New reviews from Paul Byrne including Prometheus, Top Cat, Snowwhite & The Huntsman and more
Directed by Ridley Scott. Starring Michael Fassbender, Noomi Rapace, Logan Marshall-Green, Idris Elba, Guy Pearce, Charlize Theron, Rafe Spall, Kate Dickie.
THE PLOT: After a remote waterfall sequence worthy of Terrence Malick, and scientists Elizabeth Shaw (Rapace) and boyfriend Charlie (Marshall-Green, looking like a slimmed down Tom Hardy) discovering yet more evidence suggesting aliens were on earth thousands of years ago, we’re introduced to android David (Fassbender), home alone, it seems, on a trillion-dollar spacecraft, playing basketball on his bike when he’s not watching and imitating Peter O’Toole in Lawrence Of Arabia. It’s December 21st, 2093, and after more than two years’ travel, the ship announces that they’ve reached their destination threshold. And that means it’s time for David to wake up the crew, led ostensibly by Elizabeth and Charlie, but clearly controlled by Weyland Industries, its dying founder (Pearce) having financed the trip in the hope of man getting to meet his maker.
Keeping the crew in check is the chilly Mereditch Vickers (Theron), a Wayland executive whose Aryan qualities suggest some grand design. As with all good horror stories, the real horror here is manmade. Something the motley crew learns, as their attempts to deliver every regional accent England has to offer (thanks largely to such notable UK natives as Harris, Spall, Dickie and Elba) is interrupted by the discovery inside a hollow hill of what appears to be an abandoned Giger factor…
THE VERDICT: The critics have been a little tough on Prometheus, but it was always going to be nigh on impossible for Ridley Scott to live up to the fevered expectations surrounding this Alien prequel. I gotta say, I thought it was fine – verging on mighty fine. Whilst Prometheus is no Batman Begins, it’s certainly not The Phantom Menace either.
Fassbender is, as is so very often the case, the real draw here, whilst Scott – along with writers Damon Lindelhof (Lost, Cowboys & Aliens) and newcomer Jon Spaihts – simply hits all the notes that the fans of the franchise would want him to hit. Which may be the problem – beyond the occasionally stunning visuals (welcome breaks from the muddy, murky 3D), and a number of fine edge-of-your-seat sequences, there are no true surprises on offer here. Just well-crafted jolts and nods to the cinema history yet to come. We’re still dealing with the devil inside (aka unwanted pregnancy), immortality, faith versus science, existential angst, and the universal desire we all share in wanting our parents dead. Glum for all the family, in other words.
Directed by Lisa Azuelos. Starring Miley Cyrus, Douglas Booth, Ashley Greene, Demi Moore, Gina Gershon, Thomas Jane, Jay Hernandez.
THE PLOT: When she’s not busy texting or just, you know, hanging out by herself, Lola (Cyrus) spends her battery recharge time trying to figure out if good buddy Kyle (Booth) might be, you know, something more than just a BFF without boobies. It’s a dilemma that runs in the family, as Lola’s single mum (Moore) is torn between booty calls from her ex-husband (Jane) or the growing allure of narcotics cop James (Hernandez). The rest is pretty much Catherine Hardwicke’s Thirteen (2003), with all the dark undertow taken out…
THE VERDICT: Adapted by French writer/director Azuelos from her own 2008 Gallic hit, LOL is largely notable as being another attempt (after 2010’s mega-flop The Last Song) by 19-year old Miley Cyrus to move on from her Disney tween years and become a bankable adult actress. Unfortunately for the goofy millionairess, LOL is unlikely to help the career of anyone involved. What seemed, like, so OMG back in 2008 – social networking is just so it right now! – plays like yesterday’s news here, as Azuelos’ original zeitgeist nerve-strike comes across as nostalgia four years later. There’s little that the smiley Miley can do to counter the past-its-sell-by-date smell, despite the casual attitude to pot and poontang. Bucket of shite. Or, should I say, BOS.
SNOW WHITE & THE HUNTSMAN (USA/12A/127mins)
Directed by Rupert Sanders. Starring Kristen Stewart, Chris Hemsworth, Charlize Theron, Sa Claflin, Sam Spruell, Ian McShane, Bob Hoskins, Ray Winstone, Nick Frost, Eddie Marsan.
THE PLOT: With the evil Queen Ravenna (Theron) conquering much of England and about to stomp her way through the entire continent, her wicked plans for world domination are sullied somewhat by the magic mirror bulletin that her step-daughter, Snow White (Kristen), is about to become the fairest of them all. Also, she’s probably a little pissed about Ravenna killing her father. So, enlisting the help of her brother, Finn (Spruell), Ravenna sends the axe-wielding huntsman (Hemsworth) into the forest to gut the budding beauty, but he’s soon training Snow White in the ways of battle. Luckily, she’s also got a mini-seven nation army to back her up…
THE VERDICT: Whereas Tarsem Singh’s recent Mirror, Mirror was a merrily panto affair, Rupert Sanders’ gothic, grungy and mildly grandiose take on the old Grimm fairytale clearly has loftier goals. Like that lucrative Twilight crowd, for a start. The combination of Thor and Bella should be enough to ensure a healthy opening weekend, but there’s little chance of long-term glory here, Snow White And The Huntsman neither malevolent nor mischievous enough to spark much love and devotion from the viewer. Theron (on the comeback trail with Prometheus opening too) is a better fit as the Evil Queen than former movie star Julia Roberts proved to be in Mirror, Mirror, whilst Hemsworth and Stewart don’t exactly fail in their duties here either, but there’s a distinct air of a missed chance here to have made something truly special.
FREE MEN (France/12A/98mins)
Directed by Ismael Ferroukhi. Starring Tahar Rahim, Michael Lonsdale, Mahmud Shalaby, Lubna Azabal, Christopher Buchholz, Farid Larbi, Stephane Rideau, Francois Delaive.
THE PLOT: It’s Paris, 1942, and black marketer Younes (Rahim, so magnificent in 2009’s towering Un Prophete) ends up cutting a deal with the police whereby he’s spared jail if he spies on the activities of a local mosque. The plan is to find out if the mosque is supplying fake Muslim identities to Jews, but Younes is soon drawn into the Resistance. As World War 2 rages on, loyalties are tested as betrayal and good old Nazi cruelty rear their ugly heads…
THE VERDICT: The opening credits of Free Men announce, ‘Freely inspired by actual events’ – which goes to make the political punch of this smart French drama all the more powerful. Tahar Director Ismael Ferroukhi sacrifices easy thrills and spills for something far more complex and ultimately, far more satisfying. And leading man Rahim (so compelling in 2009’s A Prophet) pulls you into this fraught world from the start, giving yet another brilliantly ambiguous performance that keeps you guessing throughout whether his character is a devil or a saint.
TOP CAT: THE MOVIE 3D (Mexico/Argentina/UK/G/90mins)
Directed by Alberto Mar. Starring the voices of Ben Diskin, Melissa Disney, Chris Edgerly, Jason Harris, Bill Lobley, Matthew Piazzi, Fred Tatasciore.
THE PLOT: It’s New York, present day – you can tell by all the mobile phones, surveillance and robot cops – and Top Cat (voiced by Diskin) and his band of crime-loving cats realise they have a battle on their hands. There’s a new dawn for law enforcement being threatened, thanks to the arrival of all this dead-eyed technology, and that means their old reliable – and highly ineffectual – foe, Officer Dibble (Lobley) could be on the way out. And that could mean an end to Top Cat’s hilarious scams…
THE VERDICT: Made in Mexico (where the early 1960s Hanna-Barbra creation is still a big TV hit), this big-screen outing for the cartoon alley cat who tends to run rings around the local constabulary enjoyed one of that country’s biggest opening weekends when it debuted there last September. And then promptly went on to become one of their all-time biggest grossers. A co-production between Mexico’s Anima Estudios and Argentina’s Illusion Studios, it’ll be interesting to see if the rest of the world are even half as excited and delighted, given that Top Cat isn’t quite top of anyone’s to-see list right now. No doubt encouraged by the phenomenal big-screen success of other missing-presumed-dead kiddie favourites such as Alvin And The Chipmunks and The Smurfs, these felonious feline funsters are now slowly making their way around the globe. And good luck to them. Is it any good though? Is it f**k. RATING: 1/5
With Paramount finally seeing the light, and greenlighting Anchorman 2 (due to shoot next Feb, and hit our screens in 2014!), those clever people at The Screen on D’Olier Street have decided to dust down the 2004 original for a special big-screen revisit.
Having failed to connect at the box-office outside of the US upon its initial release, Anchorman: The Ron Burgundy Story has become something of a cult classic in the last eight years. And it also happens to be Eva Mendes’ favourite film. So, you know, we’re in good company.
You can catch San Diego’s finest being larger-than-life – and certainly larger than your TV – at the Screen Cinema on Thursday May 31st, the afternoon delight starting at, eh, 8.45pm. Check out screencinema.ie for full details.
REVIEWS BY PAUL BYRNE