We review this week’s new cinema releases, including Iron Man 3 and The Look of Love
MOVIES.IE’S ONE TO WATCH!
IRON MAN 3 (USA/12A/130mins)
Directed by Shane Black. Starring Robert Downey Jr, Gwyneth Paltrow, Rebecca Hall, Guy Pearce, Sir Ben Kingsley
THE PLOT: In the aftermath of Loki’s attack on New York, Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr) finds that his experience with the Avengers left a lasting impression. Meanwhile, a new threat to Iron Man’s world arises in the form of The Mandarin, and some of Tony’s old friends and enemies return.
It is fairly safe to say that Iron Man 3 is one of the most anticipated films of the year. With writer/director Shane Black on board, hopes have been high, and as it turns out, justifiably so. Shane Black has created some of the smartest and most fun actioners over the years – Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang was his first outing as director, but the Lethal Weapon movies are a whole ton of fun – and Iron Man 3 does not disappoint.
THE VERDICT: Robert Downey Jr is on typical form as Tony Stark / Iron Man, but the addition of vulnerability and fear into the mix of the character was a stroke of genius. As audience members, we are so used to seeing Iron Man save the day with some good quips and one liners, that seeing Tony actually affected by something that happened to him brings a whole new level to the character. Of course, Iron Man still saves the day, but the bravado of the character now seems to be covering some deep emotional pain, pain that even the trauma of becoming Iron Man didn’t instil in the character.
The villains take the form of Aldrich Killian (Guy Pearce) and The Mandarin (Ben Kingsley). There is some brilliant menace thrown into both characters, but one covers it up and another puts it on. No spoilers, but The Mandarin’s story arc is incredibly entertaining and another twist that reminds us of how clever these films can actually be. Rebecca Hall turns up as scientist Maya Hansen, but does not have a whole lot to do, Gwyneth Paltrow as Pepper Potts finally outgrows her damsel in distress role, and Don Cheadle’s brief time on screen is fun and funny, as usual.
Writers Shane Black and Drew Pearce spend as much time deconstructing Iron Man as building him up, and this not only gives us a deeper understanding of the character, but also gives the audience an arc to follow and root for. That said, it is this deconstruction that leads to a lull in the middle of the film; it is great to see Iron Man alone and vulnerable, but this also allows the film to sag and drag in places. Politics take a back seat to good old-fashioned revenge in the film, and the villains take a leaf from Doctor No’s book and make good use of swivel chairs.
Visually, the 3D is unnecessary, as usual, but it is not distracting. The set pieces are violent and loud, which is exactly what you want from an Iron Man film and there are moments throughout which will have fans of the franchise clapping their hands with sheer glee.
Iron Man 3 is loud, bright and highly entertaining. Black’s trademark humour and obsession with Christmas are all present and correct, as are the action sequences, the danger and the romance. This film could perfectly wrap up the Iron Man franchise to allow phase 2 of the Avengers arc to include more heroes, but since Iron Man 3 is so clever and fun, it is doubtful this will happen, even though RDJ has hinted he may hang up his armour. In all, Iron Man 3 is all that we hoped for and a little bit more, the only problem is some strange pacing and a lack of action for the second act of the film.
Review by Brogen Hayes
THE LOOK OF LOVE (UK/18/100mins)
Directed by Michael Winterbottom. Starring Steve Coogan, Imogen Poots, Anna Friel, Tamsin Egerton, Chris Addison, James Lance, Simon Bird, David Walliams, Matt Lucas.
THE PLOT: Charting the rise of soft-porn baron and one-time ‘King of Soho’ Paul Raymond (Coogan) as he pioneered risque review shows in 1970s Britain – a business that would eventually make him the UK’s richest man – it’s the price his family pays that ultimately drives the drama here. From the orchestrated battles with the conservative press to flaunting as much slap and tickle as the UK censor laws will allow, the dapper ladies man Raymond (real name Geoffrey Quinn) is just as keen to let the world know he was once just a poor boy from Liverpool as he is informing all and sundry that Ringo Starr helped him design his state-of-the-art penthouse apartment. It’s an apartment Raymond needs after his wife (Friel) discovers their open marriage has finally led her husband into the arms of another (Egerton). The real trouble for Raymond starts though when his heir apparent, teenage daughter Debbie (Poots), decides that she wants to be a star, the two soon plotting her career whilst falling deeper and deeper into the good life…
THE VERDICT: There’s quite a lot not quite right about Michael Winterbottom’s initially titillating tale of the UK’s master of titillation – the fact that, despite yet another valiant effort, leading man Coogan is really more a comic impersonator than an actor. The fact that the main protagonist, Paul Raymond, is, by Winterbottom and Coogan’s own admission, ultimately “a bit dull” – coming across, at best, as Peter Stringfellow’s merrily estranged and permanently strained father.
Most importantly, this Larry Flynt-esque life story doesn’t feature any First Amendment fireworks; it’s just all a bit, well, dull. Poots is her usual pixie-seductive self as Raymond’s doomed diva daughter, whilst most of the supporting cast of minor British celebrities seem to be in a secret contest to find the most ridiculous wig. I reckon the geeky one out of The In-betweeners won that one – no.1 with a mullet to die for.
Review by Paul Byrne
Directed by Kieron J. Walsh. Starring Nichola Burley, Martin McCann, Charlene McKenna, Ciaran McMenamin, Lalor Roddy, Valene Kane, Richard Dormer, Jonathan Harden,
THE PLOT: It’s New Year’s Eve, it’s Derry, and Greta (Burley) has “never understood the fuss” about such a night. Besides, she’s got other things on her mind. Like how her gangland boss father Frank (Roddy) drove her mother to suicide. And how she herself plans the very same escape tonight, jumping off the Peace Bridge. Before Greta can “sit in the dark forever” though, she’s interrupted by fellow troubled teen Pearse (McCann), out to take revenge for the recent killing of his brother, Eddie. The man carrying around the ghost of this missing person is hired heavy Johnny (Dormer), forced out of retirement when Frank discovers his safe’s been raided…
THE VERDICT: As cinema has proven again and again, a lot can change in one night. You can start out a rich gangland boss and end up with a big hole in your bank account. You can start out with a clean, simple plan to say goodbye, cooly-lit world, and find true love just before you take that carefully planned leap into oblivion. Oh, and the spirit of that guy you killed might just decide to pay you a visit in the wee-wee hours too. Yep, there’s more than one drama to follow in Kieron J. Walsh’s big-screen adaptation of Lisa McGee’s play, and as the backdrop to them all, the Dublin-born director certainly delivers a surprisingly sexy looking Derry on New Year’s Eve – all fairy lights, fireworks and that forlorn, foreboding Peace Bridge (where more than 90 suicides have occurred since its opening in 2011). It’s just that this festival favourite (sparking an awards spree from its 2012 Galway Fleadh debut onwards) is far more admirable than outright enjoyable. Everyone does a good job. There’s a good story or two being told. The film looks like its £1.3m budget. It’s got Richard Dormer. Still, Jump never quite gets off the ground.
Review by Paul Byrne
Directed by Richard Linklater. Starring Jack Black, Shirley MacLaine, Matthew McConaughey
THE PLOT: Based on a true story, Bernie tells the story of a mild mannered man, living in a small Texan town who befriended, then murdered one of the town’s wealthiest widows.
Director Richard Linklater has been rather quiet since 2008’s Me and Orson Welles, and his star Jack Black has admittedly been touring with Tenacious D – and has popped up an episode of Community and the recent Muppets movie – but he has also been keeping a low profile since Gulliver’s Travels in 2010. The pairing of the two is the first time they have worked together since 2003’s School of Rock, but Jack Black dials it down with some clever direction from Linklater, to play a character we wouldn’t normally associate with the madcap actor.
THE VERDICT: Bernie Teide was a mortician in a small town, a god fearing and generous person who was jailed for the cold-blooded murder of his benefactor Marjorie Nugent (Shirley MacLaine). Black is wonderfully understated as Bernie, and embraces the quiet and caring nature of the character. Gone is any brashness or rowdiness that we might associate with the actor, and instead Black gives the audience a caring man who finally snaps.
It is obvious that Shirley MacLaine had the time of her career playing the hateful Marjorie Nugent. MacLaine does not try to create a character that the audience has any sympathy for – she is hateful and quick-tempered – but initially, her relationship with Bernie is one of mutual trust, respect and defence. As this changes and Marjorie becomes more and more possessive, MacLaine throws caution to the wind and embraces the tantrums and the abuse, to great effect. With the pairing of MacLaine and Black’s characters, it is easy to see why Bernie finally snapped.
Most of the supporting cast is made up of real people from the town of Carthage, where the crime occurred. Richard Linklater has created a pseudo-mockumentary by interviewing the townspeople about the people and the events, and layering this with some clever performances. Matthew McConaughey continues his streak of choosing great roles and is great as Danny Buck, the only man who saw anything other than love in Bernie Teide. McConaughey obviously takes great delight in playing the villain of the piece and even though his role is small, he makes it memorable.
Bernie is a warm tale about a warm man who did the unthinkable. Linklater carefully weaves reality and performance to create a world that is utterly believable. Black excels in this quiet role – although he hams it up just a touch – and MacLaine’s tantrums are a joy to behold.
Review by Brogen Hayes
WHITE ELEPHANT (Argentine/Spain/France/15A/104mins)
Directed by Pablo Trapero. Starring Ricardo Darin, Jeremie Renier, Martina Gusman, Miguel Arancibia, Federico Barga, Esteban Diaz, Pablo Gatti.
THE PLOT: After a truly shocking opening nighttime massacre in a small Buenos Aires village by paramilitary troops, survivor Father Nicholas (Dardenne regular Renier) is tracked down by Father Julian (Darin). The latter wants the former to join him on his mission in a sprawling shantytown, where a war between two drug lords is currently raging. The only light – for Father Nicholas, at least – is hard-nosed, hard-bodied social worker Luciana (Gusman), the two quickly falling in love, and lust, their relationship easily tolerated amidst such life-and-death madness..
THE VERDICT: Sweetly sweaty and foulmouthed, this engrossing tale of two priests firing fire with a mixture of hellfire and blind hope packs an emotional, and visceral, punch. Inspired by true-life Catholic priest Carlos Mugica, who was gunned down on May 11th, 1974 for his political activism in Buenos Aires, the different approaches of the two priests at the centre of White Elephant drives much of the drama here. There’s always more than one way to skin a cat, or how to try and save a cat from being skinned. Darin (The Secret In Their Eyes) and Renier (The Child, The Kid With A Bike) are wonderful, as is Trapero regular Gusman, and whilst White Elephant may overplay its hand occasionally – especially in the melodramatic final act – the film’s power is undeniable.
Review by Paul Byrne