Reviews – New movies opening July 4th 2014

We review this week’s new cinema releases, including TAMMY and LOVE ETERNAL…

TAMMY (USA/15A/96mins)
Directed by Ben Falcone. Starring Melissa McCarthy, Susan Sarandon, Kathy Bates, Allison Janney, Dan Aykroyd, Mark Duplass, Gary Cole, Nat Faxon, Toni Collette.
THE PLOT: It isn’t the ife isn’t the best of days for foul-mouthed trailer trash, burger joint queen Tammy (McCarthy), a tirade of abuse and loose fittings not quite changing her boss’ (Falcone) decision to fire her, and her arrival home tainted slightly to find her husband (Faxon) getting very friendly with another woman (Colette). Add to that a mum (Janney) who won’t provide her beloved daughter with a set of wheels, and is it any wonder our Tammy has decided to hit the road with grandma Pearl (Sarandon), a fellow bad seed? Their time together has few Kodak moments, but plenty of CCTV escapades – grandma shifting a stranger in the back of the car, Tammy trying to hold up a burger joint with a paper bag over her head, a jet ski write-off, and other ferociously unfunny shenanigans…
THE VERDICT: It has the cast, it has the leading lady, it’s even got promise in actor-turned-first-time director (and co-writer, alongside McCarthy) Ben Falcone (the air marshall in BRIDESMAIDS, among many other roles, and McCarthy’s real-life hubby), but, somehow, TAMMY is one road movie that never really goes anywhere. Except down. Way down.
The highly likeable and hugely funny McCarthy isn’t immune, of course, to big-budget turkeys since breaking through with 2012’s BRIDESMAIDS (and TV’s shamelessly old-fashioned sitcom MIKE & MOLLY), having suffered two very so-so disappointments last year – THE HEAT and IDENTITY THIEF. Still, it is somewhat surprising to see her pratfall so aimlessly here, especially given that cast, and the fact that McCarthy herself co-wrote the script. With her hubby. Perhaps that’s the problem – no outside influence who might have recognised an unfunny script when he read one.
Review by Paul Byrne

Directed by Michael Bay. Starring Mark Wahlberg, Stanley Tucci, Nicola Peltz, Jack Reynor, Sophia Myles, Li Bingbing, Kelsey Grammar, Titus Welliver.
Times are hard, and deep down, dirty broke Texan Cade Yeager (Wahlberg) is keen to flip over a second-hand truck so he can pay the rent, and get his daughter, Tessa (Peltz), some college fees. Only this particular truck is Optimus Prime (voiced by Peter Cullen), leader of the Autobots, laying low as the government, and bounty hunters, have come down hard. If that weren’t enough, there’s a megalomaniac (Tucci) at work, keen to start up an army of bigger, better, stronger, faster but nasty Transformers. Once that premise is set up, there’s a huge amount of chasing – Tessa having her hunky race-car driver boyfriend Shane (Reynor) by her side – across the globe before a dirty big showdown in Hong Kong.
As with all of the Transformers sequels, this is a great hour-and-half-movie stuck inside a two-and-a-half-hour-plus trailer. Given free reign, like so many young maverick directors blinded by huge box-office receipts, Michael Bay always takes it too far. And too long. And too feckin’ loud.
On the plus side, Stanley Tucci has a huge amount of fun, Mark Wahlberg does what Mark Wahlberg does, and our boy Jack does himself proud, but this is really all about the hardware, the Transformers franchise pulverizing box-offices around the world through bombast rather than anything truly approaching brilliance. Or beauty. Or The Beatles.
There is nothing original on offer here, if you don’t count whatever technicolour technological breakthrough the special effects department stayed up till 4am to perfect. We’ve been here before, many times, but each new Transformers sequel has proven to be a 12″ remix of that fine 2007 original big-screen reboot. Back then, the hand of producer Steven Spielberg proved a steadying force, but, Bay unleashed has resulted in a series of film that make about as much sense as Shia LaBeouf doing the Ali shuffle on Times Square.
Review by Paul Byrne

MR. MORGAN’S LAST LOVE (Germany/Belgium/USA/France/12A/116mins)
Directed by Sandra Nettelbeck. Starring Michael Caine, Clemence Poesy, Gillian Anderson, Justin Kirk, Michelle Goddet, Jane Alexander.
THE PLOT: Living in Paris since the death of his wife, retired Princeton professor Matthew Morgan (Caine) hasn’t got all that much to live for. And when he meets a charming dance teacher, Pauline (Poesy), surprisingly, he decides to end it all. A decision that, naturally enough, has his adult children, Karen (Anderson) and Miles (Kirk) finally rushing to his side. The old man hasn’t been the best of fathers, and his bitter and biting adult children are quick to throw suspicion on his new-found friendship. Despite the 50-year gap, Miles openly worries that Pauline may just become his new step-mother. Neither child is all that loving towards their father, but Miles nonetheless stays on, to sort out his pater’s affairs. Whatever they may be.
THE VERDICT: You can see the attraction for Caine – all that low-watt indie charm mixed with a literary source and a feelgood-about-dying factor. It’s a combination that promises much in the first half of writer/director Sandra Nettelback’s sixth feature (an adaptation of Francoise Dorner’s novel), but MR. MORGAN’S LAST LOVE its momentum, and its way, in the second half, as motivations become muddled, and early questions and intriguing suggestions are left to wither and die. It’s a shame, because Caine and co. generally rise to the occasion here. Only trouble is, ultimately, there isn’t one.
Review by Paul Byrne 

Directed by Felix Herngren. Starring Robert Gustafsson, Alan Ford.
On his 100th birthday, Allan (Robert Gustafsson) decides that he has had enough of living in a retirement home, climbs out of his window and disappears. When someone asks him to look after a suitcase, Allan absentmindedly takes it with him on his journey, leading to a police and biker gang searching for him, as he searches for one last adventure in life.
Based on Jonas Jonasson’s acclaimed novel of the same name, THE 100 YEAR OLD MAN WHO CLIMBED OUT THE WINDOW AND DISAPPEARED feels a little like THE BEST EXOTIC MARIGOLD HOTEL mixed with FORREST GUMP, with a little OCEAN’S ELEVEN thrown in for good measure.
Swedish comedian Robert Gustafsson takes on the daunting task of playing Allan throughout his adult life, and in voiceover. The film flashes back to the extraordinary events that Allan lived through and contributed to, with Gustafsson playing the role for most of the film. The actor allows Allan to keep his sense of wonder and simplicity, without ever making him a simple or pitiable character. The rest of the cast – including a rather odd cameo from Alan Ford, who seems to be reprising his role as East End Thug in THE ARMANDO IANNUCCI SHOW – support and compliment Gustafsson and the story wonderfully, fleshing out the world and making Allan’s incredible journey believable.
As screenwriters, Felix Herngren and Hans Ingemansson make Allan and the world around him quirky and fun, and slightly outlandish, without ever having to rely on whimsy to keep the story moving. There are times when the story threatens to overwhelm the rather tragic central figure, but it is almost always reigned in on time, and the balance between tragedy and comedy is carefully observed. The story of the elderly man on the run blends well with the tale of the younger man in search of something in his life.
As director, Herngren allows the story to unfold gradually, letting the audience learn more about Allan as we need to, in order for the present day story to work. Placing Allan in history with Franco, Stalin, Reagan and Truman could have been a disaster, but the story carefully unfolds, so the audience can understand Allan’s peculiar form of luck. Of course, allowing the story to develop at its own pace also leads to some rather messy pacing, and the film slightly outstaying its welcome, fun even though it is.
THE 100 YEAR OLD MAN WHO CLIMBED OUT THE WINDOW AND DISAPPEARED is an examination of a tragic life through a comedic lens. Robert Gustafsson makes Allan a warm and engaging character, and some careful direction from Herngren makes for a quirky and gentle story, even though it is often manic and over the top. However, messy pacing and a running time that is a shade too long mean that instead of leaving us wanting more, the film feels as though it is dragging its heels at times.
Review by Brogen Hayes

LOVE ETERNAL (Ireland/18/94mins)
Directed by Brendan Muldowney. Starring Pollyanna McIntosh, Robert De Hoog.
THE PLOT: After his father dies in front of him, Ian (Robert de Hoog) becomes increasingly isolated and introverted. When another tragedy befalls him, Ian sets out to try and understand the world in the only way he knows how; by getting closer to death.
THE VERDICT: Robert de Hoog carries LOVE ETERNAL with his performance as the almost catatonic Ian. As he drifts closer to death – including his own – Ian finds a way to relate to the people around him, becoming fascinated with the obviously heartbroken Naomi. De Hoog is engaging and surprisingly warm, and his observations about life and death are acutely observed. Pollyanna McIntosh carried tragedy on screen as Naomi, but manages to create the delicate balance of a devastated woman trying to hold herself together and give the impression that everything just may be OK. Although other women drift in and out of Ian’s life, it is Naomi with her will to survive, even though she has no idea how to keep going, that captures his imagination.
Since IN LOVE WITH THE DEAD is a novel that has themes of necrophilia running through it, it would be easy for the film to turn into a sordid, uncomfortable affair, but Muldowney’s screenplay makes Ian a character who is desperately seeking an emotional connection and a way to join the land of the living, rather than a man who is trying to have sex with dead people. Ian’s doorway into the world of life is via the dead, but he emerges at the other side, giving the film a feeling of hope, rather then despair. Muldowney’s observation of people dealing with bereavement is astute and to the point, with many of the statements and themes being universal and ultimately human.
As a director, Muldowney allows his character to be still, and does not shy away from the more uncomfortable aspects of death and bereavement. Ian may deal with loss in a more extreme way than most, but Muldowney makes his detached curiosity gentle, like a child observing something new for the first time, rather than something depraved or macabre.
LOVE ETERNAL is a curious, dark yet strangely uplifting film that deals with death and the lives lived by those left behind. Acceptance and grief are part of this film, but somehow it ends on a note of hope, rather than despair. De Hoog and McIntosh shine in a film with a potentially bleak subject matter that is handled incredibly well. Not for the squeamish or the faint of heart, but definitely worth a watch.
Review by Brogen Hayes