We review this week’s new cinema releases, including FROZEN, NEBRASKA and OLDBOY…

FROZEN (USA/G/108mins)
Directed by Chris Buck, Jennifer Lee. Starring the voices of Kristen Bell, Josh Gad, Idina Menzel, Jonathan Groff, Santino Fontana, Alan Tudyk, Ciaran Hinds, Chris Williams.
THE PLOT: Elsa (Idina Menzel) has spent most of her life living in solitude, after her powers to control winter put her sister Anna (Kristen Bell) in danger. When Elsa comes of age and is crowned Queen, emotions run high and she accidentally plunges the kingdom into a permanent winter. It is up to Anna to find her sister and release the kingdom, but to do so she must team up with Olaf (Josh Gad), a talking snowman, and an odd man named Kristoff (Jonathan Groff).
THE VERDICT: FROZEN is the latest animated film to come from Disney Studios – not to be confused with Pixar – and it is a throwback to the Disney musicals of old. Songs punctuate the film, magic abounds, and there is a love story at the heart of the film. There are, however, some clever twists put on these old tropes. When one of the sisters falls madly in love and wants to marry her suitor after a few short hours, there is plenty of uproar at marrying someone she barely knows. As well as this, we get to see the evolution of the ‘monster’ at the heart of the story, rather than just presented with it fully formed, and Olaf the talking snowman is a delusional delight as he longs to experience summer.
Kristen Bell shows off her comic skill as Anna, not only does she get some of the funniest interactions in the film, but she also has the relentless optimism that comes with being a Disney Princess; this is not a bad thing though. Idina Menzel shows off her wonderful singing voice as Elsa, and when she belts the showstopper, it is hard not to empathise with a character who has been forced into solitude. Josh Gad is simply wonderful as Olaf the snowman; he injects the character with wonder and delight, and his delivery of lines is a joy. Jonathan Groff – better known as Jesse St. James from Glee – not only sings his heart out, but brings the laughter in his interactions with his reindeer Sven.
The animation, as one might expect, is simply beautiful. The snow covered world is turned into a winter wonderland, reminding audiences why we loved snow in the first place. Elsa creates some wonderful shapes from ice, and the whole landscape is rich and lush. Inspired by the Hans Christian Andersen’s story The Snow Queen, the tale feels familiar but is given a new lease of life through the dialogue from screenwriter Jennifer Lee. All of the songs in the film are belted out with passion, but it is clear that some of them work better than others. ‘Let it Go’ is a cracking tune though, and you will be singing it long after you leave the cinema.
FROZEN is a great Christmas movie filled with laughter, romance and love. There is plenty of silliness and scares in there for the little ones, and the animation is as gorgeous as you might hope. The only trouble is, with Disney throwing back to the formula that made them the animation giant they are, Frozen feels a little familiar at times, and some of the songs are a little lacking. Still, its one of the best Disney musicals in years.
RATING: 4/5
Review by Brogen Hayes 

OLDBOY (USA/18/104mins)
Directed by Spike Lee. Starring Josh Brolin, Elizabeth Olsen, Sharlto Copley, Samuel L. Jackson, Michael Imperioli, Pom Klementieff, James Ransone, Rami Malek, Elvis Nolasco.
THE PLOT: What to do when you’ve been held for, what, twenty years in a small hotel room? Well, you go out and find who put you there without reason or rhyme all those years ago. Even if that means cracking some heads. It will also mean coming to terms with the fact that, pre-kidnap, you were something of an ass, not only to those you drunkenly bumped into but also to your nearest and dearest. Including the three-year old daughter you left behind. That the man who held you captive all those years is now taunting you regularly on the phone doesn’t help your sanity though…
THE VERDICT: The much-loved 2003 original by Park Chan-wook having been derived from a manga comicbook by Garon Tsuchiya and Nobuaki Minegishi, it’s perhaps none too surprising that Spike Lee reckoned he might just be able to bring something to the table with an American version. Kudos too for keeping the dark taboo at the heart of the original very much intact here.
Josh Brolin makes for a fine avenging angel here, channelling Lee Marvin’s Point Blank blank stare as he rip-roars through another clue, whilst a supporting cast that includes the likes of Sharlto Copley and Michael Imperioli lets you know you’re in for something at least aiming to be a treat. That Lee has gone from christening his films joints to a simple Spike Lee film here suggests an attempt to shake off any preconceptions, and certainly it’s hard to recognise the hand that’s driving here. Despite the fun cameo from Lee’s brother Cinque. It’s both the film’s strength and its weakness, the uncompromising approach to a difficult plot twist or two balanced out by a film that feels strangely generic at times. That it’s Lee’s bravest movie in a long, long time is admirable.
RATING: 3/5
Review by Paul Byrne

BLACK NATIVITY (USA/PG/93mins)
Directed by Kasi Lemmons. Starring Jennifer Hudson, Forest Whitaker, Angela Bassett, Tyrese Gibson.
THE PLOT: When his mother receives an eviction notice of their home in Baltimore, teenager Langston (Jacob Latimore) is sent to spend Christmas with his estranged grandparents in New York. Determined to help his mother out, Langston starts down a potentially destructive path, until he discovers the truth about his family.
THE VERDICT: BLACK NATIVITY is billed as a musical, and the play it was based on was certainly a musical, but the film is not quite the all-singing, all-dancing spectacular it could be. While the characters start off singing the big moments of their lives, the film uses songs as exposition, and after the show stopping farewell between mother and son, the film simply uses musical numbers in dream sequences and Christmas Eve religious celebrations.
Jacob Latimore is left to do the heavy emotional lifting of the film, and mostly fails. Langston – a name inspired by the author of the original play – is a kid who makes one terrible decision after another. Although his motivation may be mostly clear, he is selfish and manipulative for most of the film. Jennifer Hudson, as Naima, does not have a lot to do, but she belts the songs she is given, reminding us that she is an excellent singer.
Forest Whitaker and Angela Bassett play the estranged grandparents, and it seems as though both characters deliberately shy away from any true emotion, for the sake of reciting their lines. Each character in the film can be defined in almost one word, leaving the audience wondering why we should care about people who have made bad choices in their lives.
As a writer Kasi Lemmons leaves any emotion created in the film feeling overdone, and characters underdeveloped; many of them feel as though they were inserted for the sake of a song, rather than for any narrative purpose. As for the narrative itself, the film has an incredibly simple story, but one that is never truly told; resolution comes too quickly, and the using religion as a turning point for the characters makes the film feel less like a Gospel celebration of Christmas, and more like a sermon from the mount.
Lemmons’s direction is heavy handed, which makes the film feels more like melodrama than a musical, and every character’s reactions are either over the top of over simplified. The film ends up feeling trite, poverblown and undercooked, with a nativity story shoved in for good measure.
BLACK NATIVITY is a charmless, trite and exasperating look at characters that seem to have no desire to redeem themselves. Drama becomes melodrama in a tale of underdeveloped characters, little motivation and songs that have been shoehorned in, almost for the sake of it. A confusing, boring and frustrating experience.
RATING: 1/5
Review by Brogen Hayes

NEBRASKA (USA/12A/115mins)
Directed by Alexander Payne. Starring Will Forte, Bruce Dern, June Squibb.
THE PLOT: Woody is an elderly man who believes he has won a million dollars in a sweepstake. As his father insists on getting to Nebraska to claim his prize, David decides to help him, and the pair journey across the country to claim a prize that may or may not exist.
THE VERDICT: Director Alexander Payne has made a name for himself by creating warm, emotional films, and Nebraska is no exception. Bruce Dern gives a beautiful performance as Woody, a man who never really went after anything he wanted in life, until now. Dern plays Woody as a cantankerous, awkward but generous man, and the emotion of the film lies with a man determined to get what he believes should be his. Woody’s story arc is relatively small, but it is hard not to root for a man whose lucky day may have come rather late in life.
Will Forte leaves his cross-dressing days behind in 30 Rock, and delivers a tender and real performance here. Not only is it utterly believable that he is as adrift as his father, but he plays the embarrassed yet hopeful son well, switching effortlessly between the roles of parent and child as he and Dern traverse the country and negotiate some emotional tangles. June Squibb is wonderfully nasty as Woody’s wife Kate, yet she has a strength and tenderness that we only need to see touches of. Bob Odenkirk rounds out the family as David’s brother Ross; the older, more mature and less fanciful brother, and one whose grounding in reality has led to a sensible but uneventful life.
Screenwriter Bob Nelson has mixed a road trip movie with a chance for Woody to go back to his past, for David to understand his father better and for a family forced apart to finally come back together. Nelson also mixes tragedy into the story, as well as some gently satirical commentary about American society. As well as this, there is plenty to laugh at, with the extreme depictions of extended family.
Alexander Payne mixes a stubbornly gullible character with one who is passive but resigned to the fact that the journey must happen. This leads to some astute observations about the nature of father son relationships, as well as a juggling of parent/child responsibilities. It’s a hard act to get right, but Payne manages it well. The trouble with the film, however, is that the 115 minute running time means the pacing in the second act almost crawls to a halt. Not only does this mean that the film loses all momentum, but it also means that Woody and David do as well. However, when the family is united, Woody refuses to let go of his dream, and the duo hit the road again there is enough warmth underlying the entire story for the emotional payoff to be worth the journey.
NEBRASKA is an examination of small town America, relationships and the past. Dern and Forte work incredibly well together, with Dern giving a wonderfully strong and nuanced performance at the heart of the film. The pacing and running time go against the film, but the emotional payoff is strong, with echoes of Payne’s earlier work.
RATING: 4/5
Review by Brogen Hayes

GETAWAY (USA, Bulgaria/12A/93mins)
Directed by Courtney Solomon. Starring Ethan Hawke, Selena Gomez, Jon Voight.
THE PLOT: When his wife is kidnapped, former racing driver Brent Magna (Ethan Hawke) is forced to carry out the instructions of a mysterious voice at the other end of the telephone. Magna is forced to commandeer a car, but a spanner is thrown into the works when the Kid (Selena Gomez) who owns it decides to come along for the ride.
THE VERDICT: There is something instantly familiar about Getaway; not only does the film feel like a motion version of PHONE BOOTH, but there are touches of DRIVE, TAKEN, and KNIGHT & DAY about the film. A combination of these film sounds like a winner, but there is something lacking about GETAWAY.
Ethan Hawke does fine with the role he is given as Brent Magna. Unfortunately, most of his dialogue is hugely expositional, and repetitive as he insists he wants his wife back, and that Gomez should not point a gun in his face. Selena Gomez does not do much better in terms of dialogue, as she constantly talks about how rich and clever she is. Jon Voight comes off worst of all, his quips as chaos reigns are cringe worthy and his instructions – most of which are to smash up stuff with the car – make little or no sense. Thankfully, we are not here for dialogue – although an action film with something smart to say would be nice – instead we are here to see car chases through the streets of Sofia, Bulgaria, and that’s what we get.
Writers Sean Finegan and Greg Maxwell Parker seems to have had a great idea for chase sequences, and were not sure how to string them all together. This leads to a script that is littered with flashbacks, nonsensical choices with regard to timing, technology and narrative. In fact, at the end of the film so little is resolved, and there are so many plot holes, the audience may be left wondering what they just watched and what the point of it was. There is no story to be told here, there are only chases. The only saving grace is one beautiful tracking shot of a drive at sunrise, but even this is not enough to detract from the nonsense going on here.
GETAWAYis director Courtney Solomon’s third film behind the camera, after Dungeons and Dragons, and An American Haunting. Solomon obviously relishes creating and shooting the chase sequences – of which there are many – as they are all incredibly fast passed, fun and just a little bit silly. Outside of the chases, the pacing of the film is a mess as almost everything comes to light within the first 40 minutes, and the rest is spent mooching around in cars, and although Gomez and Hawke try their best to create well rounded characters with emotion and motivation, they are continually hampered by a trite script and director who seems to think dialogue is secondary to action.
GETAWAY is a film that pays very little attention to narrative, structure or characters, instead focusing on cars, driving and speed. Finegan and Parker’s screenplay is laughable and Solomon’s direction is lacklustre at best. The film is left open for a sequel, but it is a safe bet that this will not be on the horizon any time soon. Some of the chases are fun though, and it’s nice to see Gomez move a little further away from the nice girl image she cultivated early in her career, even if her character is paper thin.
RATING: 2/5
Review by Brogen Hayes

KILL YOUR DARLINGS (USA/16/105mins)
Directed by John Krokidas. Starring Daniel Radcliffe, Dane DeHaan, Michael C. Hall, Elizabeth Olsen, Ben Foster.
THE PLOT: When Allen Ginsberg is accepted into Columbia University, he knows that the move away from home – and his ailing mother – could be the change he is looking for. When he meets Lucien Carr however, his world is changed in a way he could never have imagined.
THE VERDICT: There seems to be a resurgence of love and curiosity about the Beat poets and artists lately; KILL YOUR DARLINGS is the second film in recent years to feature Jack Kerouac as a character – after ON THE ROAD. It is undeniable that there is something fascinating about the chaotic lives led by these people, but KILL YOUR DARLINGS is another example of how trying to encapsulate the chaotic on screen does not always work.
Daniel Radcliffe takes another step away from Harry Potter as Ginsberg, and finally loses the preachy and breathy way of speaking that he cultivated in his most famous role. This is a marked change of pace and direction for the actor, and he almost rises to the challenge. Sadly for Radcliffe, he is overshadowed by the smouldering performance given by Dane DeHaan as Lucien Carr. DeHaan perfectly encapsulates a man who was as charming as he was dangerous, and drew people to him before leaving them behind. Ben Foster gives a nuanced but overlooked performance as William Burroughs, and Michael C. Hall reminds us that he has range and emotin after his stoic role in Dexter. Elizabeth Olsen turns up in a lovely little cameo as Kerouac’s beleaguered girlfriend Edie.
Screenwriters John Krokidas and Austin Bunn approached the material in a different manner than On The Road, showing the characters devising, creating and challenging their manifesto, while showcasing the deep bond between these men. However, the film is let down by a murder mystery that is seemingly shoehorned in for the sake of giving the film an ending, and that chaos of the characters’ lives leads to a jumbled and sometimes confusing story. As well as this, the characters’ convictions are somehow downgraded, and come off as posturing and practical jokes, rather than an examination of the birth of an influential and important period in American creativity.
As director, John Krokidas plays up the chemistry between Carr and his cohorts, which leads to some genuinely tender and moving moments between Radcliffe and the object of his affections. Stylish as the film is – and it certainly looks fantastic – it somehow collapses under the weight of its heavy story; the lighter scenes are dealt with cleverly and almost mischievously, but as soon as morality and emotion come into play, the film feels lost.
KILL YOUR DARLINGS is an undeniably stylish piece of work, and DeHaan shines as Lucien Carr. Radcliffe takes a step away from his most famous role, but the fascination with the Beat artists is lost in a jumbled, chaotic and slightly messy film.
RATING: 2/5
Review by Brogen Hayes

JUST A SIGH (France/Belgium/Ireland/IFI/104mins)
Directed by Jerome Bonnell. Starring Emmanuelle Devos, Gabriel Byrne, Gilles Privat, Aurelia Petit, Laurent Capelluto, Denis Menochet.
THE PLOT:
On her way to another audition, actress Alix (Devos) can’t help but notice the alluring stranger on her train (Byrne), the two making enough eye contact to convince her that this is a man worth pursuing. Even if means turning up outside the Parisian church where he is attending the funeral of a former lover. Or heading back to his hotel. Having a boyfriend who never answers his phone spurs Alix on, but once together, the two embark on, well, a slapstick comedy…
THE VERDICT:
Benefitting from a starring opening film role at the recent IFI French Film Festival, this pleasant brief encounter has a lightness of touch that verges on slightness. Devos and the occasionally fine Byrne are both fine in this instance, and writer/director Bonnell (The Other Son) knows his way around the heart. It’s all just so very, very French, and a little ordinary, with a genre shift that never quite makes sense.
RATING: 3/5 
Review by Paul Byrne 

SCATTER MY ASHES AT BERGDORF’S (USA/Light House/93mins)
Directed by Matthew Miele. Starring Rachel Zoe, Candice Bergin, Ashley Olsen, William Fichtner (narrator), Mary-Kate Olsen, Joan Rivers, Tom Ford.
THE PLOT:
The iconic Manhatan department store gets the full documentary treatment, with star-studded memories, fashion icon slaps on the back, and a peak at the backroom shenanigans that help Bergdorf’s go round. Fashion designers, style icons and celebrities abound.
THE VERDICT:
The world of high fashion has been well-served by documentary makers in recent years, such a rarefied world promising much behind-the-curtain revelations whilst also appealing directly to the Xpose squealers. That Bergdorf’s should mean little to anyone on this side of the Atlantic who doesn’t work on Xpose means there are few revelations here to, well, truly squeal about. The affection, the anecdotes and the machinations are all on display, but it’s hard to truly care.
RATING: 3/5 
Review by Paul Byrne 

MARIUS (France/PG/93mins)
Directed by Daniel Auteuil. Starring Daniel Auteuil, Raphael Personnaz, Jean-Pierre Darroussin, Victoire Belezy, Marie-Anne Chazel, Nicolas Vaude.
THE PLOT:
It’s the 1920s, Marseilles, and down by the water Marius (Personnaz) is taken by the sea almost as much as he’s drawn to young shellfish seller Fanny (Belezy). Working in the cafe of his no-nonsense father, Cesar (Autueuil), and dreaming of a life on the sea means Marius misses his chance with Fanny, and she’s snapped up by a wealthy factory owner, Panisse (Darroussin), who’s twice her age. Marius decides it’s time he made his move, booking his passage on a boat at the same time as revealing to Fanny his long-held desire for her…
THE VERDICT:
The first of Marcel Pagnol’s Marseilles Trilogy, being rebooted by actor/director Daniel Auteuil (the second, Fanny, is reviewed below, whilst Cesar is in the making), Marius was originally brought to the screen in 1931 by Alexandre Korda, and is regarded as one of the finest examples of France’s Golden Age of cinema. So, why remake it?
Well, because Auteuil’s got both the balls and the skills, and a fine pair of young lead actors in Raphael Personnaz and Victoire Belezy. This is actually Auteuil’s second Pagnol adaptation, The Well-Digger’s Daughter having been released to moderate success in 2011. Marius is made of stronger stuff, and will not only help people go explore Pagnol but should also stand proud on its own merits. Especially when seen with the fine Fanny.
RATING: 4/5 
Review by Paul Byrne

FANNY (France/PG/102mins)
Directed by Daniel Auteuil. Starring Daniel Auteuil, Raphael Personnaz, Jean-Pierre Darroussin, Victoire Belezy, Marie-Anne Chazel, Nicolas Vaude.
THE PLOT:
With her beloved Marius (Personnaz) all out to sea on a five-year voyage, the heartbroken Fanny (Belezy) is now at the total mercy of wealthy widower Panisse (Darroussin), twice her age, and twice as cunning. When it turns out that Fanny is pregnant with Marius’ child, a deal is struck whereby she will save face, and Panisse will have the pretty young wife he so desires. But, can it be all so simple…?
THE VERDICT:
The second installment of Daniel Auteuil’s ambitious reboot of Marcel Pagnol’s Marseilles Trilogy – which inspired three Golden Age cinema classics in the 1930s – may not quite have the ebbs and flow of the first outing, but it’s still a compelling watch. Shot at the same time as the first outing, Auteuil retains much of the dramatic and artistic sensibilities, the wonderful cast rising to the occasion once again. It bodes well for the final installment, Cesar, currently in production and due next year.
RATING: 3/5
 
Review by Paul Byrne