This weeks movies reviewed by Paul Byrne including Haywire, The Sitter, W.E, J Edgar and more…
Directed by Steven Soderbergh. Starring Gina Carano, Michael Fassbender, Antonio Banderas, Michael Douglas, Channing Tatum, Ewan McGregor.
THE PLOT: Covert, hands-on troubleshooter Mallory Kane (Carano) has just completed her latest mission in Barcelona when her point man Kenneth (McGregor) sends her to Dublin, to hook up with fellow operative Paul (Fassbender). Mallory soon discovers that it is she who is the target though, and one destroyed Shelbourne suite later, she’s on the run back to the US, trying to figure out what just happened. Her answer comes with a series of attacks on her life, and the discovery that her father (Paxton) – also an ex-Marine – is being held hostage by Kenneth and his cronies…
THE VERDICT: Always happy to see a film where a woman sets out to batter the hell out of Ewan McGregor – well, get her hands around his throat, which is just as good – Steven Soderbergh here has considerable fun with the lone super-agent fugitive genre by allowing nothing but reality into the stunts. Which would explain why he cast Mixed Martial Arts champ Gina Carano in the lead role, this MMA hardbody pin-up quite capable of kicking forty shades of shit out of Ewan McGregor’s nasty, pop-napping Kenneth. Or Tatum’s meathead henchman Aaron. Or, indeed, any other Hollywood leading men who are stupid enough to stand in the way of Carano’s walking, running, jumping killing machine. Familiar plot, but Soderbergh – always one for trying to at least buckle the wheel – just keeps the punches coming, letting the stunt-double-free action do all the talking. And David Holmes back on soundtrack duty too. Sweet. RATING: 4/5
THE SITTER (USA/15A/81mins)
Directed by David Gordon Green. Starring Jonah Hill, Ari Graynor, Sam Rockwell, J.B. Smoove, Max Records, Landry Bender, Kevin Hernandez, Kylie Bunbury, Erin Daniels.
THE PLOT: Being the good – if not particularly bright – son, Noah Griffith (Hill) offers to look after the three kids of his divorced mum’s best friend so that the two ladies can go paint New York red for the night. Noah ends up painting the town a curious shade of brown though when, after a phonecall from the sexy Marisa (Graynor) requesting some cocaine, he and the little tykes go on an all-night misadventure. Thankfully, along the way, he meets Sam Rockwell’s eccentric gangster. Finally, a few genuine laughs enter the picture…
THE VERDICT: As with Drive and Tower Heist, The Sitter plays like a homage to a 1980s genre, this time the very well-worn babysitter comedy. What’s funnier than the culture clash of a bunch of kids banging heads with a Hollywood stereotype we’ve come to know and love? Only, David Gordon Green – the man behind the great Pineapple Express and Eastbound & Down: Season 1, and the not-so-great Your Highness and Eastbound & Down: Season 2 – isn’t about to deliver a straightforward update of Adventures In Babysitting. Oh no. Our boy is going to try and blend it with After Hours. The results are short (only 81mins) but rarely all that sweet, Hill’s latest loser a little more lost than usual as The Sitter’s tone wobbles and wanes.
Directed by Ralph Fiennes. Starring Ralph Fiennes, Gerard Butler, Brian Cox, Jessica Chastain, Vanessa Redgrave, James Nesbitt.
THE PLOT: A modern-day adaptation of Shakespeare’s 17th century play, Fiennes plays the mighty warrior Caius Martius, returning victorious from battle once more, his mother (Redgrave) declaring, “Before him he carries noise, and behind him he leaves tears”. His latest conquest is the city of Corioles, and Caius takes on a new name in victory. And surely the highest rank in the Senate is now his? Only, there are those in power who don’t agree. And the people may not be too happy either, given Coriolanus’ brutal reign, and his stomping down of any social protestors…
THE VERDICT: For his directorial debut, Ralph Fiennes has chosen one of wicked Willy’s lesser-known plays. Which means, for most of us ignoramiuses, the plot – and its many twists and turns – has the power to surprise. And it does. With scripter John Logan having some form in this area – having previously given us Gladiator and The Last Samurai – the tale of power going to a master of war’s head is timely. And timeless, of course. Echoing Ian McKellan’s 1995 fascist Britain take on Richard III, those fearing that this might all just be a tad historical, histrionic and hysterical will find much to love, and learn from, here.
Directed by Madonna. Starring Andrea Riseborough, Abbie Cornish, James D’Arcy, Oscar Isaac, Richard Coyle, James Fox, Richard Coyle.
THE PLOT: Charting both the love affair between society girl Wallis Simpson (Riseborough) and Prince Edward (D’Arcy) that saw the latter give up his shot at the throne, and a modern-day, Sex & The City-worthy tale about dedicated jet-setting shopper Wally Winthrop (a black-haired Cornish), her brutish husband (Coyle) and her Russian lover (Isaac). Most of the action, wisely, takes place in the 1930s though, as the well-documented love affair between Wallis and Edward causes hearts to pound, the royal family to reel and the tabloids to work themselves up into a lather…
THE VERDICT: If Harvey Weinstein was hoping for some more King’s Speech action by signing on this behind-the-scenes 1930s royal drama, he must surely know by now that such awards glory is not on the cards this time out. At the Globes, Madonna won Best Song. And that wasn’t much of a tune either.
As for the box-office prospects, Weinstein will just have to settle for having an entertainment icon on his favours list. The film has caused not even a ripple at the American box-office.
Clearly believing that, hey, if Guy Ritchie can almost direct a movie, why can’t I?, Madonna follows up 2008’s little-seen London flat-share comedy Filth And Wisdom with a somewhat more commercial proposition, female cinema-goers in particular suckers for a little forbidden love amongst the upper classes. Riseborough is wonderful as Wallis Simpson, but there’s little else here to recommend, beyond the finery and the scenery. Which should make this Xpose’s film of the month. I think it would be fair to say that Madonna is as good a director as she is an actor. It’s lucky Edward’s name wasn’t Clive – W.C. has a certain doomed ring to it. RATING: 2/5
Directed by Clint Eastwood. Starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Armie Hammer, Judi Dench, Naomi Watts, Jordan Bridges, Ed Westwick.
THE PLOT: DiCaprio plays the eponymous, pugnacious and pug-faced founder of the modern-day FBI from his early twenties to his death, aged 77, on May 2nd, 1972. During that time, this mummy’s boy – his constant reply to mater (Dench) of “Yes, mother” echoing a certain classic thriller – set about enforcing the law in the US with an iron fist. And loads of geeks in lab coats who would introduce forensics to crime-fighting by being able to tell you the complete family history of a suspect just by the smell of their jockstrap.
As the threat of communism spread throughout the 1950s, Hoover was determined to keep tabs, fingerprints and extensive files on every man, woman and child in America. When it came to your average undesirable (usually foreign, for some reason), the FBI employed a subtle blend of bureaucratic red tape, painstaking, expert analysis and beatings, followed swiftly – all going well – by deportation. With the rich and famous, it was blackmail, a secret file of sex tapes keeping Hoover in power long after his sell-by date. After all, where would he be without his deputy, Clyde Tolson (Hammer, so impressive as the Winklevoss twins in The Social Network), the buddy he liked to take everywhere with him. Except home to mother…
THE VERDICT: Like The Iron Lady and War Horse, Clint Eastwood’s big biopic of menacing cross-dresser John Edgar Hoover is largely being ignored by the awards voters. Which is understandable, given that, as a director, Eastwood has been delivering mid-budget, earnest gong favourites every year for the last decade or so, and, well, you can only take so much mid-budget, earnest. Especially when the last two – Invictus (2009) and Hereafter (2010) – erred somewhat on the dull side. Which is a little unfortunate, because J. Edgar proves to be – especially in the second half – quite an intriguing tale, as much Hitchcock’s Psycho as it is Stone’s Nixon. It’s certainly far more interesting than the pedestrian The Iron Lady. And it’s got better dresses too.
Eastwood and writer Dustin Lance Black (an Oscar winner for Milk) were keen to simply figure out the why rather than just the hows, wheres and whens. Thankfully, the reasons why are dark and intriguing…
UNDERWORLD: AWAKENING (USA/18/88mins)
Directed by Mans Marling, Bjorn Stein. Starring Kate Beckinsale, Michael Ealy, India Eisley, Charles Dance, Stephen Rea, Theo James, Sandrine Holt.
THE PLOT: According to the internet, the plot goes thus: ‘When human forces discover the existence of the Vampire and Lycan clans, a war to eradicate both species commences. The vampire warrioress Selene (Beckinsale) leads the battle against humankind.
THE VERDICT: At this point, who really gives a s**t? About Underworld? About Beckinsale (dad Richard must gone through enough spin cyles to think he’s Nureyev at this point)? Certainly not the distributors, who failed to hold a press screening in Ireland. RATING: N/A
Reviews by Paul Byrne