back, the film is an overdose in cuteness which is down to the leads.
It's not an overly 'laugh out loud' comedy but Friends With Benefits is very funny (a lot funnier than No Strings Attached) and has the right amount of emotion for a Rom Com if you excuse the unneeded family storyline Dylan's father (Richard Jenkins) has.

Typical rom com but with plenty more laughs and sex but the leads have evident chemistry which makes the film better than most of the gushy stuff we see today. It's a must see if you love the genre.

Friends With Benefits official trailer
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Sunday, 4 September 2011

The Lion King 3D (2011)

Running Time: 89 mins
Directed By: Rob Minkoff, Roger Allers
Starring: Matthew Broderick, James Earl Jones, Jeremy Irons, Rowan Atkinson, Whoopi Goldberg, Jonathan Taylor Thomas, Nathan Lane, Ernie Sabella
Screenplay: Irene Mecchi, Linda Woolverton, Jonathan Roberts
UK Release Date: UK - 7th October

Plot: When Simba is born, his Uncle Scar is put second in line to be King. With the help of his silly hyena followers, Scar plots to kill King Mufasa and his son in order to be King.

Review: It's been 17 years since we were blessed with the release of The Lion King and since then it's become one of the most successful and famous Disney animation films. Though I wasn't around to witness the film at the cinema for the first time, I grew up watching my VHS copy nearly everyday and later on brought it on DVD. It may seem that I'm being biased for the benefit of this review, but The Lion King is in fact my top favourite film if you look at the list I complied a while ago, but the film is one of the greatest animation films ever made in the mind of so many people across the world it was no surprise the film was going to have a 3D release.
I do admit at first it was hard to imagine The Lion King in 3D because of the fact the animation is formally in 2D with no real curve on the characters or scenery but the 3D is simply exquisite. The beautiful opening sequence of 'The Circle Of Life' in particular really enchanted me as it did with many people in the screening hearing lots of 'wows' and 'oohs'. What once was simple strands of grass or minor clouds of dust along the Savannah are now fully vibrant bases for the 3D. The new technology on the film adds a deeper character communication to the audience as they appear (as silly as it sounds for animation) more believable. Equally, Scar and the hyena's seem more villainous than before especially during the number 'Be Prepared' where the smoke adds evil to Scar's menacing character.
With the high definition surround sound, the film again gave off a greater power than it ever has done before. With scenes such as the stampede chase, 'I Just Can't Wait To Be King', 'Hakuna Matata' and more, The Lion King proves further more that Hans Zimmer is a genius with musical scores and deserved all the awards he won back in 1995. Additionally, the film is just as emotional as the first time you see it. I found myself with tears at one of the most tragic deaths in the history of cinema- for about the 20th time in my life. Though it felt as if I was watching the film for the first time. I noticed far more details (and that's coming from someone who has seen the film countless times) and I believe the majestic transformation forces you to greatly appreciate and acknowledge the divine craft that was the hand drawn animation of the 90s.
Though you have to remember the film was made in a time before the 3D of today existed so the directions of the characters on screen never really jump forward as you'd expect for a 3D film of today. But, the film  has been worked on to the greatest extent to ensure that the scenery surrounding the main points of the film are modernised to 3D in a way that will direct out at you.
Probably one of the best things about The Lion King being re-released in digital 3D is that newer generations will be aware of the film as it continues to shine and beckon hearts. When I had a quick peek around to some of the younger audiences faces I could only see their mouths in smiles (as the IMAX glasses were taking up most of their little faces!) which goes to show the effect it has on children. But not only children get the amusement from The Lion King, adults too. I never realised the funny extent of some of the dialogue in The Lion King till I saw it in 3D, hearing mostly older laughs from people at the hilarious stuff Timon and Pumba come out with. For me, the film has got more beautiful with the 3D conversion which I didn't think was at all possible.

The Lion King in 3D is nothing but a breath of magnificent fresh air or to put it more simply: an absolute masterpiece is reborn. With the groundbreaking technology of today, you will be sorry if you miss this on the big screen. If you know someone young who hasn't seen the film or even if you've seen it a dozen times before, make sure you see The Lion King in 3D as you've never quite seen it before.


The Lion King 3D official trailer

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Saturday, 3 September 2011

Fright Night (2011)

Running Time: 106 mins
Directed By: Craig Gillespie
Starring: Anton Yelchin, Colin Farrell, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, David Tennant, Imogen Poots, Toni Collette, Dave Franco
Screenplay: Marti Noxon, Tom Holland
UK Release Date: UK - 2nd September

Quick Plot: Charley Brewster's life couldn't get much better, he has a nice bond with his single Mother, nice home, a new gang of cooler friends and the hottest girlfriend but when mysterious and hunky Jerry moves in next door, things start to get a little frightening. Charley realises his neighbour is a vampire, but will anyone believe him?

Review: Vampire films, books and TV shows aren't exactly uncommon in the world today, but Fright Night goes back to the famous ways with the creatures with a little more horror than Twilight or The Vampire Diaries. I'm not a horror fan at all so, you guessed it, the cast drew me to Fright Night along with the small comedy hybrid but I ended up enjoying it a lot more than I thought I would, even if I was frightened to the extreme.
As Fright Night starts it jumps right into the main plot, with disappearances and attacks in the local town which you obviously realise is down to Charley's strange new neighbour. After that it's more of a waiting game, letting the film continue with a little scares and the majority of the film's comedy until the long chase and battle scenes between Charley and Jerry. Once the story's at this point it's exciting, scary and quite enthralling. It's very dark and the screenplay is very carefully thought out which I believe is one of the reasons it the film works well collectively. The comedy covers for about one fifth of the film and it's mostly in the first 30 minutes, after that, with the odd joke here and there, it's a scary and tense cat and mouse chase.
The film is released in 3D with very few 2D showings across the country and after seeing it I understand why. I don't usually opt for 3D films, I find it depends on the look and quality trailer, but being filmed in with a 3D camera and not later converted, Fright Night is an extremely good 3D film. Without it, the film would have been less scary. With dozens of objects flying, blood 'splashing' and smoke and ash surrounding you it's scary and mostly the reason I jumped out of my seat.
Other than the horror being daunting, Fright Night is pretty much a great film because of the truly talented cast. Colin Farrell's sexy vampire Jerry is extremely intimidating and frightening. His sinister actions and body movement is enough to make you jump every now and then but it's no surprise he played the role perfectly. After Star Trek and Terminator Salvation in 2009 I was fully certain Anton Yelchin is one of the best younger actors in Hollywood and after this I still believe it.
He plays the common teenager and still gets away with it but his work is expanding and he's a lot different than most actors his age. He has different roles each time and his fine work continues to grow. I loved his character of Charley Brewster, the nerdy dweeb turned cool kid because of his girlfriend's status, as it's extremely relatable because of Yelchin. Toni Collette as Charley's Mum is, as always good, similarly with Imogen Poots as Charley's girlfriend Amy. Like most of his roles, Christopher Mintz-Plasse is the teenage nerd which you've got to admit he nails perfectly and adds the comedy, but later on he breaks out of it just a little, still packed with comedy but expands. As much as Tennant's character as the great wacky magician Peter Vincent seems to be funny at first glance, the jokes are merely him swearing and drinking. Although that works well, it's nothing incredible.

Fright Night lives up to its title of being extremely frightening with a few giggles here and there. Effects are satisfactory and compliments the 3D very well. However it's mostly a cast film with a great performance by Farrell and Yelchin with a fair one by Tennant.


Fright Night official trailer #2

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