We review this week’s new cinema releases, including THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN 2, LOCKE and THE SEA…
THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN 2 (USA/12A/143mins)
Directed by Marc Webb. Starring Andrew Garfield, Emma Stone, Sally Field, Jamie Foxx, Dane DeHaan.
THE PLOT: As he graduates from high school, and prepares to move on with the next phase of his life, Peter Parker’s (Andrew Garfield) world is turned upside down when a freak accident turns a man he once helped into a violent, electricity charged killer. As well as this, Parker’s relationship with Gwen (Emma Stone) is not what it once was, and his old friend Harry Osborn (Dane DeHaan) returns to New York with an agenda that will have a huge impact on both Peter Parker and Spider-Man.
THE VERDICT: Andrew Garfield seems much more comfortable in Parker and Spider-Man’s skin this time out, and has dialled back the annoying cockiness that marred the first film. Garfield does well with both the comedy and the tragedy in the film, bringing sweet touches to the character. Emma Stone has a little more fire this time, thankfully, and she proves that she is a woman who is more than able to stand on her own and support Spider-Man through her own strengths. Jamie Foxx obviously relished his chance to play a beaten down loner and a electrified villain in the same film, and is fantastic in both roles. Dane DeHaan proves that his outstanding performance in Chronicle was no fluke, as he brings the troubled and troubling Harry Osborn to life.
The story, as we may expect from a superhero film, is a lengthy and rather complicated one; as Parker finds out more about his parents, a new threat rises, sworn to take him down. The personal side of the story – Peter Parker’s side – is filled with emotion and nuance, and could almost stand alone, apart from the action and superhero story, as a film in it’s own right. As far as Spider-Man’s story goes, it is still a personal one, as both villains take personal umbrage to Spider-Man’s actions, but since Parker disguises himself in the Spider-Man suit, this gives a layer of distance between Parker and Spider-Man’s foes. That said, however, many of the film’s events are foreshadowed so strongly that it is hard to forget what we have been told will happen. As well as this, there is so much exposition and establishing of plot and characters that the film is a lot longer than it needed to be.
Marc Webb has made a well-paced film – even if it is the longest Spider-Man film to date at 142 minutes – where the set pieces and emotion are carefully balanced. The set pieces are striking and exhilarating, with many of New York’s most famous landmarks being thrown into the fray. The music by Johnny Marr, Pharrell Williams and Hans Zimmer complements the film wonderfully.
THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN 2 is a vast improvement on its predecessor; there is little doubt that the action packed set pieces and rounded characters will push the franchise in a new and exciting direction. The film is far too long, but just about gets away with it thanks to some good pacing and a nice balance between action and emotion. Foreshadowing and exposition take up too much time, but once the action kicks in, we are reminded of how great a character Spider-Man is, and how strong his stories really are.
Review by Brogen Hayes
LOCKE (UK, USA/15A/90mins)
Directed by Steven Knight. Starring Tom Hardy, Andrew Scott, Olivia Williams, Ruth Wilson.
THE PLOT: As he drives home from a construction job, Ivan Locke (Tom Hardy) gets a phone call that throws his job, marriage and future into jeopardy. As he journeys to right the major wrong of his life, we learn more about the character through his interactions with the people in his life.
THE VERDICT: As Ivan Locke, a man whose life comes crashing down around his ears as he drives to London, Tom Hardy gives a rare performance. It is unusual for a lead character to spend the entirety of a film alone in his car, and it is even more rare for the audience to invest with such a character. Tom Hardy succeeds on both counts, with a rich Welsh accent that is soothing and delicious to listen to. Hardy makes Locke a good, gentle, devoted family man, but the actor is not afraid to allow the veneer Locke has built around himself to slip. First his job, then his wife and then… Who knows. Locke is a man who is guided by his father’s neglect of him, and who has vowed not to make the same mistakes his father did. Hardy is strong yet vulnerable and utterly compelling on screen.
Hardy is backed up by the voice talents of Ruth Wilson as his wife Katrina, Andrew Scott as his work colleague Donal, Olivia Williams as Bethan, the woman with whom he made the mistake that is costing him everything and Tom Holland as his son Eddie; each give remarkable vocal performances, which enrich Locke’s world and the world of the film. It is through his interactions with the people in his life – not least his absent and neglectful father – that we get to know Locke, and the reasons why he makes the choices that he does. After all, the whole crash of Locke’s life – and therefore, the film – could have been avoided by turning right instead of left.
Steven Knight has made a rare film in LOCKE, and one that should be applauded. It is a rare thing for the world of a film to be reduced to the inside of a car, and yet here it is, and the film is utterly engaging. So much is learned through phone conversations with the people in Locke’s life, and with those that influence him as a person. That said, however, there are times where the intrusion of the outside world feels unrelenting, and it would have been a welcome break for Locke to just sit in the car, and ruminate on where his life is going – if only for the sake of giving the audience a breather – for a moment.
LOCKE is an unusual, engaging and compelling film. Tom Hardy is on top form as the central character, and those who play voices at the other end of the phone make the world of the film deeper and richer. There are times where it feels as though we are learning too much – and too little – too quickly, but Locke is a worthwhile film, if even to remind ourselves of how strong an actor Tom Hardy truly is.
Review by Brogen Hayes
MOVIES.IE’s ONE TO WATCH!
WE ARE THE BEST! (Sweden/15A/102mins)
Directed by Lukas Moodysson. Starring Mira Barkhammar, Mira Grosin, Liv LeMoyne.
THE PLOT: In Stockholm in 1982, Bobo (Mira Barkhammar) and Klara (Mira Grosin) are best friends, in the way that only pre-teen girls can be. When hanging out at their local youth centre, they become annoyed at the rock music being played and decide to set up their own punk band. The trouble is that neither of them can play an instrument, so they recruit Hedvig (Liv LeMoyne) to teach them.
THE VERDICT: WE ARE THE BEST! is not really about the punk music scene – although this is what brings the characters together – instead, it is about the relationships between three teenage girls as they waver on the cusp of adolescence.
The performances of the three lead actresses depend on one another in a truly remarkable way; the chemistry between Barkhammar, Grosin and LeMoyne is wonderful and they allow the power to shift between them, leaving room for jealousies, arguments and ultimately, resolutions. Each of the three is adorable, and the struggle that each goes through in their family lives is utterly relatable. There are times when they turn on one another for no other reason but pettiness – or so it seems – but this only serves to underline how young these kids really are.
WE ARE THE BEST!is based on a comic book by Coco Moodysson, who just so happens to be married to the film’s director; Lukas Moodysson. Before you call shenanigans, however, it has to be said that the film is an acutely observed portrait of youth and the transition between childhood and adolescence. The dialogue never feels forced or fake, making these three characters feel real and nuanced.
As director, Lukas Moodysson has coaxed warm and gentle performances from his central actresses, and these are the heart and soul of the film. It feels as though there was a lot of room left for improvisation, and the warmth that radiates from the screen is truly the relationship between these three girls. The story may be slightly unstructured and messy, but this merely adds to the chaotic charm of the film. There is also something to be said for the peer pressure that these three girls put one another under, as they change their musical styles, fashion sense and hairstyles in order to stay friends with one another; friendship is not always about acceptance, and this is clearly marked in the film.
WE ARE THE BEST!is a careful and precise observation of the journey between childhood and adolescence, and the friends who last us a lifetime. Barkhammar, Grosin and LeMoyne are wonderful in their roles, and utterly support one another. In the end, WE ARE THE BEST! is charming, warm and a whole lot of fun.
Review by Brogen Hayes
THE SEA (Ireland/UK/12A/86mins)
Directed by Stephen Brown. Starring Bonnie Wright, Ciaran Hinds, Natasha McElhone, Charlotte Rampling, Rufus Sewell, Sinead Cusack, Ruth Bradley, Matthew Dillon, Missy Keating, Padhraig Parkinson.
THE PLOT: Having lost his wife to cancer, art historian Max (Hinds) heads to a quiet seaside resort in the wilds of Ireland, staying at the guest house run by Miss Vavasour (Rampling). Max has history here.
Jumping back to 1955, we see the same house was rented by the Grace family, led by wacky Carlo (Sewell) and loving Connie (McElhone), and their children, twins Chloe and Myles. The 11-year-old Max (Dillon), falls in love with Chloe (Keating), and has a crush on Connie, and Myles (Parkinson) is happy to make fun of him for it. The only one who seems to have any true understanding is Rose (Wright), the twins’ nanny…
THE VERDICT: Adapted by John Banville from his own novel, THE SEA has everything going for it – much-loved book, a fine cast, and a hungry young director making his feature debut. So, why the hell is it so dull?
Proof that the author doesn’t always know best when it comes to their work being adapted to the big screen, whatever magic Banville’s original book may have weaved on its readers, it’s hard to get any sense of it here. Which is a shame, because Hinds and Rampling are both as watchable as ever, whilst the likes of Bonnie Wright and the younger cast all rise to the occasion. It’s just not that great an occasion, The Sea ultimately comes across as a in-between Go-Between.
Review by Paul Byrne
MAGIC MAGIC (Chile/USA/15A/97mins)
Directed by Sebastian Silva. Starring Michael Cera, Juno Temple, Emily Browning, Catalina Sandino Moreno, Agustin Silva, Luis Dubo.
THE PLOT: Arriving in Chile a little worse for wear and tear, Alicia (Temple) is travelling outside the US for the first time. And it shows. Visiting her cousin Sara (Browning), her boyfriend Agustin (Silva, the writer/director’s brother), his sister Barbara (Moreno) and his American friend Brink (a typically slippery Cera). Alicia’s travelling soon turns to unravelling though, being a stranger in a very different land unearthing deep paranoias and phobias. When everyone else is going cliff-diving, Alicia refuses. When Agustin hypnotizes her, Alicia puts her hand in the fire. And was it merely the hallucinations that inspired Alicia to push her vagina in the sleeping Brink’s face? This particular looking glass would appear to be cracked…
THE VERDICT: A strange little beast of a film, like an early Polanski, as we join our young female protagonist on her dizzying descent into madness. Silva’s got his voodoo working here, and you can never be quite sure where reality ends and Alicia’s increasing craziness begins. All credit to young Juno (daughter of Julien) Temple for going that extra mile into madness here, whilst Cera (reuniting with Silva after the very recent Crystal Fairy & The Magical Cactus) once again is happy to play it unlikeable. That’s one way to get over bad US box-office, I guess.
It all makes for an unsettling watch, and one that’s not always enjoyable. But it will stick with you afterwards. Especially if you’re crazy too.
Review by Paul Byrne
THE LOVE PUNCH (France/12A/97mins)
Directed by Joel Hopkins. Starring Emma Thompson, Pierce Brosnan, Tuppence Middleton, Timothy Spall, Laurent Lafitte, Celia Imrie, Louise Bourgon, Marisa Berenson, Christopher Craig.
THE PLOT: Having failed to recover his company’s pension from nasty banker Vincent Kuger (Lafitte), London businessman Richard Jones (Brosnan) and his ex-wife Kate (Thompson) decide they’ll simply take the money they’re owed. By stealing the million-dollar diamond Vincent has just bought his fiancee, Manon (Bourgoin). And so Kate befriends Manon, and on the big day, manages to convince her that Vincent is not the man for her. Which proves just enough of a distraction to swap the real diamond with a fake…
THE VERDICT: There’s something very familiar about The Love Punch, and it’s not just the plot. The characters too are pretty much standard-issue, as is the pretty French setting, and the abundance of smiling and acting on display. It makes for a very predictable little film – which is perhaps understandable, given that Pierce and co. are plainly chasing the grey pound. They just didn’t have to make such a grey film. In the end, this is nowhere near the Ealing-for-OAPs it so desperately wants to be, and what you’re left with is a movie that belongs on ITV on a Tuesday night. Feet up, teeth out, and get ready for a deep nap.
Review by Paul Byrne