This weeks reviews including Before Midnight, Citadel and World War Z
BEFORE MIDNIGHT (USA/15A/109mins)
Directed by Richard Linklater. Starring Ethan Hawke, Julie Delpy, Xenia Kalogeropoulou, Athina Rachel Tsangari, Ariane Labed, Seamus Davey-Fitzpatrick, Jennifer Prior.
THE PLOT: Catching up with Celine (Delpy) and Jesse (Hawke) nine years after we last met them (in 2004’s Before Sunset), and 18 years after we first met them (in 1995’s Before Sunrise), our international couple are in Greece, at a writers’ retreat. Having dropped his teenage son to the airport – where he’s heading back to his mum in Chicago – Jesse and Celine drive their two daughters back to the retreat. Where they talk about life, love and time. Something they had been talking about all the way back from the airport. When they later head to their hotel room though, the conversation turns sour, as Celine accuses Jesse of cheating, before storming out. To woo her back, Jesse pretends that the two have just met for the very first time…
THE VERDICT: Of course, the very thing that makes Before Midnight rich makes it poor. Linklater, Hawke and Delpy have been giving good press on this, and the idea of going 9Up on a pair of lovebirds (who knows, they may even make it all the way to Amour: The Remake) is certainly a fascinating one. The question is, does the reality match up. Or are we straying dangerously close to Texasville territory here? On the strength of Before Midnight, it’s a little bit of both, Delpy and Hawke clearly relishing the chance to revisit these characters (the duo sharing screenwriter credits with their director). That love in the long haul is about compromise may not give this third outing the romantic spark of its predecessors, but, hey, at least it’s honest. Or trying to be. RATING: 3/5
Directed by Ciaran Foy. Starring Aneurin Barnard, James Cosmo, Ian Hanmore, Amy Shiels, Wunmi Mosaku, Chris Hegarty, Ingrid Craigie, Jake Wilson, Pete Murphy, Matthew Workman.
THE PLOT: It’s a faceless high-rise council estate, and as Tommy (Barnard) looks helpless on – locked in a dicky elevator with a convenient window – he witnesses his pregnant girlfriend (Shiels) being savagely attacked by three hooded kids. She doesn’t survive, but their baby does, leaving one highly traumatised single dad. But the nightmare is far from over for Tommy, as those menacing kids and their buddies begin stalking him. For the nurse who tried to nurse his wife back to health (Mosaku), the kids are just unloved little rogues, but the local priest (Cosmo) knows better. He reckons those kids aren’t human. And he’s right…
THE VERDICT: Turning the trauma of being attacked at 18 by three hooded kids who were simply getting their kicks, Dubliner Ciaran Foy’s indie horror taps into one of our greatest fears – terror without rhyme or reason. Not that we’re quite reaching the Haneke depths of horror here, but Citadel certainly disturbs, as feral kids run rampant over the life of one terrified young father. Somewhere between Attack The Block and Erasurehead, Citadel may not quite deliver on its dark promise – this is a low-budget movie shot in a freezing Glasgow ruin over 23 days, after all – but there’s certainly a little black heart beating throughout here. Which often makes for truly disturbing viewing. Which is what Foy was aiming for, after all. RATING: 3/5
SPIKE ISLAND (UK/15A/105mins)
Directed by Mat Whitecross. Starring Elliot Tittensor, Nico Mirallegro, Jordan Murphy, Adam Long, Oliver Heald, Emilia Clarke, Matthew McNulty, Michael Socha, Lesley Manville, Paul Popplewell.
THE PLOT: It’s 1990, and The Stone Rises are in their prime – and the hottest ticket in town, as the world and his sister head to Spike Island (the one in Cheshire, not Cork), which will prove to be the Manchester scene’s answer to Woodstock, with an estimated attendance of 27,000. And inspire the Gallagher brothers to form Oasis. And five teenage boys from the Manchester suburbs – Tits (Tittensor), Dodge (Mirallegro), Zippy (Murphy) and Little Gaz (Long), aka future rock gods Shadow Caster – have such rock’n’roll dreams in their heads when they set out to the Stone Roses love-in – only, their tickets fail to materialise. And so the guys have to come up with a plan. Or two.
THE VERDICT: Arriving a month after Shane Meadows’ loving Made Of Stone documentary (charting the band’s surprising reunion in October 2011, 15 years after they split up), Spike Island is another treat for fans of The Stone Roses. Those who were there will find plenty to be charmed by here, especially given that The Stone Roses were indeed at the peak of their powers in 1990 – but, does Spike Island work for the uninitiated? Whitecross (who collaborated with Michael Winterbottom on the docudrama The Road To Guantanamo before making his directorial debut with 2009’s Ian Dury biopic Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll) recognises the timeless teenage thrill of finding the soundtrack to your youth, whether it’s The Beatles, Bowie, Elvis, The Smiths or, eh, B*witched. This is England, 1990, and that means The Stone Roses, but Whitecross’ film speaks to any beaten generation. RATING: 3/5
A HAUNTED HOUSE (USA/16/85mins)
Directed by Michael Tiddes. Starring Marlon Wayans, Marlene Forte, Essence Atkins, David Koechner, Dave Sheridan, Cedric The Entertainer, Nick Swardson, Alanna Ubach, Andrew Daly.
THE PLOT: The horror of letting your girlfriend move in take on a demonic twist as Malcolm (Wayans) issoon faced with Kisha (Atkins) in full spot-cream-and-old-pyjamas on their first night. Add to that a bout of flatulence that threatens to rip a hole in the duvet, and Malcolm is beginning to have second thoughts. Luckily, there’s something spooky afoot to keep him distracted from any commitment issues, and so a battery of cameras are installed to try and get a closer look. Increasingly desperate, the couple turn to Chip the Psychic (Swardson), and a pair of security-men-turned-amateur-ghostbusters (Koechner and Sheridan)…
THE VERDICT: One of those films that seems designed largely to lure critics into a scathing review just to prove how far removed they are from the average cinema-goer (this $2.5m film having pulled in over $40m at the US box-office), A Haunted House is, nonetheless, a truly awful, awful film. A crock of crap, in fact. Or a duvet full of farts, to be more in keeping with the Wayans’ brand of humour.
WORLD WAR Z
The zombie apocalypse has finally arrived, and Gerry (Brad Pitt) is drafted back in to his former job at the UN to try and find the cause, and a cure. In exchange, his family will be kept safe from the disease that is ravaging the world.
World War Z does not seem to have been an easy film to make. There have been numerous script rewrites, reshoots, and complaints that the CGI in the trailer looked cheap and rather nasty. The release date was also pushed back from December 2012 to this week. None of this bodes particularly well, especially since the first version of the script was received incredibly well when it was leaked online.
Traditionally, zombies are an allegory for a section of society or a comment on society as a whole, World War Z lacks this, and it seems that some of the political tones of Max Brooks’ book have been toned down. This leaves the film feeling rather bland. As well as this, questions are raised that are never really answered.
Some of the cast fare better than others; Brad Pitt certainly does not get to do anything he has not done before, Daniella Kertesz does well enough as a soldier who is desperate to survive, David Morse changes the tone from fear to disgust as an ex-CIA operate who had his teeth pulled to stop the spread of the zombie virus and Mireille Enos does not fare well as Gerry’s wife Karin, who does not have the good sense not to try and call her husband during a zombie apocalypse (Zombies are attracted to sound, after all).
The film’s script troubles are right up there on the screen for all to see. Not only does Gerry’s family feel as though it were tacked on at the last minute just to give him something to fight for, but detail and facts are lost throughout the film. As well as this, it is difficult to find a character to root for, as they are either killed incredibly quickly or are so generic they are not relatable. As well as this, the CGI has not been improved since the trailer, leaving the film feeling cheap and badly done. On the plus side, there are some beautiful shots, and the tension ebbs and flows nicely, but this is not enough to make World War Z into anything but a mediocre thriller with zombies.
In all, World War Z suffers from the troubles it encountered throughout production. The characters are bland, the story garbled and the resolution unsatisfying. There are some beautiful shots and some nicely tense sequences, but overall, this is a film that feels familiar and ultimately, uninspired.
Reviews by Paul Byrne (except World War Z which is by Brogen Hayes)