This weeks reviews from Paul Byrne including Rock Of Ages, Red Lights, John Ford and Cosmopolis
Directed by David Cronenberg. Starring Robert Pattinson, Paul Giamatti, Juliette Binoche, Sarah Gadon, Samantha Morton, Mathieu Amalric, Jay Baruchel.
THE PLOT: Over the course of 24 hours, we join capitalist kingpin Eric Packer (Pattinson) as he cruises Manhattan in his white, sound- and bullet-proof, stretch limo. In here, no one can here you scream. Eric is looking for kicks. And chicks. And all the other goodies lots of money can buy. Think Performance On Wheels. Or Lost in Transgression.
As he heads across town for a haircut, into this spider’s web stumbles a series of characters – Eric’s aloof wife (Gadon), his horny art dealer (Binoche), financial guru (Morton) and even a pie assassin (Amalric). Through it all, there’s a sense of a hard rain about to fall…
THE VERDICT: Based on Don DeLillo’s slight, so-so 2003 novel, Canada’s doctor of strange David Cronenberg somehow fails to get much mileage out of this dark, decadent journey into the soul. It’s Leopold Bloom on some serious drugs, but this is a trip that never really goes anywhere. Other than across town. To get a haircut.
The impending Occupy wave is hinted as, with warnings of doom and gloom, and hatred, for such soon-to-be-reviled financial whizzkids as Eric, but Pattinson is too blank a canvas, and DeLillo’s battle cry too cliched a diatribe, to deliver any real bite here. Cronenberg fans will be disappointed, whilst Pattinson’s fans will be both disappointed and somewhat slightly dazed. RATING: 2/5
ROCK OF AGES (USA/12A/123mins)
Directed by Adam Shankman. Starring Julianne Hough, Diego Boneta, Tom Cruise, Alec Baldwin, Russell Brand, Paul Giamatti, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Malin Akerman, Mary J. Blige, Bryan Cranston.
THE PLOT: Just a smalltown girl, living in, eh, Los Angeles – Sunset Strip, to be exact, 1987 – aspiring singer Sherrie (Hough) meets aspiring rocker Drew (Boneta) after the latter lands the former a waitressing gig at The Bourbon Room, a music venue where he bartends. As the young lovebirds embark on a, eh, journey together, we also meet family man mayor Mike (Cranston) and his biblical wife (Zeta-Jones), determined to shut down this den of iniquity, sticky leather and Fraggle hair – which only adds to the headaches of club owner Dennis Dupree (Baldwin). Dupree’s only hope to save his ailing club is the solo debut gig of king rocker Stacee Jaxx (Cruise, in yet another stunt laugh-with-me-not-at-me performance). Also along for the ride are Giamatti’s nasty manager, Brand’s club technician Lonny, and Blige as gentleman’s club boss Justice.
THE VERDICT: Take one mediocre mock-rock musical, a decidedly mixed-nuts cast and one very mediocre director and, who woulda thunk it, you end up with one pretty mediocre movie. What almost worked on stage as a kitschy night out of big hair, corny plotting and air-punching anthems falls disastrously flat here, Shankman offering up the most uninspired and insipid stage musical adaptation since Christopher Columbus made us all realise how bad that jazz-hands-against-AIDS Broadway hit Rent really was. The only truly memorable moment Rock Of Ages ever gave the world was Poison frontman Brett Michaels getting flattened with a little unexpected prop headbanging during the 2009 Tony awards. Unfortunately, that perfect slice of slapstick comedy is not included here. Only Brand – in very familiar territory – comes out smelling of Guns N’ Roses here. RATING: 2/5
RED LIGHTS (Spain/USA/15A/113mins)
Directed by Rodrigo Cortes. Starring Sigourney Weaver, Robert De Niro, Cillian Murphy, Elizabeth Olsen, Toby Jones, Joely Richardson, Craig Roberts.
THE PLOT: The good Dr. Margaret Matheson (Weaver) has no time for paranormal shenanigans, and has been telling her students so for the last thirty years. And as with all firm beliefs, there’s a reason – it was thirty years ago that superstar psychic Simon Silver (De Niro) had given Matheson false hope about reaching her comatose son. And now Silver is stepping back into the light – so to speak – and Matheson is ready to bury him, all with a little help from her devoted acolyte, Dr. Tom Buckley (Murphy).
THE VERDICT: Writer-director Rodrigo Cortes sets up a potentially thrilling supernatural thriller here – his cause helped in no considerable measure by such a sterling cast, of course – but the Spanish writer-director fails miserably to deliver on any early promise here. Spectacularly fails. Not that the likes of De Niro and Weaver aren’t averse to make straight-to-DVD fodder, but you can’t help feel that there was some real potential here. Murphy, as usual, just about steals the unworthy show. RATING: 2/5
FAST GIRLS (UK/12A/90mins)
Directed by Regan Hall. Starring Bradley James, Rupert Graves, Lenora Crichlow, Lily James, Noel Clarke, Santa Scinelli, Philip Davis, Lorraine Burroughs.
THE PLOT: Two girls from opposites sides of the, eh, track, streetwise Shania (Chrichlow, from Being Human) isn’t too crazy about blonde little rich girl Lisa (James). The two girls do have one thing in common though – they can run like the clappers. Which explains why they both end up on the Great Britain relay team, the job of coach Tommy (Clarke) and his assistant Dr. Carl (James) mainly involving knocking Shania and Lisa’s heads together.
THE VERDICT: Another low-budget sporting underdog tale, Fast Girls will struggle to find an audience, especially outside of Britain. All that Union Jack flag-waving might just put some parts of the planet off, never mind the fact that Regan Hall’s debut feature isn’t all that exciting. It’s not so much Step Up as Step On, the lesson of teen rivals working together for a common good whilst looking as fit and honed as possible being a well-worn one at this stage.RATING: 2/5
JOHN FORD: DREAMING THE QUIET MAN (Ireland/PG/94mins)
Directed by Se Merry Doyle. Starring Maureen O’Hara, Peter Bogdanovich, Martin Scorsese, Aissa Wayne, Gabriel Byrne, Nancy Murphy.
THE PLOT: Charting the making of The Quiet Man (1952), and concentrating largely on the director’s Irish connections, Se Merry Doyle’s documentary splits its time between the US (where the likes of Bogdanovich and Scorsese wax lyrical about their love of Ford and his love letter to Ireland) and our own dear and peasant land – where distant relatives and those involved in the tourism surrounding The Quiet Man deliver lines that the man himself would have happily included in his original film. Most notable is Nancy Murphy, proprietor of a gift shop in the small town of Cong, where much of the film was set. This Craggy Island creation practically steals the show…
THE VERDICT: Director Se Merry Doyle (2004’s Patrick Kavanagh No Man’s Fool and 2010’s Lament For Patrick Ireland) went above and beyond the call of duty for this suitably lightfooted and at times downright hilarious documentary on John Ford’s celebrated nod to his parents’ country of birth, having travelled by boat and land to reach his American subjects.
A dizzying blend of John Hinde and David Lean, The Quiet Man has its detractors, and it was whilst arguing over the merits of the film that Se Merry Doyle was convinced there was an argument to be made in its favour. So he might win the argument. Everyone involved puts forward their reasons as to why The Quiet Man is worthy of our love and devotion, and by the end, you’ll certainly be convinced. Another version of Dreaming The Quiet Man will hit TG4 (one of the backers) later this year, with the Gaeilge turned up to 11. RATING: 4/5
MOVIES.IE’S ONE TO WATCH!
Directed by Steven Spielberg. Starring Roy Schneider, Robert Shaw, Richard Dreyfuss, Lorraine Gary, Murray Hamilton, Jeffrey Kramer, Carl Gottlieb.
THE PLOT: It all starts with a beautiful young woman (Susan Backlinie) leaving a beach party on New England’s Amity Island, only to suddenly succumb to John Williams’ menacing cello. Oh, and a dirty big shark. When police chief Martin Brody (Schneider) and his deputy Hendricks (Kramer) realise what happened to the missing girl, they try and close down Amity’s beaches – but Mayor Larry Vaughan (Hamilton) is having none of it. When a young boy is killed by the shark shortly afterwards, his mother puts a bounty on its head. And that’s when the fun really begins…
THE VERDICT: This is the movie that changed Hollywood, introducing it to the lucrative world of the high-concept blockbuster. Instead of opening a movie in a handful of theatres on the coasts, and then increasing the screens steadily as word-of-mouth grew, suddenly, to paraphrase Spielberg himself, Hollywood learnt how to sell it before we could smell it. And they came with buckets of merchandise too!
Not that Jaws isn’t a magnificent movie. And this 1975 smash hit (the biggest grossing movie ever at the time) was swiftly followed by the likes of Star Wars, Close Encounters Of The Third Kind, Indiana Jones & The Temple Of Doom and E.T. – all wonderful movies, and thoroughly entertaining, but they did give birth to Michael Bay. Re-released in a spanking new print, and without any irksome 3D nonsense, Jaws is still a thrill ride, and a great excuse for avoiding the bath for the next few weeks. RATING: 5/5
MOVIES.IE’S ONE TO WATCH!
THE DEAD (Ireland/IFI/83mins)
Directed by John Huston. Starring Angelica Huston, Donal McCann, Helena Carroll, Cathleen Delaney, Ingrid Craigie, Rachel Dowling, Dan O’Herlihy, Donal Donnelly.
THE PLOT: Dublin, 1904, and two elderly sisters are holding an Epiphany party, and amongst their guests are academic Gabriel Conroy (McCann) and his wife Gretta (Huston), the latter revealing as the evening wears on a tragic love story in her past. A young man, besotted with the young Gretta, waited outside her window, in the rain, sleet and snow, in the hope that she would one day come to him…
THE VERDICT: As the world celebrates Ulysses once again, it’s worth noting that cinema’s finest Joyce adaptation took place here in 1987, the legendary John Huston miraculously managing to deliver one of his most satisfying and moving films so very late in the day. Huston was eighty, spending most of the shoot in a wheelchair, connected to oxygen tubes.
In its own way, this is Huston’s The Quiet Man, a lovelorn letter to his adopted home, and a sad farewell to not only the past but to life itself. The entire film plays like the closing of the day, and Huston and McCann capture the melancholy of the mood magnificently. The love that got away, the life we might have led, the promise of undying love forever frozen in time. If you don’t get your hole after bringing a chick to this one, you might as well just give up. RATING: 5/5
WOODY ALLEN: A DOCUMENTARY (USA/15A/113mins)
Directed by Robert B. Weide. Starring Woody Allen, Letty Aronson, Diane Keaton, Dick Cavett, Charles H. Joffe, Jack Rollins, Martin Scorsese.
THE PLOT: Amidst the talking heads and the archive footage and photographs, Allen walks us through his early childhood landmarks – the opulent Midwood Theatre, just around the corner from his Brooklyn birthplace; the schoolyard where a fellow student tried to run him over with his car – and then his career. Starting out as a professional gag writer, churning out 50 gags daily after school on his Olympia typewriter (a typewriter he has used for all his work ever since) for $25 a day, by the age of 16, Allan Stewart Konigsberg was earning more than his parents. The gag writing led to stand-up, which petrified the newly-named Woody Allen, but his manager soon made him a star through constant TV exposures (alongside the major talkshows, Woody also found himself in a boxing ring with a kangaroo and singing with a dog). A move into movies seemed inevitable, but having his What’s New, Pussycat? script mangled by the studio saw Allen insisting that he henceforth have complete control over every movie that he made. And that’s only the first act here…
THE VERDICT: Director Robert B. Weide (best known for his work on Curb Your Enthusiasm) plainly came here to praise not criticise the notoriously media-shy Allen, but the resulting film is nonetheless fascinating. As he walks the streets of his beloved New York in his trademark fisherman’s cap and dark-rimmed specs, you realise that Woody Allen is a true icon of popular culture. He’s Groucho, he’s Chaplin, he’s Buster Keaton, only this comedic giant just keeps on going, still releasing, on average, a film a year as he cruises through his 70s. In fact, the easiest comparison is Dylan, and like Scorsese’s No Direction Home, this documentary (edited down from last year’s American Masters 192min TV outing on PBS; here’s hoping that’s the DVD) plays like a giddy celebration. Like Dylan, Allen is self-effacing but far from McCartney mock-humble, which only adds to the charm.
And if Allen doesn’t shy away from his stated admiration for drama over comedy – even though his initial attempts to move from Buster to Bergman with the likes of Interiors and Stardust Memories were, ironically, laughed off the screen – Weide doesn’t dwell too long on another downfall. Namely, the “great cosmic rift” that came with Mia Farrow discovering that her long-term partner was having an affair with her adopted daughter, Soon-Yi. Suddenly, Allen went from dominating The New York Times to hitting the cover of The New York Post on a regular basis. Bizarrely, during those childcatcher years, Allen delivered two of his finest movies, Husbands & Wives (Farrow discovering those famous nude polaroids during the shoot, but, after 3 days away, agreeing to finish the film) and Bullets Over Broadway (co-writer Doug McGrath recalling constant dark, lawyer phonecalls interrupting their working days). Still, by the time the end credits roll here, you realise just how many great movies Woody Allen has made, and you’ll want to go and revisit them all. RATING: 4/5
REVIEWS BY PAUL BYRNE