Reviews – New movies opening August 1st 2014

We review this week’s new cinema releases, including GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY, MOOD INDIGO and THE NUT JOB…

Directed by James Gunn. Starring Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Bradley Cooper, Vin Diesel, Dave Bautista, Sean Gunn, Michael Rooker, Lee Pace.
THE PLOT: It’s Earth, 1988, and little Peter Quill (Wyatt Olef) is sitting anxiously in a hospital corrider, his Walkman blasting out any outside noise. When his grandfather brings him in to say goodbye to his dying mother, Peter can’t quite bring himself to hold her outreached hand as she let out her last breath, causing the young boy to flee the hospital. Outside, he’s suddenly caught in the beam of a spaceship and lifted upwards…
Cut to 26 years later, and Peter (Pratt) is something of a scavenger-for-hire, dancing his way into nabbing a heavily-guarded orb, and very nearly losing his life in the process. Also looking for this precious little item is Ronan The Accuser (Pace), one of his big boss Thanos’ two adopted and adapted killer babes, Gamora (Saldana), offering to go fetch. Also messing up Peter’s payday is Yonda Udonta (Rooker), his former mentor-turned-hunter, whilst a price on his head means that this would-be Star-Lord quickly learns he’s bitten off far more than he can chew here…
THE VERDICT: Going well beyond the call of duty, even for a crowd-pleasing Marvel extravaganza, GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY is one of those rare beasts where pop culture, a smart bunch of people and a really, really big budget just get it on. Hitting all the traditional space opera notes with relish, Guardians manages to be both true to its origins and cheekily irreverent at the same time.
The clever device of a much-loved 1970s AOR mix being ever present on our leading man’s old school Walkman is a real treat too. How could anyone resist hearing Mick Ronson’s soaring, searing, spaced-out guitar solo on Bowie’s Moonage Daydream as another colourful pulp art sci-fi neighbourhood opens its psychedelic, kaleidoscopic petals?
In many ways, it’s all there in leading man Chris Pratt, a hugely likeable comedy doofus who, lo and behold, scrubs up real well. His Peter Quill sparks like a young Han Solo, and certainly the Guardians core crew of beautiful losers neatly fits the original Star Wars blueprint, right down to Saldana’s kick-ass Princess Leia-from-another-mothership and unlikely bounty hunter duo Rocket and Groot coming across like steampunk C-3PO and R2D2. As for huggable, sluggable Drax The Destroyer (played beautifully by WWE veteran Dave Bautista), he, The Hulk and The Thing could make an interesting Stooges tribute act.
Who knows where the Marvel Studios juggernaut will end, as they ride high on this current wave of comic book, sci-fi and fantasy role-playing malarkey, but, right here, right now, they would appear to be at the very top of their game.
Review by Paul Byrne 

MOOD INDIGO (France/12A/94mins)
Directed by Michel Gondry. Starring Audrey Tautou, Romain Duris, Gad Elmaleh, Omar Sy, Aissa Maiga, Charlotte Le Bon, Sacha Bourdo, Michel Gondry.
A wealthy young man-about-Paris, Colin (Duris) spends most of his dapper days coming up with wacky inventions (he’s particularly proud of his pianocktail, which makes cocktails from the notes played), listening to Duke Ellington and being fed by his chirpy chef, Nicolas (Sy). The one thing Colin wishes he had in his life is love, and when he sees Chloe (Tautou) across a crowded party, he’s instantly smitten. Their courtship is swift, and surreal (floating around Paris in a cloud car being a literal highpoint), and seemingly destined for happy ever after status. Until, that is, Chloe gets water lily growing on her heart. Soon, the dream is over. Very over.
Somewhat typical of that mad, magical Gondry, you never quite know where you are with Mood Indigo. It swings, to say the least – from PEE WEE’S PLAYHOUSE to ERASERHEAD, ostensibly – becoming a film of two very distinct halves. From bright, happy day to dark, dangerous night.
Gondry is a man who knows what he’s doing when it comes to topsy-turvy worlds, of course, and the cult novel that he’s working from here – Boris Vian’s L’Ecume des jours/Froth On The Daydream – would appear, on paper, to be something of a perfect fit for the man who brought us ETERNAL SUNSHINE OF THE SPOTLESS MIND, THE SCIENCE OF SLEEP and, eh, THE GREEN HORNET. Still, the shift from ditzy feelgood to creeping nausea here, as Jeunet gives way to Gilliam, is a little hard to stomach. All that early psychedelic Blue Peter whimsy, with Duris chirpily engaging in all sorts of Hulot-In-A-Hurry shenanigans, slowly and surely drains away to TIDELAND in a beret.
Review by Paul Byrne 

THE NUT JOB (Canada | South Korea | USA /G/85mins)
Directed by Peter Lepeniotis. Starring Will Arnett, Brendan Fraser, Katherine Heigl, Maya Rudolph.
THE PLOT: Surly (Will Arnett) is a squirrel with dreams of a full belly. Together with his rat pal Buddy, he decides to rob a nut cart. Raccoon (Liam Neeson), the head of the wildlife community in the park is not best pleased when the heist goes wrong and Surly is exiled. It is not long before Surly finds a bigger target, and learns some home truths about himself, Raccoon and the animals he has left behind.
THE VERDICT: Will Arnett seems to have rotten luck when you think about it; ARRESTED DEVELOPMENT ended too soon – and the fourth season was a disappointment – RUNNING WILDE was cancelled – again, too soon – and his smaller comedies never seem to make much of an impact. It’s a good job he has THE LEGO MOVIE under his belt already this year, because truth be told, THE NUT JOB is not going to win Arnett any fans. Surly the squirrel is meant to be an anti-hero, but ends up being more a jerk than anything else. Arnett’s voice work is good, but the script hampers him. Liam Neeson plays a character with a dark agenda – shocker – and has a companion who looks awfully like an Angry Bird (capital letters intentional). Brendan Fraser, Katherine Heigl, Maya Rudolph and Jeff Dunham suffer from having very little to do, but still, they do what they can.
The real trouble here is the script. Basing the film on a short may have seemed like a good idea, but Surly is not a character that we can root for, and we certainly don’t want him to succeed. In fact, the same goes for all the characters, who seem to spend much of their time double crossing each other; so much so that it is often hard to keep track of who is friends with who, and why. As well as this, there is a completely unnecessary storyline involving humans, which just adds to the unlikeable characters, and the confusion.
Peter Lepeniotis directs capably, but never allows the characters to grow on the audience, so while the film is filled with action, slapstick and shouty characters, it turns into a fast paced, confused mess. The animation is perfectly fine, but the use of 3D is unwarranted, as is the liberal use of Psy’s Gangnam Style, a year too late.
THE NUT JOB may have seemed like a good idea at the time, but Arnett fails to charm, Neeson plays a character we have seen him play before, the story is a mess and the animation uninspiring. A shame. There is a sequel planned for 2015, but at least we have a second LEGO MOVIE on the cards, and with it, the hope that Arnett will return as Batman. 
Rating: 1/5
Review by Brogen Hayes 

STEP UP: ALL IN (USA/PG/112mins)
Directed by: Trish Sie. Starring Allyson Stoner, Ryan Guzman, Izabella Miko.
There’s a dance competition and people enter it with the hope of winning, turning their lives around and getting a couple of days in Las Vegas to boot.
THE VERDICT: There has to be a market for the STEP UP movies, seeing as they keep getting made, but the trouble is that they just keep getting worse. The story this time sees people giving up on their dreams and returning home, with one plucky dancer – Sean (Ryan Guzman) – staying behind to work on his dreams. All the stars of the previous movies turn up here for their last dance in the spotlight, so fans will be delighted, but there is really very little on offer here.
There is really very little point in discussing performances, because John Swetnam’s script is the typical underdog dancer story with plenty of melodrama and fraught emotion thrown in. The dialogue is overly simple, and the performances are so wooden and filled with ‘ACTING’ that they turn unintentionally comedic.
Those waiting for the dancing to redeem the movie can calm down now. There has been way better dancing in earlier instalments in the franchise; the best sequence is a small one between two characters, the group scenes simply fail to impress. As for the 3D, it seems as though we sat through the entire movie with the uncomfortable glasses on, for one scene where some sand is kicked at the audience. As well as this, Las Vegas is completely underused as a setting; we spend much of the time in America’s Playground checking out basements, admittedly fancy hotel rooms and a rollercoaster graveyard. There’s very little dancing done on The Strip, and what dancing there is, is underwhelming.
In all, STEP UP: ALL IN is a film for the diehard fans of the franchise. The story is predictable, the performances laughable and the dancing disappointing.
Review by Brogen Hayes 

The BFI National Archive has compiled a series of shorts, news reels and travelogues, in order to show the audiences of 2014, what an evening spent at the cinema 100 years ago was like.
Cinema has always been a fascinating medium. From the very beginning, the arrival of the moving image on the big screen challenged creative people to tell stories and document the world around them. In 1914, narrative feature films were quite rare, so a night at the cinema comprised a series of shorts, newsreels and odysseys around the world, as filmmakers experimented with the possibilities of film.
A NIGHT AT THE CINEMA IN 1914 starts with newsreels, showing us the important issues of the year; Archduke Franz Ferdinand had just been assassinated, and Mrs Pankhurst was arrested for promoting women’s suffrage at Buckingham Palace. We are then taken on a journey through Egypt, complete with views of the Giza pyramids and panoramas of the Nile, before the narrative shorts begin.
The stories of the short films are actually rather simple, there is one about a woman entering a face pulling competition – desperate to outdo her husband – but is arrested for disturbing the peace, a rather fun and silly piece from the Lieutenant Pimple series, which completely disregards the laws of physics, and an early Charlie Chaplin short. As well as this, filmmakers experiment with using sound discs to accompany their films, with a rather racy musical number about a ‘Rollicking Rajah’.
The compilation of these shorts and newsreels makes for entertaining and interesting viewing, not only are we getting a glimpse into the past, the historical time and the comedic wants of audiences at the time, but we are also treated to an insight into the evolution of cinema, and just how we got from a silent comedy about a submarine to giant robots wrecking up China.
A NIGHT AT THE CINEMA is a charming glimpse into the early days of cinema, and the world in the early days of World War I. The Chaplin short and the Lieutenant Pimple sketch are endearingly funny, and the newsreels offer us a view of the world as it was 100 years ago. The film may not be anything we don’t know, but it is a sweet and engaging watch.
Review by Brogen Hayes