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Hotel worker Lisa (Rachel McAdams) is on her way home to Miami after attending her grandmother’s funeral. On the flight home, she meets a man called Jack (Cillian Murphy) who seems charming enough at first, and is a comfort to Lisa as she tries to get over the family death. All is not what it seems however, as Jack then forces Lisa into a situation that involves terrorists and a plot to assassinate a prominent politician. If she doesn’t help, then her father will die. What follows is tale of trying to save lives, and how to overcome a determined enemy.

Director Wes Craven has made a name for himself over the years for directing many successful horror films, such as ‘Nightmare On Elm Street’ and the ‘Scream’ trilogy. Craven has gone for a change of pace for this film, which is a more intense psychological thriller, which he hasn’t done before. He uses a small cast, in what is basically a two hander, with McAdams and Murphy being the only main people in it. But this makes the film even more exciting, as the tension mounts between the two people, who both have different agendas, and want to achieve them at whatever cost.

Rachel McAdams makes a very sympathetic heroine, and gives her role a tougher edge which is a change from the usual ’screaming women’ usually found in these types of films. McAdams is relatively new to the film world, but has equipped herself well with her last few films, such as ‘Wedding Crashers’. Cillian Murphy is excellent in the villain role, using his quite creepy face to good effect. You are never sure what he’ll do next, and brings an element of danger which may have been missed had another actor taken the role. Acclaimed actor Brian Cox uses his small role as Lisa’s father to good use. Even though his character has no idea that he could be killed any minute if his daughter doesn’t do the villains bidding, Cox adds a degree of toughness to him that makes his part a memorable one. The rest of the cast are adequate, but don’t really have much to do.

At times the story does tend to go over the top, especially towards the end, but the tightly written script and great acting by the two leads, makes the story quite believable. Also, at 90 minutes in length, the film doesn’t outstay it’s welcome and concentrates on the story at hand without getting sidetracked. This is certainly one of Wes Craven’s best films that he’s done recently, and is a welcome return to form for him. An entertaining and exciting nail biter that is definitely worth seeing.

Rating out of 10: 8

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

Freddie Highmore stars as Charlie, a young boy who lives with his parents (Helena Bonham Carter & Noah Taylor), and his grandparents, in a run down house. One day he hears that the reclusive chocolate maker, Willy Wonka (Johnny Depp), has placed a gold ticket in 5 chocolate bars which enables the winners to get a personal tour of his factory. Charlie is one of the winners, and along with 4 other kids, gets to see the kingdom that Mr Wonka has made. What follows is a tale of how greed can affect people, and also how family deeds in the past can affect how some people are in the present.

Tim Burton is the director of this remake, and has done an excellent job. This is his fourth collaboration with Johnny Depp, and once again, they make a great partnership. They seem to bring out the best in each other, and the creativity that they each bring certainly shines thru in this. This film is based on the famous Roald Dahl book, and is streets ahead of the appalling and dreadful 1971 version, starring Gene Wilder. Unlike the earlier version, which Dahl himself disliked and talked down to the audience, this film delights in showing the warped reality of Wonka and his methods for doing things. Tim Burton ensures that the story goes along at a good pace and doesn’t descend into mawkish sentimentality, which the earlier version did.

Johnny Depp is wonderful in the role, giving Wonka a manic energy and childlike innocence all at once. You are never quite sure what his character will do next, which just adds to the fun to proceedings. His interpretation of Wonka successfully erases all memory of Gene Wilder’s version, and is yet another memorable role in a great career for Depp. Freddie Highmore is very charming as Charlie and brings a good mix of toughness and innocence to his part. Christopher Lee makes a cameo appearance as Wonka’s father and gives his usual distinguished presence to the story. The rest of the cast playing the children and grandparents are all good in their roles, and don’t overact too much, which is crucial for this sort of film.

Apparently the budget for this film was $150 million, and it certainly shows. The production design is amazing, and every penny of the budget is evident on screen. Wonka’s world is vividly bought to life, and is worth seeing just for the sets alone. Mention must be made of the make up and costuming as well, which is fantastic. They add to the atmosphere considerably, especially when giving the Wonka character a deathly pale look, making his character even more sinister.

Tim Burton has remained true to the source novel, and has produced a story which maintains the warped and macabre world that Dahl enjoyed writing about. This will become the definitive version of the story, and consigns the previous version to the history dustbin. An excellent film for all ages, with great acting and wonderfully imaginative sets. Highly recommended.

Rating out of 10: 9

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