Reviews – New movies opening July 19th 2013

We review this week’s new releases, including THE WORLD’S END, LIFES A BREEZE and THE FROZEN GROUND

THE WORLD’S END (UK/15A/108mins)

Directed by Edgar Wright. Starring Simon Pegg, Eddie Marsan, Paddy Considine, Nick Frost, Rosamund Pike, Mark Heap, Martin Freeman, Michael Smiley, David Bradley
THE PLOT: Gary King (Simon Pegg) reunites with his childhood friends Andy (Nick Frost), Oliver (Martin Freeman), Peter (Eddie Marsan) and Steven (Paddy Considine) in the hopes of finally finishing the epic pub crawl in their home town, that they failed at 20 years ago. Of course, everything is different when the gang returns to Newton Haven, but what they don’t realise is, just how different everything is.
THE VERDICT: To describe THE WORLD’S END as simply an alien movie would be to do the film a disservice. Yes, there are aliens in the film, but they are not necessarily the main villain of the piece. Nostalgia rules the day here, and is certainly the force that has governed much of Gary’s life. Gary’s nostalgia mixes with that of the filmmakers; their nostalgia for their youth, SPACED and the other two films in the trilogy.
Simon Pegg, once again, is the leader of the cast of characters, but Gary King is not the likeable slacker or the aloof, overachieving cop. Instead, Gary is a man child forever longing for the glory days of old, and Pegg allows his character to make jokes that don’t always land, and references that his friends don’t get; they’ve all moved on, leaving Gary stuck in the past. However, there are plenty of indicators that this is all a front for Gary and his is hiding something much darker.
Nick Frost as Andy is not the friend to Pegg’s character that we might expect; old friendship led to resentment, and Frost’s character is the mature adult that Gary is not. Martin Freeman plays a much more uptight character than we are used to seeing, and does well, Paddy Considine provides more tension in the group and Eddie Marsan as Peter, is the most quiet and put upon of the ‘Five Musketeers’. As well as this, all the familiar faces are there; Mark Heap, Michael Smiley, Reese Shearsmith, David Bradley and Rosamund Pike all make appearances throughout the film.
Writers Simon Pegg and Edgar Wright have tapped into the vein of nostalgia by posing a question to the audience; when you return to your hometown, is it different because you have changed, or the town has? As usual, the film is filled with pratfalls, one-liners and running jokes – the fence gag makes a glorious reappearance – as well as action and speedy editing. However, beats are missed now and again, and the lack of pop culture references leave the film feeling a lot looser than we are used to from the Pegg Nexus. As well as this, Wright’s signature smash cut editing style is absent, so while all the components are there, at times the film feels like it was created by an Edgar Wright fan, rather than the man himself.
In all, THE WORLD’S END is a good finish to the Cornetto Trilogy, but not quite as good as it should have been. Pitting Pegg against the rest of the cast was a bold move that has strong emotional pay off, and the film drips with nostalgia. Where it falls down however, is the lack of Wright’s signature style. Perhaps, as an audience, we are pigeon-holing the director, or perhaps this film was not the right time to change his style. THE WORLD’S END is a lot of fun and supremely silly but sadly, it doesn’t quite measure up to the rest of the trilogy. A fitting end? Almost!
Review by Brogen Hayes

Dircted by Scott Walker. Starring Nicholas Cage, John Cusack and Vanessa Hudgens
THE PLOT: When a young woman escapes from a man she believes was intent on killing her, and bodies begin to appear around the state, the Alaska State Troopers launch an investigation into Robert Hansen (John Cusack), and try to track down a man who could be one of the most prolific serial killers the state has ever seen.
THE VERDICT: Nicholas Cage plays state trooper Jack, who is just two weeks away from leaving this life all together… You know the trope. Cage does not delineate, and instead plays Jack as a cliché trooper called in for one last job before he leaves town. We have all seen this performance before. The same goes for John Cusack as Hansen; Cusack proved that he still has some tricks up his sleeve with his performance in The Paperboy, but almost none of that talent for creepiness is on display here. Cusack is never given a chance to show his character’s motivations, so Hansen becomes a man who just kills.
Vanessa Hudgens is the actor who comes out of the film best, moving even further away from her Disney girl image, she plays Cindy, a prostitute/stripper who smokes, drinks, curses and does drugs while trying to forget the horror of her past. This is not a perfect performance by any means, but she is the actor who is closest to being given a real character, and she gives the strongest performance of the film, and perhaps her career to date.
Writer/Director Scott Walker has taken a true story and tried to turn it into a thriller. The trouble is that he shows the audience all his cards at the beginning of the film. Knowing who the killer is takes the mystery and tension out of the film. THE FROZEN GROUND tries to tell the stories of all three of its central characters, and ends up telling bits of everyone’s, but the whole of no-ones. If one character had been moved to the fore, then this could have been the story of a killer struggling with his guilt, a cop struggling to juggle his family life or a victim wrestling with the decision to testify or not. Instead, THE FROZEN GROUND is all of those things… And none of them.
THE FROZEN GROUND tries to be a smart and complex thriller, but by revealing its cinematic cards too early, tension and mystery disappear. Cage and Cusack give the same performances we have seen from them in recent years, but Hudgens gets a chance to do something different and obviously relishes the challenge.
Review by Brogen Hayes

BREATHE IN (USA/15A/99mins)
Directed by Drake Doremus. Starring Guy Pearce, Felicity Jones, Amy Ryan, Mackenzie Davis, Matthew Daddario, Ben Shenkman, Kyle MacLachlan.
Another of life’s failed rock stars, native New Yorker Keith Reynolds (Pearce) is struggling with the Bob Parr life – teaching music at the high school that his daughter, Lauren (Davis), attends is hardly rock’n’roll. For his wife, Megan (Ryan), the quiet life is the better one, but it’s clear the couple are drifting apart. When British foreign-exchange student Sophie (Jones) comes to stay though, her artistic bent – and mastering of Chopin – leaves Keith reeling. If not quite rocking. Before you can say Juno, the old dreamer reckons he’s found his dream girl…
As with director/co-writer Drake Doremus’ previous offering, Like Crazy (2011), this likeable family drama has been largely improvised by the cast. Given their characters, and their situations, Pearce, Jones (who co-led Like Crazy), MacLachlan and the gang were free to speak their minds. Or their characters’ minds, to be more precise. It’s an approach that works incredibly well for the likes of Woody Allen, Judd Apatow and Lynn Shelton, and it works here. If the ending feels disappointingly traditional, there’s much to enjoy on the road there. And Jones really should patent the dream rock chick role, having been here in Flashbacks Of A Fool, Cemetery Junction and SoulBoy.
Review by Paul Byrne

WADJDA (Saudi Arabia/Germany/PG/123mins)
Directed by Haifaa Al-Mansour. Starring Reem Abdullah, Waad Mohammed, Abdullrahman Al Gohani, And, Sultan Al Assaf, Dana Abdullilah, Rehab Ahmed, Rafa Al Sanea.
All outspoken little ten-year old Riyadh kid Wadjda (Waad) wants in life right now is a new bike. And that means earning some cash – whether it’s selling some bracelets, or acting as secret courier between teen Abeer and her boyfriend, passing notes in school. The announcement of a Koran recitation competition has Wadjda determined, but everyday life still infringes – two girls at school have displayed a little too much affection towards one another, teach (Ahd) is forever on our protagonist’s case, and, at home, dad is thinking of marrying again, given that his wife has failed to give him a son…
Not only is Wadjda the first feature film to be shot entirely in Saudi Arabia, but it is also directed by a woman, Haifaa Al-Mansour, making her debut here. This, let’s not forget, is a country where women aren’t allowed to drive, or vote.
That Wadjda should prove to be a soft, crowd-pleasing little film nonetheless is perhaps not all that surprising though; there’s enough timely drama going on behind the camera already. Offering some insight into everyday life for the female population of Saudi Arabia, Wadjda may opt for the cute over the cruelty, but it does so with heart and flair.
RATING: 3/5 
Review by Paul Byrne

LIFE’S A BREEZE (Ireland/12A/83mins)
Directed by Lance Daly. Starring Pat Shortt, Fionnuala Flanagan, Eva Birthistle, Kelly Thornton, Brian Gleeson, David Bendito, Una C., Ger Carey, Wuzza Conlon.
As an early birthday treat for their cranky old mum (Flanagan), dopey Colm (Shortt) and his siblings are giving her home the complete makeover. Only trouble is, as roughly half of her belongings are working their way through the recycling netherworld, ma reveals that over 50 years of savings were stuffed into the mattress. Almost one million euro. Their private search quickly becomes public when Colm phones Joe Duffy, the 79-year-old finds herself on The Late Late Show.
THE VERDICT: For many people in Ireland right now, life’s a bitch, and writer/director Lance Daly (Kisses, The Halo Effect) here shines a chucklesome light on our beaten generation with a film that’s not so much an Ealing comedy as an ailing comedy. Everyone here looks just about fit to die, and it doesn’t take long before you feel their pain. There’s not much to salvage here – Shortt is out of his comfort zone, trying to play it sentimental, whilst Flanagan somewhat overcooks her wily, wizened and withered old woman routine. It doesn’t help that she walks as though possibly smuggling drugs. Lots of drugs.
Daly’s attempt to address the issue of dignity – not just as a nation reeling from the recession but for the individuals here too; Shortt’s Colm is constantly being dismissed as dopey by pretty much everyone whilst Flanagan’s ma clearly wants to prove her wits are still present and correct – don’t quite ring true either.
Review by Paul Byrne