All the reviews of this week’s new releases, including Seven Psychopaths, The Man With The Iron Fists and more…
THE MAN WITH THE IRON FISTS (USA/Hong Kong/16/95mins)
Directed by RZA. Starring Russell Crowe, Cung Le, Lucy Liu, Jamie Chung, Pam Grier, Rick Yune, Dave Bautista, Byron Mann, Daniel Wu, Zhu Zhu, Andrew Ng.
THE PLOT: Basically Deadwood transported to 19thcentury China, in Jungle Village pretty much anything goes. The only law is, well, the law of the jungle, and so, when a clan chief is murdered for his great big pot of gold, the man responsible – the very, very nasty Silver Lion (Mann) – is soon the target of a series of lone mercenaries. And with names like Bronze Lion (Le), The X-Blade (Yune) and Jack Knife (Crowe), you know there’s going to be more than a little blood splattered across the camera lens…
THE VERDICT: Basically a Kill Bill sequence that gets way out of hand, The Man With The Iron Fists is one of those grindhouse-verging-on-fetish affairs that makes for one great trailer and one vaguely disappointing movie. The sort of movie that Mr. RZA and his Wu-Tang crew would no doubt love, no matter how artistically bereft it happened to be. This is all about the attitude of those on screen and the altitude of those watching.
Tarantino’s on board, as presenter, RZA having handled the soundtrack duties on the Kill Bill outings, and fallen in with Eli Roth (co-writer and co-producer here) during a month-long visit on that shoot. Which is all sweet fanboy stuff, of course, but there’s a surprising lack of punch here. Ironically enough. You know you’re in trouble when you’ve got a turkey like Russell Crowe waddling around in your movie.
Go get The Raid instead. And watch it non-stop for 24 hours. It’ll make you a better, smarter, stronger, faster person.
Review by P Byrne
SEVEN PSYCHOPATHS (UK/16/110mins)
Directed by Martin McDonagh. Starring Colin Farrell, Sam Rockwell, Woody Harrelson, Christopher Walken, Michael Pitt, Abbie Cornish, Harry Dean Stanton, Michael Stuhlbarg.
THE PLOT: It’s Hollywood, it’s an alcoholic writer, and he’s Irish. So, naturally, Marty (Farrell) has writer’s block, only managing to come up with the eponymous title. And a setting. Los Angeles. A street corner. Day.
Thankfully, there’s a serial killer on the loose, dubbed the Jack of Diamonds, to offer a little inspiration. Also on hand is Marty’s bestest buddy Billy Bickle (Rockwell), who runs a dognapping business with the Yoda-like Hans (Walken). The duo make the grave mistake though of nabbing the beloved pooch of nasty gangster Charlie Costello (Harrelson).
From there, the man called Marty finds himself lost in, well, a Scorsese-esque world of wacking and wacky. A world full of Baordwalk Empire actors, and a handful of rusty American indie icons.
THE VERDICT: Movies about movie-making tend to be black comedies – see: The Player, Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang, Living In Oblivion, etc agus etc – and few have been blacker, or wackier, than Seven Psychopaths. This is a (faded-)star-studded noir cartoon, with just about enough gags to make up for the lack of originality or heart.
He may have been dubbed by original cast member Mickey Rourke as “a jerkoff”, but, say what you like about the dark, sarcastic, Broadway-humping, Tarantino-apeing Martin McDonagh, the Camberwell kid does know how to deliver a gag.
Review by P Byrne
Directed by Kirsten Sheridan. Starring Seana kerslake, Johnny Ward, Kate Stanley Brennan, Shane Curry, Ciaran McCabe, Jack Reynor.
THE PLOT: Latenight, and a group of up-for-it Irish teens take the key over the door of a luscious, luxury seaside Dublin home (the spot where, of course, the key to every luscious, luxury seaside Dublin home is hidden) and proceed to party like it’s a bad TV3 reality show. Say, an Irish adaptation of Channel 4’s pitiful 2003 spin-off Teen Big Brother.
In amidst all the mayhem and – gulp – spilling of corn flakes, it soon becomes apparent that one of the two girls present has a little secret. The sensitive, dreamy one. Not the trashy one, who thinks she’s way prettier than she actually is. This is the sensitive one’s family home. And that’s not the only ace up the sleeve of this prodigal daughter, as the long, dark journey into night descends into confessions, cockfights, flirtations, copulations and recriminations…
THE VERDICT: So, what happens when you pull together a bunch of Irish teen actors, place them in daddy’s swanky Killiney pad, and tell them to improvise the hell out of a drugged-up home invasion? Well, a lot of self-conscious acting, for one. And then, I’m guessing, a whole lot of salvage editing. The late arrival of Jack Reynor as the concerned neighbour doesn’t help young Sheridan’s case here, the presence of the leading man from Lenny Abrahamson’s acclaimed What Richard Did offering a stark contrast when it comes to accurately capturing Dublin’s teenage wildlife on screen.
An irritating and unnatural film, the kids in Dollhouse are largely acting up for the cameras, with little of the mindless mayhem on offer ringing true. Playing like a headless Haneke, the only good time here is had by Sheridan and her game young crew. At least 98% of the budget went to IKEA.
Review by P Byrne
CELESTE AND JESSE FOREVER (USA/15A/92mins)
Directed by Lee Toland Krieger. Starring Rashida Jones, Andy Semberg, Ari Graynor, Eric Christian Olsen, Will McCormack, Emma Roberts, Chris Messina, Elijah Wood.
THE PLOT: The age-old question many a separating couple face after years and years of being together is, ‘Can we still be friends?’ – and it’s something Celeste (Jones) and Jesse (Samberg) are determined to prove possible. The fact that they’ve been together for 30 years, having first met in high school, means this divorcing couple know each other pretty darn well, but their well-intentioned plan soon hits a rock or two. And before you can say, “That darn Sting’s debut single!”, they learn the hard way that truly letting go ain’t half as easy as it first sounds…
THE VERDICT: Rashida Jones, Celeste And Jesse Forever is just the sort of small, smart romantic comedy Woody Allen would be churning out today if he was still alive. As opposed to simply remixing former glories. This is one of those little movies that will slowly find its fanbase, as it works its charms online, on TV, and beyond. So, if you want to be truly hip, and you want to let your partner down with a little style, go catch it on the big screen. It probably won’t be up there for very long.
Review by P Byrne
SO UNDERCOVER (USA/12A/94mins)
Directed by Tom Vaughan. Starring Miley Cyrus, Alexis Knapp, Joshua Bowman, Jeremy Piven, Autumn Reeser, Matthew Settle, Megan Park, Mike O’Malley.
THE PLOT: It’s 21 Jump Street for Hannah Montana fans – if there are any left out there, of course – as sassy, street-smart private eye Molly Moris (Cyrus) goes undercover in a college sorority, after being hired by the FBI to protect the daughter of a one-time mobster. When it comes to college though, Molly is a fish out of water, and, yep, not much hilarity ensues…
THE VERDICT: The US rights to this little doozy were bought by The Weinstein Company way back in March of 2011. And it still hasn’t hit theatres there. In fact, it never will, So Undercover due to make its US debut in glorious DVD sometime in February next year.
Which does suggest that its leading lady’s pulling power is, like, so over, certainly amongst the tween audience that made her Disney’s no.1 pretty young cash cow for a few years back there. Of course, the 20-year old Cyrus is no doubt keen to move on from such childish things. Growing pains can be so very, very painful for everyone.
Review by P Byrne
LAURENCE ANYWAYS (Canada/France/IFI/168mins)
Directed by Xavier Dolan. Starring Melvil Poupaud, Suzanne Clement, Nathalie Baye, Monia Chokri, Susan Almgren, Yves Jacques, Patricia Tulasne.
THE PLOT: Montreal, 1990s, and schoolteacher Laurence (Poupaud) has something to tell his girlfriend Frederique (Clement) – he’s really a woman trapped in a man’s body. Shocked at first, Fred stands by her (wo)man as he begins the transformation. And, initially, at school, Laurence is congratulated on his bravery. And then sacked, after complaints about his appearance. Luckily, there is a troupe of kindly drag artists who take Laurence under their wing, whilst Fred heads off and gets married. When, some years later, she receives a book of Laurence’s poems, the two rekindle their passionate affair…
THE VERDICT: Young French/Canadian filmmaker Xavier Dolan (Heartbeats, I Killed My Mother) adding to his fey, foppishly grandiose CV with yet another fey, foppishly grandiose movie. Only this one is almost three hours long. Which isn’t exactly a joy when dealing with fey, foppish and grandiose.
Still, Dolan is nothing if not true to his grand visions, and Laurence Anyways is often art-directed to within an inch of its life – whether it be a tidal wave lashing Fred’s apartment as she swoons over her ex-lover’s poetry or a dancefloor workout to Visage’s Fade To Grey.
Go with it, and the film will sweep you off your feet too. Regard it as pretty over-indulgence from a filmmaker with poor self-editing skills, and it will grate like a pretentious New Romantics video.
Review by P Byrne
Directed by Julian Farino. Starring Leighton Meester, Hugh Laurie, Catherine Keener, Allison Janney, Oliver Platt
THE PLOT: The Ostroff and Walling families have been neighbours and friends for years. David (Hugh Laurie) and Terry (Oliver Platt) jog together three times a week, and their daughters were friends right through school. This friendship is put to the test, however, when David begins an affair with Terry’s twenty-something daughter Nina (Leighton Meester).
THE VERDICT: Director Julian Farino does what he can, but he is fighting a battle he can’t hope to win; there is no chemistry between the lead couple, the story is rather beige and it all wraps up a little too neatly. There are some moments of charm and greatness, but these are so few and far between that it is hard to remember why we are watching this film in the first place.
The Oranges is a film that possibly looks good on paper, but the impressive cast are not given time to shine and the story wraps up a little too quickly and neatly for it to feel as though it is real life. The Oranges has its moments, but overall, this is a bland and beige film. Shame; I like Hugh Laurie, and this is a disappointing follow up to his brilliant turn in House.
Review by Brogen Hayes
TURN ME ON, GODDAMMIT!/Fa Meg Pa, For Faen! (Norway/Light House/76mins)
Directed by Jannicke Systad Jacobsen. Starring Helene Bergsholm, Malin Bjorhovde, Henriette Steenstrup, Beate Stofring, Matias Myren, Lars Nordtveit Listau, Julia Schacht.
THE PLOT: In the very small Norwegian mountain village of Skoddenheim, there isn’t much to do when it comes to getting your teenage kicks. For the pretty Alma (Bergsholm), satisfaction of sorts is achieved through regularly pleasuring herself whilst dreaming of handsome neighbour Artur (Myren). And her supermarket boss. And just about anyone else who happens to pass through her very small world. When fantasy becomes reality at a party, Alma’s awkward jiggy with Artur doesn’t quite go to plan. And it soon has her cast as an outcast…
THE VERDICT: A teen comedy all about the fine art of self-love! Based on a novel by Olaug Nilssen, Jacobsen manages to mine not only the inherent humour of enjoying a onesome but also the tenderness of desire itself. A little too indie at times for its own good, and inevitably quirky as all hell, Turn Me On, Goddammit! is still something very close to a gem.
Review by P Byrne
Turn Me On, Goddammit! is exclusive to Light House, but is also available nationwide on Friday online on Volta