We review this week’s cinema releases, including Jack the Giant Slayer and Reality
JACK THE GIANT SLAYER (USA/12A/114mins)
Directed by Bryan Singer. Starring Nicholas Hoult, Stanley Tucci, Ewan McGregor, Eleanor Tomlinson, Eddie Marsan, Ewan Bremner, Ian McShane, Christoperh Fairbank.
THE PLOT: Keen to escape her engagement to the caddish Roderick (Tucci), Princess Isabelle (Tomlinson) might just have that “adventure of my own” when she meets 18-year-old orphan boy Jack (Hoult). When the princess finds herself spiralling skyward on a stalk, the land’s bravest knights set out to bring her back to her stately home, Cloister, with young Jack going along for the ride. Little do they know that not one giant but a whole village of man-eating trolls await their arrival at the top of the stalk…
THE VERDICT: Freshly slaughtered at the US box-office, Bryan Singer’s loud but predictable big-screen adaptation of the old Jack & The Beanstalk folk tale comes limping into cinemas here with little real hope of snatching victory from the jaws of defeat. Not that there’s anything inherently wrong with Jack The Giant Slayer it’s just that, well, we’ve been here before. A hell of a lot in the last few years, as it happens, and if Singer manages to deliver a slightly better film than Jackson’s bloated Hobbit belch, this still feels like a journey to dull and back.
Review by Paul Byrne
MOVIES.IE’S ONE TO WATCH!
GOOD CAKE BAD CAKE: THE STORY OF LIR (Ireland/Club/82mins)
Directed by Shimmy Marcus. Starring Dave McGuinness, Colm Quearney, Robert Malone, John Boyle, Craigh Hutchinson, Smiley Bolger, John Coon, Ronan Byrne, Bronagh Gallagher, Sean Hayes, Rob Gordon, David Hopkins.
THE PLOT: Charing the many near-rises and falls of Dublin band Lir, through home movies and present day interviews with the five members of the band we revisit their early days, forming in the late ‘80s and quickly garnering a large following. Once they changed their name from Spontaneous Frogs. It doesn’t take long before a manager and a label are on board, the band’s first EP, All Machines Hum In A, arriving in 1992, followed by their debut album, Magico Magico!, in 1994. The latter was on a US label, as the band appeared to be making headway there. And then, nothing. And then another label shows a huge amount of interest. And then nothing again. A pattern soon emerges, but the kitty just keeps on getting smaller and smaller…
THE VERDICT: With the great Shimmy Marcus (SoulBoy, Aidan Walsh: Master Of The Universe) having been responsible for Lir’s lighting show down through the years, there’s an abundance of footage here of the Dublin band who just about made it – again and again, and again. There’s also a clear understanding of the highs and lows the band went through, and a recognition also that a thousand and one Irish bands went through pretty much the same pie-in-the-sky, egg-on-the-face experience in the wake of U2’s phenomenal success.
Through it all, Lir never lost their sense of humour, even when they were losing managers, label deals, founding members and any real hope. It makes for a fine rock’n’roll fable, and one that every young band starting out should be prescribed. Along with This Is Spinal Tap, of course, for those successful enough to have a fall.
Playing exclusively at the Factory on Dublin’s Barrow Street until March 24th, with 8pm and 9.40pm screenings each day, admission €10. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org or phone 087 2704132 to book tickets.
Review by Paul Byrne
THE CROODS (USA/G/99mins)
Directed by Kirk De Micco, Chris Sanders. Starring the voices of Nicholas Cage, Ryan Reynolds, Emma Stone, Catherine Keener, Cloris Leachman, Clark Duke, Chris Sanders, Randy Thom.
THE PLOT: Having decided that the key to a long and healthy life is being afraid, papa Crood Grug (Cage) reckons “Fear keeps us alive”. Luckily for Grug, he heads up a family that clearly know how to work together, something we learn from the opening hunting sequence, as wife Ugga (Keener), son Thunk (Duke), daughter Eep (Stone) and grizzly old Gran (Leachman) help bring home the bacon. Or, in this case, the giant bird egg. But it would seem the Croods are on the eve of destruction. And when Eep starts hanging out with the rebellious firestarter Guy (Reynolds), it would seem their days are truly numbered…
THE VERDICT: Somewhere between Ice Age and Madagascar in style, approach, humour and general all-round content, The Croods gets a lot of mileage out of a Stone Age road movie premise. Of course, it helps when one half of your director duo was responsible for Lilo & Stitch and the Pixar-worthy How To Train Your Dragon. As for Kirk, he plainly feels the need here to make amends for 2008’s Space Chimps. Yep, this Flinstones-on-steroids outing will have the young ‘uns snorting into their popcorn, The Croods falling somewhat short though when it comes to that all-important secret level of humour that makes teenagers and their elders feel they’re in on the joke. Having started life as an Aardman co-production – under the title Crood Awakening, and with John Cleese on board for script duties – what The Croods lacks in originality it just about makes up for in rapid-fire delivery and, very occasionally, some pretty pictures. Courtesy, no doubt, of visual consultant Roger Deakins, the Coen brothers’ stalwart who worked his magic on WALL-E and How To Train Your Dragon.
Review by Paul Byrne
Directed by Craig Zobel. Starring Dreama Walker, Ann Dowd, Pat Healy, Philip Ettinger, Ashlie Atkinson, Bill Camp, Matt Servitto.
THE PLOT: It’s just another day at fast food outlet Chickenwich, although manager Sandra (Dowd, who picked up a festival gong for her performance) is feeling the heat of a largely indifferent staff – including the popular and pretty Becky (Walker), dim-but-sweet Marti (Atkinson) and the merrily lazy Kevin (Ettinger) – and the fact that $1,430 worth of stock were spoilt overnight due to a fridge door being left open. When she gets a call from an Officer Daniels (Healy) informing her that he has her regional manager on the other line, and a recent Chickenwich customer who had money stolen by a young blonde girl working on the counter, Sandra is soon overseeing an interrogation of Becky in the back room. Claiming to be overwhelmed at the station, Officer Daniels’ instructions become more and more intrusive upon Becky…
THE VERDICT: Everyday American idiots being manipulated by self-elected voices of authority may be the staple of American TV these days, but it’s still hard to fathom just how far the victims of a malicious prank call go in Craig Zobel’s mildly fascinating but increasingly exasperating second feature. Based on true events, as the opening credits inform us, and, as the closing credits inform us, similar to over 70 cases across the US over a decade (until the serial prank caller’s arrest in 2004), the power of nightmares – ‘Officer Daniels’ playing on people’s fear of being hauled off to jail – is plainly as strong as ever. Nice one, Bernays. The film sparked walkouts at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival, and shouting matches during the post-screening Q&A. So, you know, bring something to bite on. And hit people with.
Review by Paul Byrne
POST TENEBRAS LUX (Mexico/France/Netherlands/Germany/18/120mins)
Directed by Carlos Reygadas. Starring Adolfo Jimenez Castro, Nathalia Acevedo, Willebaldo Torres, Rut Reygadas, Eleazar Reygadas.
THE PLOT: Opening on a young girl (Reygada’s own daughter, Rut) as she wanders around a waterlogged football pitch at night, joined in her splashing by an array of animals (including, hey, a cow), we’re then introduced to a devil figure prowling the home of the young girl’s troubled parents, Juan (Castro) and Nathalie (Acevedo). We see Juan viciously beating one of the family’s dogs. Later, we meet one of Juan’s employees, the happy-go-dopey Seven (Torres). And so it goes on. And on. And on. Without rhyme or narrative.
THE VERDICT: The title is Latin for After Darkness, Light, and you’ll be glad when you finally return to the world outside once the end credits finally roll here. Having made his name with the sweaty fantasy teen porn that was the overrated Battle In Heaven (2005), Mexican writer/director Reygadas’ fourth offering would drive even Terrence Malick to vandalism. If not violence. Daringly diffuse, or just sleepily self-indulgent, it’s often hard to tell. Which means it’s probably just sleepily self-indulgent.
Review by Paul Byrne
Directed by Matteo Garrone. Starring Aniello Arena, Paolo Minaccioni, Loredana Simioli, Nello Iorio, Nunzia Schiano, Raffaele Ferrante, Claudia Gerini, Rosario D’Urso.
THE PLOT: Fish store owner Luciano (Arena) and his wife Maria (Simioli) are just about getting by, making a little extra on the side with a scam selling kitchen ‘robots’. A born entertainer, it’s only natural that Luciano would be drawn to the Italian version of Big Brother, and his chances look good, given that local celeb Enzo (Ferrante) is impressed with the former’s sparkly drag queen turn at a wedding reception. When Luciano is accepted though, life is soon far from beautiful…
THE VERDICT: From EdTV to The Truman Show, and many points in-between and beyond, movies about reality TV stars hardly need to tell us that madness and sadness that way lies. The only real surprise here is to find Matteo Garrone following up his fine mafia drama Gomorra with such a stilted and stillborn outing. There’s little here that we haven’t seen before, only this time, it’s in Italian.
Review by Paul Byrne
IDENTITY THIEF (USA/15A/111mins)
Directed by Seth Gordon. Starring Melissa McCarthy, Jason Bateman
THE PLOT: When businessman Sandy Patterson (Jason Bateman) has his identity stolen, he must track down the thief in order to bring her to justice and clear his name. When he meets Diana (Melissa McCarthy) however, Sandy realises that the journey from Florida to Denver will be a trying one.
THE VERDICT: Melissa McCarthy exploded into public consciousness with her role in Bridesmaids, and there is little doubt that she is the funniest thing about that film, but Identity Thief seems to be a waste of hers, and Jason Bateman’s talents. Both actors play the same roles that we know and love them for; Bateman is unassuming but tenacious, and McCarthy is inappropriate and vulgar. Sound familiar? By the time the movie reaches its conclusion, the pair have moved closer to one another in terms of personality – and they certainly understand one another more – but there is very little to be learned from this hellish road trip across America.
Craig Mazin’s script is grounded in some sort of reality, but it very quickly becomes farcical; why is the audience being told to root for a man who willingly gave his information out on the phone, thus allowing his identity to be stolen? And if Sandy is not the protagonist but Diana is, then why are we being told to root for a horrible character that does whatever she wants, with little regard for the consequences or the people hurt by her actions? OK, so both reform in the end, but these are not the kinds of characters we can find ourselves rooting for. As well as this, there is a whole other story going on with bounty hunters and assassins that manages to move the film from somewhat believable to the downright ridiculous, and it does very little to redeem itself.
Director Seth Gordon has made some wonderful entertainment in the past, including the fantastic documentary King of Kong and episodes of Parks and Recreation, Community and The Office. As well as this, Gordon brought us Horrible Bosses, a film which was totally over the top but ultimately fun. The same cannot be said for Identity Thief. Thankfully both Bateman and McCarthy have wonderful comic timing, and this saves the day to some extent, but they are both typecast and appear to be left to fend for themselves.
Identity Thief should have been a brilliant comedy from a talented writer and an experienced director, but instead the film falls flat and the odd chuckle is not enough to save it. There is a line between heightened and ridiculous, but Identity Thief appears oblivious to it. There are some funny moments, but Bateman and McCarthy appear bored, which is what the audience will be after an hour of this film.
Review by Brogen Hayes