Reviews – New movies opening February 15th 2013

We review this week’s new cinema releases, including This is 40 and Side by Side

THIS IS 40 (USA/15A/153mins)
Directed by Judd Apatow. Starring Paul Rudd, Leslie Mann, Albert Brooks, Megan Fox, Chris O’Dowd, Melissa McCarthy, Lena Dunham, Graham Parker, Maude Apatow, Iris Apatow, Jason Segal.
THE PLOT: The honeymoon period seems to be very much over for Pete (Rudd) and Debbie (Mann), as the two finding themselves increasingly banging heads over personal habits, musical tastes and their two young daughters, Sadie (Maude Apatow) and Charlotte (Iris Apatow). Part of the problem may lie in the fact that Pete’s start-up record company is having trouble starting up, with much of his hopes for a turnaround resting on nostalgic signing Graham Parker, a muso fave who hasn’t had a hit in 35 years. Charlotte’s kooky clothes shop is having trouble too, with money flying out of the till. Suspect number one is the flirtatious and highly sexed shop girl Desi (Fox). Can the couple turn their failing marriage around? More importantly, do they actually want to…?
THE VERDICT: Okay, quit your moaning about how long it is. All Apatow comedies are too long – boo, hoo! They also happen to be funny, clever and – gulp – insightful, never more so than in this Frasier/Rhoda-esque sidestep from Knocked Up, as Hollywood’s latest Rupert Pupkin puts some heartfelt domestic blitz up on the screen. The fact that the nagging, discontented wife and the bickering, disconnected two daughters are all waiting for Apatow back home too makes This Is 40 feel very close to the bone. Or the lack of the bone, as the case may be. Does Apatow sit on the crapper whilst arguing with his missus? Or does he just recognise how low we can go when it comes to not caring about what the other person thinks anymore?
As with so many Apatow movies, from the good (Knocked Up, Bridesmaids) to the bad (Funny People, The Five-Year Engagement), the DVD release should come with an editing facility. Just to kick it into a more digestible shape. Which all just means, hey, there’s still more than enough glorious comedy here though.

Review by Paul Byrne

Directed by Christopher Kenneally. Starring Martin Scorsese, David Lynch, David Fincher, Christopher Nolan, Lars von Trier, Danny Boyle, Lena Dunham, Derek Ambrosi, Michael Ballhaus, Dion Beebe.
THE PLOT: Charting the rise and rise of digital filmmaking – or cinema’s “bastard child”, as one theorist offers here – producer-narrator Keanu Reeves leads us through an evolution that went from just two digital cinema screens for The Phantom Menace back in 1999 to more than 85,000 worldwide today. And that number is set to rise to 150,000 by 2015. Those offering up their celluloid-tinted view on digital filmmaking include such mighty directors as Martin Scorsese and David Lynch, whilst those battling on the front – cinematographers, FX specialists, editors, colourists, etc – are no less passionate about the subject…
THE VERDICT: Akin to Danny Baker and co mourning the near-death of vinyl, it’s easy to get nostalgic here with little Marty and the gang as they wax lyrical about the tangible, textile beauty of celluloid. Of course, in film, it shouldn’t really be all about the singer; it’s the song that counts. So, something as sweet, funny and smart as Toy Story should work just as well in charcoal. That story is king, no matter what the medium, is certainly the consensus here, as the inevitable is accepted; one day, all film will be digital. It’s cheaper, cleaner, faster, and all those other buzzwords businessmen, and students, love to hear. This is a medium where, of course, nothing is real, so the arguments here are never fully conclusive. Reeves, for his part, makes for a spirited and likeable host for the various sides of the debate.
Oh, and let’s hear it for Dark Knight Rises cinematographer Wally Pfister, who deems 3D little more than “a motherfucking marketing scheme”.

Review by Paul Byrne

SAMMY’S GREAT ESCAPE 3D (Belguim/G/92mins)
Directed by Vincent Kesteloot, Ben Stassen. Starring the voices of Billy Unger, Pat Carroll, Carlos McCullers II, Cinda Adams, Dino Andrade, Chris Andrew Ciulla, Isabelle Fuhrman.
THE PLOT: The bestest of buddies, leatherback turtles Sammy (Unger) and Ray (McCullers II) are helping newbies Ricky (Carroll) and Ella (Fuhrman) find their sea legs when, before you can say Madagscar, some nasty poachers sweep them up and plonk them smack down in the middle of a tourist acquarium in Dubai. But then, before you can say Nemo, the seahorse kingpin Big D is hatching a plan of escape. Sammy and Ray have a plan of their own, and they’ve got a whole new bunch of friends – including Lulu The Lobster (Thomas) and Annabel the Octopus (Reinamo) – to help them with it…
THE VERDICT: Warner Brothers really should try and get their own animation house in order, rather than buying in soppy, sorry Belgian kiddie schlock such as this. Plainly, thanks to parents who really don’t care what their kids watch once it distracts the little ones for an hour and a half, these low-budget, low-brow McCartoons fill a hole. Even supersized with 3D though, they’re still going to leave a bad aftertaste.

Review by Paul Byrne

A GOOD DAY TO DIE HARD (USA/15a/97 mins)
Directed by: John Moore Starring: Bruce Willis, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Jai Courtney
THE PLOT: John McClane is back. This time out, he must travel to Russia to help out his seemingly wayward son, Jack, who is a CIA operative working to stop a heist of nuclear weapons. The two team up to battle criminal forces.
THE VERDICT: There are very few franchises that should be allowed to go past the three films mark, and even fewer that should be resurrected once they have been given a fitting end. The Die Hard franchise is one that should have been allowed to go gentle into that good night.
Bruce Willis is back as one of his most beloved characters, but he is anything but likeable here. He badgers his son, shows off and his one-liners are mostly inaudible, and those that are not, are terrible. Jai Courtney is about as one dimensional and vanilla as it is possible to be; his only motivation seems to be his Daddy issues.
The film is made up of set pieces – car chases, helicopter chases, shootouts – strung together with a vague and generally confusing plot about the CIA having to extract a Russian guy who has a valuable file and information about Chernobyl… We think. Of course McClane finds himself involved and he soon turns into an action movie version of Wreck-It Ralph; destroying everything he touches. For their part, the set pieces are pretty entertaining – even if they are all too long – so if car chases and helicopters are your thing, you will be in your element. The dialogue however, is absolutely terrible; clunky, expositional and bland.
It seems that the idea behind A Good Day to Die Hard is to pass the torch to Jai Courtnney – he is John McClane Jr after all – but since the film ends up feeling like a mix of every bad Bond movie you ever saw – which were still fun, even in their terribleness – and Mission: Impossible 2 with a script written for a Rush Hour movie, the franchise is going to have to up its game significantly if it wants any kind of longevity.
It is fairly safe to say that A Good Day to Die Hard would be a good place to let the franchise die, but we all know that’s not going to happen, don’t we?

Rating: 2/5
Review by Brogen Hayes

Directed by Richard LaGravenese. Starring Alice Englert, Viola Davis, Emma Thompson, Jeremy Irons, Emmy Rossum, Thomas Mann, Alden Ehrenreich, Eileen Atkins.
THE PLOT: He’s just a smalltown, rural South Carolina boy, so, naturally, Ethan (Ehrenreich), is keen to take a walk on any wild side he can find. You can tell from the books the broody little outsider reads – Tropic Of Cancer, Slaughterhouse-Five, The Honey Queen. Luckily for Ethan, there’s a new girl in town, and she’s bewitching. But then, Lena (Englert) is a witch. And they tend to be bewitching. It’s part of the deal. Lena walks into Ethan’s life reading Charles Bukowski. So, it’s only natural that the town’s only two readers will end up together. Against the world.
THE VERDICT: Based on Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl’s best-selling 2009 novel (the first in a series of four dubbed The Caster Chronicles), the film version of Beautiful Creatures plays like a slightly smarter, slightly sexier and somewhat more luscious version of the Twilight franchise. You can tell it’s a step up just by looking at the supporting cast. And the fact that leading lady Alice is the daughter of Aussie arthouse giant Jane Campion.
The plot device here is no Mormon abstinence but the struggle between good and evil that arrives just around puberty. When the gun is suddenly loaded. And that’s the point Lena is fast approaching, with Irons’ good uncle and Thompson’s bad aunt battling over her soul. It makes for ripe storytelling, and largely enjoyable viewing, and if the whole thing doesn’t quite add up to any kind of teen classic, it’s still offers up far more engaging glossy tween psychobabble than Edward and Bella’s dull, dead-eyed dance.

Review by Paul Byrne