Directed by Paul Feig. Starring Melissa McCarthy, Kristen Wiig, Kate McKinnon, Leslie Jones, Chris Hemsworth, Andy Garcia, Karan Soni, Bill Murray, Ed Begley Jr., Charles Dance, Zach Woods.
THE PLOT: With her academic career about to take a giant leap forward, as the dean (Dance) promises a bright future ahead, uptight Erin Gilbert (Wiig) is more than a little appalled when she discovers that an early collaborative book touting the existence of supernatural activity has been reprinted by her former friend, Abby Yates (McCarthy). The latter still believes in ghosts, and when she promises to cease and desist with the reprinting the book in return for Erin coming out on an urgent house call, the old duo quickly realise that, yep, New York has a new ghost infestation. And it’s getting worse by the day.
Pulling together a ragbag team – Abby bringing along her nutty professor assistant (McKinnon), and subway worker Patty (Jones) – the media quickly dubs this fearsome feline foursome tackling the poltergeist phenomena Ghostbusters. Which isn’t meant to be entirely flattering, especially when New York’s mayor (Garcia) convinces them that his debunking their regular findings is important for the city’s sanity…
THE VERDICT: There’s an hour of blissful, smart, silly comedy to be had in this long-gestating and troubled update of’Ghostbusters’, but that 60 minutes of fun is all mixed up with another hour of, well, meh.
On the plus side, director Paul Feig (‘Freaks & Geeks’, ‘Bridesmaids’, etc) casts all his supporting players with top-of-the-range funny folk, has two very fine leading comediennes in Wiig and McCarthy, garners some hilarious Pitt-worthy beefcake parody from Chris Hemsworth, and is savvy enough to be aware of the remake stakes, the pop culture references, and the audience. ‘Ghostbusters’ works best at letting us in on the gags.
On the downside, ‘SNL’ also-ran Katie McKinnon’s contribution to the main team is a misguided cross between Molly Ringwald and Poochie, the talking dog, from ‘The Simpsons’, the cameos from original ‘Ghostbusters’ Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd (one of the executive producers) and Ernie Hudson fail to spark (ditto Weaver), the bombastic closing battle is largely just that – bombastic – and, well, there’s at least an hour here that could have been jettisoned.
When McCarthy and Wiig close with the double-tag “Well, that ain’t terrible” and “No, that ain’t terrible at all”, they may be having fun with the audience, but, ultimately, you are left with the impression that everyone here simply knew they had bitten off more than they could chew.
Review by Paul Byrne
MOM & ME (USA/PG/77mins)
Directed by Ken Wardrop.
THE PLOT: Heading to Oklahoma – recently voted the manliest state in the US – Irish documentary filmmaker Ken Wardrop sets about talking with middle-aged sons and their mums. With a radio DJ Joe Cristiano offering up a phone-in for stories about mothers, we get to meet a variety of characters, from cowboys to preachers, from the incarcerated to the constantly elated. Most talk of an undying love – one or two speak of darker, more troubled relationships with the person who brought them into this world….
THE VERDICT: For Irish filmmaker Ken Wardrop, the matriarch is definitely a major influence. His very first short, in 2004, was the award-winning ‘Undressing Mother’. His breakthrough feature was 2009’s ‘His & Hers’, which took 70 women from Ireland’s midlands, and let them wax lyrical about the boys and men in their lives.
Before Wardrop’s latest offering gets underway, we get a quote from Oscar Wilde. “All women become like their mothers. That is their tragedy. No man does. That’s his.” Take that, Principal Skinner. How ya like them apples, Norman Bates?
The man has a point, of course, and so does Wardrop – although, as usual, he lets his subjects do all the talking here.
An ambitious undertaking that doesn’t always overcome its artificial radioshow construct, ‘Mom & Me’ is surprisingly sombre at times. Not everything here comes with a ukulele and a whistle on the soundtrack, and it makes for an intriguing if not always affecting watch.
Review by Paul Byrne
MEN & CHICKEN (Denmark | Germany/15A/104mins)
Directed by Anders Thomas Jensen. Starring David Dencik, Mads Mikkelsen, Nikolaj Lie Kaas, Søren Malling, Nicolas Bro.
THE PLOT: When their father dies, Elias (Mads Mikkelsen) and Gabriel (David Dencik) discover that their father was not their biological father, and they had different mothers. Armed with this knowledge, the two seek out their biological father on the small island of Ork – population 42 – and find a host of other brothers and a lot of secrets.
THE VERDICT: Men and Chicken is an odd film; starting off with a slapstick, Three Stooges feel, there are plenty of laughs to be had. However, as the film goes on, it takes a turn for he even more absurd and wraps itself up in a way that is not entirely satisfying.
Mads Mikkelsen is on wonderful form here, playing against type and obviously relishing the opportunity. Mikkelsen obviously found a way to relate to his self involved, compulsive masturbating character, and while the audience may not always understand him, Mikkelsen does, and this brings the character to life. David Dencik plays the more sober, thoughtful of all the brothers, trying to control the madcap, violent and impatient way in which they all live their lives, and it is through Dencik as Gabriel that we see much of the film. The rest of the brothers are played by Nikolaj Lie Kaas, Søren Malling and Nicolas Bro, and it is obvious that there was a lot of character work done for the film, since each of them feels rounded and real, although completely alien and outside of the audience’s experience.
‘Men and Chicken’ is the fourth film written and directed by Anders Thomas Jensen, and reunites Mads Mikkelsen, Nikolaj Lie Kaas and Ole Thestrup, who have appeared in all four. The story of the film is wonderful and weird, and makes great use of the space where the film was shot. The former sanatorium which, trivia time, was once where Hitler was treated, is beautifully cinematic, and this crumbling building is more than enough of a metaphor for the crumbling family that lives within its walls. Anders Thomas Jensen makes sure that a feeling of unsettled weirdness permeates the film, from Elias’ compulsion to masturbate to Gabriel’s compulsion to dry retch every few minutes, there is a lot more going on here than adult children trying to find their father. The film meanders through the revelations at times, and the pacing feels slow and almost sluggish, but the final act of the film changes everything, as secrets are revealed and the tone of the film shifts from comedy to horror.
In all, ‘Men and Chicken’ is an odd, odd, odd film about finding the place where you belong. Mikkelsen has rarely been better, and the entire cast obviously relished the chance to throw themselves into this odd and unsettling film. The problems arise with the pacing and story of the film, which often feel unsatisfactory and unfinished.
Review by Brogen Hayes