Directed by Kyle Balda, Pierre Coffin. Starring Sandra Bullock, Jon Hamm, Allison Janney, Michael Keaton, Pierre Coffin, Chris Renaud.
THE PLOT: In this spin off from the DESPICABLE ME films, we learn the history of the little yellow Minions, who so delight in helping the biggest villain they can find, long before they ever met the Despicable Gru. After they accidentally destroy all their masters – including a dinosaur, Napoleon, a vampire and a large portion of Ancient Egypt – the Minions isolate themselves in Antarctica, but three of their number – Bob, Kevin and Stuart – set out to find a villain they can serve, and thus fulfil their life’s purpose. Enter Scarlett Overkill (Sandra Bullock), the world’s first female super villain, who has her eyes set on the throne of England. The Minions vow to help, but of course it is not long before things go awry.
THE VERDICT: It has to be said that a movie focused on the back-story of the admittedly hilarious Minions that seemingly exist to help Gru in DESPICABLE ME, was not needed. Nevertheless, the Minion movie is here and, while it does feel a little superfluous, the good news is that it’s a lot of fun.
Co-director Pierre Coffin takes on the job of voicing the Minions, and does a great job of making them funny and sweet. As the Minions, Coffin is able to carry the film, albeit with a little help from narrator Geoffrey Rush, who is on fine form. Sandra Bullock is Scarlett Overkill, and does a fantastic job injecting life, evil and emotion into the character. The voice cast is rounded out with Steve Coogan, Jon Hamm, Allison Janney, Michael Keaton, Jennifer Saunders and a late in the day cameo from Steve Carell.
Screenwriter Brian Lynch previously brought us HOP and PUSS IN BOOTS, and dipped his toes into Minion waters with the short film DESPICABLE ME: MINION MAYHEM 3D. The early part of the film gives us the history of the Minions, and some great fast comedy, before we settle in with the villains and the shenanigans, as the Minions meet their new boss. The film references several other films, including THE LOST BOYS, and has the feel of an old school Bond movie about it, told from the perspective of the henchmen. There are some clever lines of dialogue for the adults, and plenty of slapstick for the kids.
Directors Kyle Balda and Pierre Coffin play up the Buster Keaton/Charlie Chaplin style of the film; while the Minions can talk – and can often be understood as their language draws from French, Spanish, Russian and Japanese blended together with English – but their charm lies in their vaudevillian feel. The film is well paced and put together, but the entire thing feels startlingly familiar to the first DESPICABLE ME film, as Scarlett Overkill is plotting an evil crime, and the Minions are struggling to help her. The film does diversify eventually, has a killer soundtrack – The Turtles, The Beatles and The Doors all feature – and actually uses the 3D aspect to its advantage.
In all, MINIONS is not a film that audiences needed, but it is one they will enjoy. Coffin and Bullock shine as the Minions and Scarlett Overkill, there are plenty of jokes and slapstick and the soundtrack rocks. The entire thing wears a little thin by the end, but there are laughs to be had along the way.
Review by Brogen Hayes
SHE’S FUNNY THAT WAY (USA/IFI/93mins)
Directed by Peter Bogdanovich. Starring Imogen Poots, Owen Wilson, Rhys Ifans, Kathryn Hahn, Jennifer Aniston, Will Forte.
THE PLOT: In an interview with a critic, breakout actress Isabella (Imogen Poots) reflects on her career so far, and tells the story of how she got her big break through a married Broadway director who hired her when she was a call girl.
THE VERDICT: SHE’S FUNNY THAT WAY is the first film from director Peter Bogdanovich in 12 years, but the problem is that it never quite lives up to its promise and becomes tiresome very quickly. Also… Funny what way!?
Imogen Poots does her best as the call girl turned actress who finds herself in the middle of a divorce, messy therapy and being pursued by a private detective. Poots is just about charming enough to carry all of this confusion, but her accent is almost painfully chewy and over the top. Jennifer Aniston does a good job of playing a selfish therapist; Kathryn Hahn is perhaps the most endearing of the cast as Delta, the wife being cheated upon. Owen Wilson plays a familiar role as Arnold, and never seem to do anything he hasn’t tried before, Rhys Ifans obviously has fun playing a lovelorn troublemaker and Will Forte fades into the background as playwright Joshua. The rest of the cast includes Debi Mazar and Jennifer Esposito.
Peter Bogdanovich and Louise Stratten’s screenplay obviously tries to borrow from and pay homage to the screwball comedies of the 1930s and 1940s, but never manages to get the tone right. Instead, confusion and crossed paths reign until everyone has had their say, all paths have been tangled, crossed and recrossed just to make sure that everyone has had their moment of chaos on screen.
As director, Peter Bogdanovich feels as though he is either imitating himself or Woody Allen, as he allows this ensemble cast to take over the entire film. The characters are defined enough on the surface, but are never given a chance to be anything other than superficial and, for the most part, angry.
In all, SHE’S FUNNY THAT WAY tries to be a screwball comedy of coincidence and crossed paths but fundamentally fails in one all important area; the comedy. SHE’S FUNNY THAT WAY is just not funny and, as the manic chaos gets more and more drawn out, becomes tiresome and repetitive.
Review by Brogen Hayes
STATION TO STATION (USA/IFI/71mins)
Directed by Doug Aitken.
THE PLOT: Over the course of 24 days, a train full of artists from various disciplines crossed the continental US from the Atlantic to the Pacific. The journey covered 4,000 miles, and had 10 stops – or ‘Happenings’ – along the way.
THE VERDICT: There is little inherently wrong with the concept for Station to Station, but the trouble is that a mish mash of 62 one minutes films simply doesn’t feel like it belongs in a cinema. I am all for experimental documentaries, but other than some nice shots of the train, and some incredibly short interviews with artists and musicians, there is very little going on in Station to Station, and certainly not enough to hold the audience’s attention for 71mins. Instead, Station to Station feels as though it belongs as an art installation in a museum; it is nicely shot, but ultimately too fragmented to hold audience attention.
There are good things in STATON TO STATION, but they pass by the screen so quickly – much like a train passing through a station – that they are almost impossible to catch onto and ponder. As well as this, the entire film feels rather self indulgent, and spends most of the journey looking inward at the artists on the train, rather than outward at the beautiful country they are passing through and, the affect that art can have on the world as a whole. In this way, STATION TO STATION changes from a meditation on creating, to a self indulgent look at what people can achieve on a train.
In all, there is a good idea at the heart of STATION TO STATION, but a straight foward documentary could possibly have done the journey better service than 62 one minute films, which end up making the film feel self indulgent and fragmented.
Review by Brogen Hayes
SLOW WEST (UK | New Zealand/15A/84mins)
Directed by John Maclean. Starring Michael Fassbender, Kodi Smit-McPhee, Ben Mendelsohn, Caren Pistorius.
THE PLOT: In the 19th century, a young man named Jay (Kodi Smit-McPhee) sets out from Scotland to travel across America and find the woman he loves. Along the way, he falls in with the mysterious outlaw Silas (Michael Fassbender) who agrees to help in on his journey, for a price.
THE VERDICT: Perhaps not as slow burning as the title might suggest, SLOW WEST is, nonetheless, a beautifully made film about tracking down love through a dangerous and ruthless world.
Kodi Smit-McPhee is strong as the quiet and lovelorn Jay, and his quiet determination, and his sense of justice are the backbone of the film. Michael Fassbender looks a tiny touch too modern for the role of Silas the outlaw, but he is strong, as usual, and brings gravitas to the film. There is a good contrast between the two that makes them watchable; Jay believes that the frontier is a place of hope and new life, whereas Silas has learned that it is a place where it is all too easy to die. Ben Mendelsohn brings the creepy and intimidating as Silas’s former friend Payne, and Caren Pistorius plays the love of Jay’s young life, Rose.
The story, written by John Maclean feels like a combination between a road movie and a morality tale. Almost everything that can go wrong does, and it is not always the moral that win the day. The dialogue is strong, and the connection between the characters works well, with everyone having an agenda, and double crossing one another.
As director, John Maclean – in his directorial debut – allows the tension in the film to ebb and flow. The audience is aware of what is at stake long before Jay is, and although it is clear that Silas is a man of dubious intent, there is a vein of empathy and morality in him that consistently shines through. The pacing of the film is well thought out – especially since the title almost serves as a warning – and the final set piece is a gritty Western joy, full of twists and turns.
In all, SLOW WEST contains strong performances from Fassbender and Smit-McPhee in this quiet but touching Western that is at once a road movie, a morality tale and an examination of hope and despair.
Review by Brogen Hayes
THE OVERNIGHT (USA/16/79mins)
Directed by Patrick Brice. Starring Taylor Schilling, Adam Scott, Jason Schwartzman, Judith Godrèche.
THE PLOT: Two weeks after they move to LA, and still friendless, Emily (Taylor Schilling) and Alex (Adam Scott) encounter Kurt (Jason Schwartzman) and his son Max (Max Moritt) at the park. Kurt invites the couple over to meet his wife Charlotte (Judith Godrèche) and have dinner with them. Excited at the potential of making new friends, Alex and Emily accept, without realising that their new pals have a little more than food on the menu.
THE VERDICT: Fresh from TV successes, Taylor Schilling and Adam Scott play similar characters to those we have seen the play before; as Emily, Schilling is nervous and cautious, while Scott is slightly awkward but warm and trusting. Jason Schwartzman plays Kurt as pretentious and full of hot air, but manages to make Kurt more endearing and interested in people than Philip in his last outing Listen Up Philip. Judith Godrèche is as pretentious as Schwartzman to an extent, but still manages to make Charlotte engaging, despite all her flaws and shortcomings.
Patrick Brice’s screenplay feels as though it has borrowed from Roman Polanski’s CARNAGE, and last year’s CHEAP THRILLS; keeping the characters confined in a rambling house until the truth is finally revealed. There are some lazy devices used throughout the film – there are two montages before the film is even 35 minutes in – but the uncomfortable feeling is allowed to build throughout. There are times when it is unclear whether the tone of the film is supposed to be comedic or awkward, but this is resolved in the final moments of the film with a laugh out loud cringey moment.
As director, Patrick Brice treads the line between comedy, mystery and awkwardness rather well. There are times when the film feels predictable and glaringly obvious, but then through careful twists, the audience find themselves in new territory once more. The concept and execution of the film are stretched rather thin though, leaving THE OVERNIGHT feeling drawn out, even in its 75 minute running time.
In all, THE OVERNIGHT tries to be a clever sex comedy, and almost succeeds. The cast are great in their roles, although they feel rather familiar, but there are times when the concept and execution of the film feel as though they are stretched to the limit.
Review by Brogen Hayes
THE WRECKING CREW (USA/PG/101mins)
Directed by Denny Tedesco. Starring Lou Adler, Herb Albert, H.B. Barnum, Hal Blaine, Glen Campbell, Carol Kaye, Al Casey.
THE PLOT: They were the most in-demand session musicians in America throughout the 1960s, and this loose collection of now iconic players known as The Wrecking Crew have their golden years celebrated by those close to the action. Alongside survivors from the two dozen-plus musicians who passed through the ranks (including bassist Carole Kaye and guitarist Glen Campbell), there are the artists and producers who benefitted the most, as The Wrecking Crew provided the music for hit after hit after hit. Those thankful for their help here include producer Lou Adler, chief Beach Boy Brian Wilson, A&M founder Herb Alpert, Cher, Mickey Dolenz and Nancy Sinatra. And they all say pretty much the same thing – these musician kicked ass. Beautifully.
THE VERDICT: It’s been a long, long time coming, but, as expected, this documentary about LA’s finest group of session musicians through the 1960s is a joy of the highest order. Having premiered originally at the 2008 SXSW festival, director Tedesco – son of legendary Wrecking Crew guitarist Tommy Tedesco – has managed to add more interviews and more goodies to an already rich and remarkable story. These largely unknown musicians played with everyone from Sinatra and Bing to The Beach Boys, The Byrds, Cohen and, of course, Phil Spector – providing most of the instrumentation for the latter’s Wall Of Sound.
It was the passing of Tommy Tedesco in 1997 that sparked his filmmaking son into action, pulling out of the shadows the two dozen or so remarkable musicians that passed through the ranks of The Wrecking Crew. As with Motown’s Funk Brothers, the Hi Rhythm Section at Hi Records, or Booker T. and the gang at Stax, bringing those quiet and quietly remarkable musicians who provided the backbeat for many a classic recording out into the light feels pretty much righteous, verging on riotous – especially when classic songs such as Good Vibrations, Last Train To Clarksville, These Boots Were Made For Walking and Cecilia are blasting out on the soundtrack.
These are all basement tapes heroes, but all the more loveable and precious for it. And if there’s a star of the show, it’s bassist Carol Kaye, not only a groove giant but also a pretty darn good stand-up too, if this documentary is anything to go by. Enjoy. Buy. And then enjoy again. And again.
Review by Paul Byrne