We review this week’s new cinema releases, including SELMA, PATRICK’S DAY and THE INTERVIEW…
Directed by Ava DuVernay. Starring David Oyelowo, Carmen Ejogo, Tom Wilkinson, Giovanni Ribisi, Tim Roth, Dylan Baker, Martin Sheen, Cuba Gooding Jr., Haviland Stillwell, Andre Holland.
THE PLOT: Oslo, October 14th, 1964, and Martin Luther King, Jr. (Oyelowo) receives the Nobel Peace Prize, accepting it for “our lost ones, whose deaths paved our paths”, for “the more than 20 million American Negroes motivated by dignity”, and the belief that “the truth of equality” will soon shatter “the illusion of supremacy”. A year before, four little African-American girls were killed in Birmingham, Alabama, and JFK was assassinated. So, back home in America, the non-violent fight is far from won, black America having to play the political game against a fat white kid who still owns the ball. And this oily-skinned little redneck brat keeps changing the rules. President Johnson (Wilkinson) doesn’t want to sign a Voting Rights Act, and so King, growing tired of begging nicely, takes it to the streets of Selma, Alabama, where he plans a 54-mile highway walk to the state capital of Montgomery. Alabama governor George Wallace (Roth) isn’t about to go down without a fight, and neither is Johnson, calling on the services of FBI chief J. Edgar Hoover (Baker) to work bring his dark arts to bear…
THE VERDICT: Early on, there’s a grave sense of the inevitable about Selma, the familiar and the predictable, both historically and cinematically, suggesting something close to homework. The quiet pride, the dignity, the casual racism, the bug-eyed cruelty, the tinkling piano, the redneck sheriff deputies wrestling Oprah Winfrey to the cold, cold ground.
In that first half-hour, despite the ugly truths being presented, Selma feels far more Oprah Winfrey than Spike Lee, more The Help than Mississippi Burning. And then that glorious history comes to life, floating like a butterfly and stinging like a bitch. America, both melting pot and smoking gun, King walking with God, and Otis, Nina and Mahalia, on his side. Director Ava DuVernay and first-time Brit writer Paul Webb hit their marks squarely here, and if the supporting cast bring a certain amount of baggage (Roth, Wilkinson, Baker, Sheen, Gooding and Winfrey all play the kind of characters you’d expect), Selma still surprises, still shocks, still moves.
Review by Paul Byrne
MOVIES.IE’S ONE TO WATCH!
PATRICK’S DAY (Ireland/15A/102mins)
Directed by Terry McMahon. Starring Moe Dunford, Kerry Fox, Catherine Walker, Philip Jackson, Aaron Monaghan, Conor Mullen, Tommy O’Neill, Donna Dent, Conor Mullen, David Herlihy.
THE PLOT: We open on Saint Patrick’s Day, Dublin, and Maura Fitzgerald (Fox) is taking her son, Patrick (Dunford), out from his care home for the day so they can celebrate his birthday. It’s an annual tradition, and the now-27-year-old Patrick knows the happy drill – hotel, silly wigs, parade, cake, fairground. Only this year, Patrick gets lost, on the ferris wheel, and as mum runs to the nearest Garda station (finding little solace in Philip Jackson’s dry detective-cum-budding-stand-up), Patrick finds himself being taken under the wing of self-destructive air hostess Karen (Walker). One beautifully-lit cherry-pop later, and all hell breaks loose, the lovestruck Patrick quickly realising that his mother is determined to be the only woman in his life. So much so, she’s prepared to do just about anything to keep it that way…
THE VERDICT: Talk about a great leap forward. Having rubbed up many a critic the wrong way – and a handful the right way – with his no-budget 2011 debut Charlie Casanova, Irish writer/director Terry McMahon has come a long way, baby, with his second feature. Already a festival favourite around the world (picking up awards from Cork and Galway to Woodstock and Berlin), Patrick’s Day may take about 20 minutes to find its feet (Walker struggles with the faux-Marlowe lines; Jackson is mildly ridiculous as the drowning/laughing policeman), but once it does – when the rug is pulled from underneath us, ironically enough – it plays like a dream. A bad dream, at times, but a dream nonetheless, Moe Dunford stunning as the manchild bursting to become a childish, charming man, and Kerry Fox perfectly poised as the over-protective mother determined to block out the eternal sunshine of her son’s sudden, unexpected balls-dropping love affair.
Having worked as an orderly in a mental home, McMahon has clearly witnessed the thin line between motherly love and Oedipus hate at play here, whilst, amidst a crew that goes well beyond the call of duty (including composer Ray Harman and editor Emer Reynolds), cinematographer Michael Lavelle deserves a special mention here, tripping the light fantastically as Patrick’s tightrope between heaven and hell begins to blur.
Jaw-droppingly good. And you can quote me on that.
Review by Paul Byrne
JUPITER ASCENDING (USA/12A/127mins)
Directed by The Wachowskis. Starring Mila Kunis, Channing Tatum, Eddie Redmayne, Tuppence Middleton, Maria Doyle Kennedy, Terry Gilliam.
THE PLOT: Having been born on a ship in international waters, after her father was killed in a robbery gone wrong, Jupiter Jones (Mila Kunis) considers herself an illegal alien. Living in Chicago and cleaning houses for a living, Jupiter’s life changes when she is targeted by aliens bent on murder. Rescued by Caine (Channing Tatum), a genetically engineered warrior, Jupiter is taken out of her world and learns her true genetic heritage; heir to Earth.
THE VERDICT: First things first, if anyone goes into the cinema to see this Wachowski film, demanding to see a film that is linear and clear, they have not been paying attention to the Wachowski’s career. THE MATRIX trilogy started well, before devolving into sci-fi madness, and CLOUD ATLAS erred on the side of truly bonkers. Happily JUPITER ASCENDING takes a leaf from CLOUD ATLAS’ book, and is truly, utterly bats**t crazy.
The cast is a stellar one, made up of Mila Kunis, Channing Tatum, the newly Oscar nominated Eddie Redmayne, our own Maria Doyle Kennedy, Tuppence Middleton, Sean Bean and a fantastic cameo from Terry Gilliam – perhaps a nod to the Gilliam-esque feel of JUPITER ASCENDING. Each does their role well; Kunis is great as a combination between Cinderella and a damsel in distress, Channing excels in the set pieces as an out of this world warrior, and if there were anyone to speak while lounging on various things and barely moving their mouth, it would be Eddie Redmayne.
Although the story comes off as complicated, The Wachowskis ground everything in a reality we can understand, and quickly clarify everything through a case of sibling rivalry, contesting a will and some hugely unethical and disturbing processes. Of course, this is a rambling space epic, so while we can understand the motivations of the characters, everything takes place in an odd steampunkian, retro futuristic world filled with flying reptiles, bees that can discern Royalty, flying gravity boots and tattoos made of light, and the story is wrapped in layers of repetition. The world is beautiful and mad, but the whole thing is underscored with the feeling that we have seen this evil before, in a different manner, which of course we have; the underlying plot is rather similar to that of THE MATRIX, although this time the saviour is a genetic heir, and not the one true god, or whatever Neo was supposed to be.
As directors, The Wachowskis excel in the set pieces, which are thrilling, fast paced and incredibly well shot, but fall down in the emotion sequences, which are either utterly predictable or come out of nowhere, leaving the audience struggling to keep up. JUPITER ASCENDING is nothing if not ambitious and, like the best bonkers movies out there, is enjoyable in its outlandishness, once the audience goes along for the ride, rather than trying to analyse everything. It mostly becomes clear in the end… Mostly.
With JUPITER ASCENDING, The Wachowskis have taken a leaf from Terry Gilliam’s book, and have created a beautiful sprawling space opera that’s one part CINDERELLA, one part FLASH GORDON, with a healthy dash of bats**t craziness thrown in for good measure. There are definite issues with the film, but it is as fast paced as it is visually stunning, and although Kunis ends up being saved a lot of the time – odd that, since she’s a saviour – JUPITER ASCENDING is a mad journey through a world of betrayal and morality that doesn’t always makes sense, but is always entertaining.
Review by Brogen Hayes
THE INTERVIEW (USA/16/112mins)
Directed by Seth Rogen & Evan Goldberg. Starring Seth Rogen, James Franco, Lizzy Caplan, Diana Bang, Randall Park.
THE PLOT: TV host Dave Skylark (James Franco) is shocked to hear that his gossip show has an unexpected fan; North Korean leader Kim Jong-un (Randall Park), and hatches a plan to score an interview with the famed dictator. When the American government learn of the interview, they have different plans, and convince Dave and his producer Aaron (Seth Rogen) to murder Kim Jong-un.
THE VERDICT: THE INTERVIEW, just in case you have forgotten, was pulled from a US cinema release after a massive hack on Sony Pictures Entertainment, and hackers’ threats that compared their retaliation to The Interview getting a release to the 9/11 attacks on New York. The film was released on VOD instead, and made $15 million within four days, but audiences at this side of the pond have the dubious pleasure of seeing the whole shebang on the big screen, as intended.
The story has tons of potential for comedy and absurdity; the idea that journalists would be called upon to murder a world leader certainly sets itself in a world that is not ours, but it makes a warped kind of sense. Dan Sterling’s screenplay, however, quickly turns THE INTERVIEW into yet another Seth Rogen/James Franco vehicle, filled with crass humour and over the top situations. There are moments that make comment on the nature of life in North Korea, but these are generally so overblown that any statement made is lost in poop gags and over the top bros bro-ing out.
Rogen and Franco settle into their roles well – shouty panicky guy, and self absorbed idiot, respectively – and it in on this buddy relationship that the film is based. Of course, conflict is introduced through the seemingly cool and down to party Kim Jong-un, and this is where the film dissolves into silliness. The supporting cast – Lizzy Caplan, Reese Alexander and Diana Bang – all do their best, but they are fighting a losing battle against an unfunny script, unnecessary uses of Katy Perry songs, over the top violence for the sake of violence, and continuous references to other films.
As directors, Rogen and Evan Goldberg prove that THIS IS THE END may have been a fluke for them; the focus is on set ups for gags and any other commentary – parodying Dennis Rodman, speculating as to conditions in North Korea – is left to whither and die. THE INTERVIEW was never going to be a ground breaking political movie, but since the film is set in North Korea, and there is comment made about the tyranny of the leader, then these jokes and comments should have been allowed to land before being dismissed.
In all, THE INTERVIEWis exactly what you might expect from a film starring Seth Rogen and James Franco; overblown bromantic comedy that tries to make a larger comment and fails, while managing to be unfunny, not clever and uninspired. Still, watch it if you are so inclined cos, freedom y’know!?
Review by Brogen Hayes
SHAUN THE SHEEP MOVIE (UK/France/G/85mins)
Directed by Mark Burton, Richard Starzack. Starring the voices of Justin Fletcher, John Sparkes, Andy Nyman, Stanley Unwin, Nick Park.
THE PLOT: Opening on just another routine day on Mossy Bottom Farm, Shaun The Sheep (eh, voiced by Fletcher) is getting a little tired of being woken every morning by the cockerel crow, the clipboard tick-off by the Farmer and his faithful mutt Blitzer (both Sparkes), the grass, the sunset, the barn lock-in. And so, when the opportunity to head to the big city – in order to retrieve the Farmer after a unplanned caravan roll leaves him dazed and confused, and lost – Shaun jumps at the chance. As do the rest of his woolly buddies, the Mossy Bottom gang scouring the metropolis whilst trying to avoid the local animal pound hound, with the concussed Farmer’s sheep-shearing skills unwittingly making him a celebrity hairdresser…
THE VERDICT: Shaun The Sheep is, of course, a wonderful creation, a silent slapstick scamp who hits so many sweet spots – he’s Sgt Bilko in a thick Aran sweater! He’s claymation! He’s guilty-pleasure afternoon kids telly! He’s living in a sitcom staple, Mossy Bottom Farm providing the same safe and warm comedic haven provided by the likes of Craggy Island, the Cheers bar and the Irish TV studio. And he’s also Aardman, so that parochial, mischievous, ee-by-gum, Ealing-esque comedy is to the fore, the soft but slightly subversive gags here all basking in a 1950s radio valve glow.
So, why did I not love, cherish and obey Shaun’s big-screen debut? The gang’s all here, and the gags come thick and woolly, but Aardman have always had trouble sustaining beyond half-an-hour. In truth, only THE CURSE OF THE WERE-RABBIT maintains its charms and plot to the closing credits, with the likes of CHICKEN RUN, FLUSHED AWAY, ARTHUR CHRISTMAS AND THE PIRATES! IN AN ADVENTURE WITH SCIENTISTS all writing chuckles they couldn’t quite cash.
Review by Paul Byrne