Reviews – New movies opening April 19th 2013

We review this week’s new cinema releases, including Evil Dead, Promised Land and Olympus Has Fallen

EVIL DEAD (USA/18/91mins)
Directed by Fede Alvarez. Starring Jane Levy, Shiloh Fernandez, Lou Taylor Pucci, Jessica Lucas, Elizabeth Blackmore.
THE PLOT: It’s the most basic of horror premises now; five pretty young things – MIa (Levy), David (Fernandez), Eric (Pucci), Olivia (Lucas) and Natalie (Blackmore) head off to that cabin in the woods, where, they’re pretty much prey to all kinds of crazy carnage. These are no spring-breakers simply looking to party down though; Mia’s going cold turkey, and the others are along for the rough ride. So, when Mia starts acting like a girl possessed, David and the gang obviously think it’s all part of getting clean. As opposed to getting killed…
THE VERDICT: Doing exactly what it says on the blood-splattered tin, Fede Alvarez’s rollicking remake of the 1981 cult horror classic benefits from being less tongue-in-cheek than the original whilst also being more just tongue-ripped-out-through-cheek. Less chuckles, more chucking up your popcorn. Having the core trio responsible for that much-loved original – writer/director Sam Raimi, collaborator Rob Tapert and star Bruce Campbell – on board as producers, as well as an uncredited Diablo Cody (Juno, Jennifer’s Body) on script doctoring duties, means that this particular horror remake has both the smarts and the heart. It’ll also scare the bejasus out of you. Which is, after all, a horror film’s job, first and foremost. Be warned, there will be blood. Lots and lots of blood.
Review by Paul Byrne

Directed by Antoine Fuqua. Starring Gerard Butler, Aaron Eckhart, Ashley Judd, Morgan Freeman, Dylan McDermott
THE PLOT: Terrorists attack the White House and take the President hostage in his own bunker. It is up to disgraced former Secret Service agent Mike Banning (Gerard Butler) to save the Commander in Chief, and the world.
THE VERDICT: Due to the over the top nature of the film, the cheesy dialogue and the outdated slang used throughout, it seems that Olympus Has Fallen was written in the early 1990s.
Gerard Butler channels his inner action hero in a film that ticks all the boxes in terms of action, and will surely become the newest addition to ‘Action Movie Bingo’ (Butler shots someone, drink, helicopter crashes, drink etc…). The motivations of the terrorists and the turncoats are never fully explained, but when things are explained, it is through clunky and expositional dialogue that would not be out of place in an 80s actioner.
Director Antoine Fuqua focuses on the action, leaving any emotional payoff to be hammy and overdone, and the script feels as though it was written for a season of 24, rather than for a feature length film.
Olympus Has Fallen is overblown and, although it touches on being so bad it’s good, it never quite reaches the dizzying heights of cheesiness required. That said, it is fairly entertaining and suitably gory, just don’t expect a clever thriller and you will enjoy it for what it is.
Review by Brogen Hayes

Directed by Gus Van Sant. Starring Matt Damon, John Krasinski, Frances McDormand, Rosemarie DeWitt, Hal Holbrook
THE PLOT: Steve (Matt Damon) and Sue (Frances McDormand) travel to a small town to convince the residents to allow a large corporation to frack for natural gas on their land. It is not long before horror stories of fracking around the country come to light, and Dustin (John Krasinski) comes to town to defend the purity of the land.
THE VERDICT: Based on a story by Dave ‘Away We Go’ Eggers, the script for Promised Land was written by Matt Damon and John Krasinski, and I would have loved to have been a fly on the wall for their writing sessions, but I digress. The story is one of mystery and betrayal, but instead of seeing a faceless corporation battling it out in a courtroom, the audience is down on the ground with the inhabitants of the small town, as they try to figure out what is best for their town.
Matt Damon and John Krasinski’s characters are like chalk and cheese in one respect, but more similar than not in another. Steve comes off as a warm and friendly man, who comes from a small town and knows how to relate to people. His jokes start off as warm and friendly, and his fledgling relationship with Alice (Rosemarie DeWitt) is rather sweet. However, as time goes on, and Dustin is introduced into the mix, Steve’s friendliness begins to ring hollow, and Dustin is suddenly the man telling the truth. Krasinski is confident and ultimately manipulative, but he plays the part of a simple man from a small town very well.
Hal Holbrook is one of the first lines of defence for the town, as Frank Yates, Rosemarie DeWitt plays the part of the small town girl, tired of the big city, and Frances McDormand is as quick witted and sharp as ever, as Steve’s business partner.
Although the film is essentially about fracking, it turns into a battle of wits between Steve and Dustin, and the issue itself fades into the background. This is a shame as fracking is an issue facing communities all around the world, but the film does push the idea of corrupt corporations to the fore, so essentially Promised Land turns into a film about doing your research.
Amazingly, the film is directed by Gus Van Sant, but is perhaps the most toned down and gentle of his films to date. Van Sant seems to capture the warmth of small town America on screen, and the cinematography certainly reinforces the idea that this beautiful rural town is one that should be cherished. The film may have benefited from a stronger and closer look at the dangers of fracking, but Dustin’s explanation of the process to school kids is surprisingly simply and terrifying.
Promised Land is an engaging film about the battle between people and corporations, although the issue being fought about could be anything, since it fades so far into the background. Krasinski and Damon’s script is wonderful, as are their performances, the film looks beautiful, and Van Sant’s restrained direction is just right. As is Danny Elfman’s oddly peaceful score.
Review by Brogen Hayes

LOVE IS ALL YOU NEED (Denmark/Sweden/Italy/France/Germany/15A/115mins)
Directed by Susanne Bier. Starring Pierce Brosnan, Molly Blixt Egelind, Trine Dyrholm, Sebastian Jessen, Kim Bodnia, Christiane Schaumberg-Mueller.
THE PLOT: Having just gone through chemotherapy for her breast cancer, middle-aged hairdresser Ida (Dyrholm) is looking forward to the whirlwind wedding of her daughter Astric (Egelind) and the man she met a mere three months ago, Patrick (Jessen). With a spanking new wig, and a new lust for life, Ida is feeling good. And then she finds out that her husband, Leif (Bodnia), is banging hot  young co-worker Tilde (Schaumberg-Mueller). And he intends to marry her. Is it all that surprising then when Ida rear-ends another car at the airport. Behind the wheel is uptight businessman Philip (Brosnan), who also happens to be Patrick’s widowed father.  The two are quickly banging heads. And you can no doubt guess the rest…
THE VERDICT: In this Shirley-Valentine-for-the-art-house-crowd, Danish writer/director Susanne Bier (Open Hearts, Brothers, After The Wedding) takes a familiar rom-com set-up and delivers, well, a familiar rom-com. Only without the high level of corn and saccharine one would normally find in such fluffy creations. It helps, perhaps, that we’re once again dealing with adults here, as opposed to bohemian twentysomethings searching for their souls. These are flawed human beings who are firmly set in those flaws. Brosnan has rarely been better, here almost making up for his all-bad-singing, all-bad-dancing Mamma Mia! performance, whilst Dyrholm (Festen, A Royal Affair) matches the original Navan man beat-for-beat.
Review by Paul Byrne

KING OF THE TRAVELLERS (Ireland/15A/80mins)
Directed by Mark O’Connor. Starring John Connors, Peter Coonan, Michael Collins, Thomas Collins, Carla McGlynn, Mick Foran, Stephen Jones, Barry Keoghan, Packy Lee, David Murray.
THE PLOT: We open on the rose-tinted memory of Black Martin (Murray) winning yet another steeple-chase race, hugging his young son, John Paul, and being congratulated by his brother Francis (Michael Collins) just before a drive-by shooting leaves him bloody and dead. Cut to 15 years later, and John Paul (Connors) may have given up on his once-glittering career as a profesional boxer but the constant call-outs by the rival Power clan means he’s still fighting. Bare-knuckle, and for his family honour. That his childhood sweetheart Winnie (McGlynn) is a Power doesn’t make it easy for John Paul, especially with his uncle Francis breathing down his neck whilst adopted brother Mickey (Coonan, best known as Fran in Love/Hate) eggs on the feud at every available opportunity…
THE VERDICT: Somewhere between the low-rent Scorsese bravado of The Boondock Saints and Mark Mahon’s hysterically, histrionically bad Strength And Honour, King Of The Travellers tries way too hard to be epic. It doesn’t have the script, the directing skills or acting chops for such a mighty task though – unless you think a burning caravan and some Enya-esque ambience-chasing is art – and what you end up with instead is a meeting of good intentions and bad execution. It’s only when writer/director Mark O’Connor jumps to archive footage of Irish travellers in the rare oul’ times that you get any sense of the people being portrayed here. And such evocative footage makes you long for a sober documentary on the subject (of which there have been a few in recent years, of course) rather than this Boy’s Own adventure.
Review by Paul Byrne

Directed by Conor Masterson. Starring Glen Hansard, Colm MacConiomare, Rob Bochnik, Graham Hopkins, Joseph Doyle.
THE PLOT: Pretty much a live gig with some backstage footage and interviews as the 20-year old Dublin folksters open up about their life as a struggling cult band. And, er, that’s it.
THE VERDICT: That is indeed just about it. There’s little here for the non-fan, and little here that will convert the unsuspecting, Conor Masterson’s warm embrace of The Frames offering up little more than a warm embrace with the odd likeable track. Performed live. If you’re looking for some real teenage kicks – that glorious, ridiculous, indescribable rush that only music can bring – go see Good Vibrations. Again and again.
Review by Paul Byrne