This weeks new movies reviewed by Paul Byrne, including Project X, Hunky Dory, This Means War and more…
PROJECT X (USA/18/87mins)
Directed by Nima Nourizadeh. Starring Thomas Mann, Oliver Cooper, Jonathan Daniel Brown, Dax Flame, Kirby Bliss Blanton, Brady Hender, Alexis Knapp, Caitlin Dulany, Martin Klebba, Pete Gardner.
THE PLOT: With teetotaler goth Dax (Flame) behind the camera, self-confessed geek Thomas (Mann) and his two equally unpopular friends – budding Springfellow entrepreneur Costa (Cooper) and chubby JB (Brown) – are planning a party. Where this Supersad trio plan to “get high, fuck bitches”. God bless Dax, he’s certainly nimble with that camera, getting up close for every text, and then instantly 20 feet away for another master shot. Surely he’s prepping a little Columbine revenge here? But sadly, no, he’s our cameraman for a wild, wild house party that turns ugly. Pretty much right from the start, as we’re bombarded with American teens strutting their Jersey Shore stuff to a thumping techno and hip-hop soundtrack. And the very occasional shot of drama. Like a Kei$ha video that just won’t stop.
THE VERDICT: Hey, it’s Michael Bay’s Old School! It’s Cloverfield, where the monster is a bunch of MTV-infested teens. This is a film where all the guys – bar the three geek leads (who represent you, by the way) – are jocks and/or stoners, and the girls all look like contestants on America’s Next Top Skank. And it’s only the girls with plenty of dialogue who get to keep their tops on for more than five minutes.
There’s just one truly funny moment in Project X. It’s when a very angry little person (Klebba) escapes from an oven and proceeds to punch everyone he meets straight in the crotch, leaving a trail of groaning bodies in his wake. The found footage trick is wearing thin too, as proven by the recent overpraised, undernourished Chronicles. Inspired by defiant Melbourne party animal Corey Delaney (his famous 2008 TV interview spoofed here in the closing credits), this Todd Phillips-produced comedy basically takes a 2-minute party montage from Old School and stretches it out to an 87-min montage. RATING: 1/5
HUNKY DORY (UK/15A/109mins)
Directed by Marc Evans. Starring Minnie Driver, Haydn Gwynne, Bob Pugh, Owen Teale, Steve Spiers, Aneurin Barnard.
THE PLOT: It’s the long, hot summer of 1976, South Wales, and bohemian homecoming chick Miss Vivienne May (Driver) is back from London, to teach drama at the local comprehensive. Her decision to put on a rock opera version of The Tempest with her final year students has not gone down well with her more conservative colleagues, but Vivienne is determined to press ahead. When the headmaster (Pugh) warns of the need for boundaries, “lines that do not get crossed”, he’s soon given the recently-vacated role of Prospero – in the hope that he’ll keep the show on the road. As various kids in the production face issues of heart and home, Vivienne sees the production as an important outlet for self-expression and self-discovery.
THE VERDICT: Having just played the Dublin Film Festival, Marc Evans (My Little Eye) takes a leap from horror into quirky with mixed results. Having Ms. Driver in the lead role doesn’t help matters, the failed movie starlet muddying the bong-water somewhat and making Miss Vivienne instantly hard-to-like. Conceived before the High School Musical and Glee wave hit, there’s nonetheless a similar air of it’ll-be-alright-on-the-big-night here, as each tearful and troubled kid has all their worries solved just in time for the big musical finish. Met one or two critics who thought this was charming. But then, they had been buried deep in a film festival for days. So, as is so very often the case with festival moles, their opinion had been completely fried by too much bad coffee and stale air. RATING: 2/5
THIS MEANS WAR (USA/15A/97mins)
Directed by McG. Starring Tom Hardy. Chris Pine, Reese Witherspoon, Til Schweiger, Chelsea Handler, John Paul Ruttan, Abigail Spencer, Angela Bassett, Rosemary Harris.
THE PLOT: Fellow CIA agents Tuck (Hardy) and FDR (Pine) are enjoying one hell of a fine bromance when the former – being the shy, retiring killer type – goes online to try and find someone special. Something the far from shy or retiring ladykiller FDR would never have to consider. When the successful but lonely Lauren (Witherspoon) meets up with Tuck, a flirtatious afternoon coffee leaves her floating on cloud nine. And straight into the quick-fire banter of FDR. Soon, she’s dating both men, taking all her advice from her craggy, unhappily-married best friend (the overpaid, foul-mouthed E! presenter Chelsea Handler)…
THE VERDICT: If Michael Bay made comedies, they may just come out like this. Slick, shiny and shallow, This Means War is more concerned with surface detail than subtle laughs. Or any kind of laughs, for that matter, other than the glaringly obvious. It doesn’t help that the love triangle offers up something of a skank dilemma, Lauren’s calculated two-timing coming across not so much as Yoko Ono but Heather Mills. The Hollywood Reporter reckons this Mr. & Mr. Smith dud is a candidate for the worst of 2012, but it’s not quite that dreadful. It is pretty damn bad though. RATING: 2/5
Directed by David Wain. Starring Jennifer Aniston, Paul Rudd, Malin Akerman, Alan Alda, Justin Theroux, Ken Marino.
THE PLOT: Victims of the recession, recently laid-off Manhattanites George (Rudd) and Linda (Aniston) head to Georgia, and the former’s irritating brother Rick (Marin, co-writer here, with Wain). On the way thought they stumble upon an “intentional community” where materialism is out and free love is in. As with all hippie communes though, it’s never quite as free and breezy as the brochure would suggest – for example, you can never take a dump alone. Still, burnt-out founder Carvin (Alda) seems to have his heart, and his hash, in the right place, whilst the presence of the beautiful Eva (Akerman) makes it that little bit easier for the uptight George to, hey, give this crazy lifestyle a shot.
THE VERDICT: Reminds me of a stoner Couples Retreat, this latest Apatow production garnering some highly lukewarm reviews. Isn’t it about time Jennifer Aniston paused and took a good look at her output? She’s a smart comedienne, but, holy moly, she’s beginning to come across as Kate Hudson’s big sister these days. Who picks her roles for her, Katherine Heigl? Still, it’s hard to resist a cast that includes Rudd and Alda in the mix, so, chances are, this will do just fine, lukewarm reviews or not. Rating 2/5
Directed by Bruno Dumont. Starring Julie Sokolowski, Yassine Salime, Karl Sarafidis, David Dewaele, Brigitte Mayeux-Clerget, Michelle Ardenne.
THE PLOT: A young bible-basher without a cause, young postulant nun Celine (Sokolowski) is told by her mother superior to go back to the world, in the hope that reality might just help her truly find God. Returning to her wealthy parents and their opulent Paris home, Celine is soon taking refuge with Yassine (Salime), a young moped-riding, Muslim petty criminal from the projects. “You need love, or what?” asks the increasingly frustrated Yassine as Celine once again tells him the only man she wants in her life is God, and so he introduces her to his older brother, Nassir (Sarafidis), who takes Celine to a war-torn Arab country. So that this bible-basher may finally have a cause…
THE VERDICT: It’s been a while since French filmmaker Bruno Dumont has delivered a film as powerful as his 1997 debut The Life Of Jesus, and although he’s back on familiar ground here – once again using young non-actors in his lead roles – the organic genius of that first outing hasn’t quite returned. There are times Dumont comes close here though, thanks to a beguiling central performance from Julie Sokolowski (think This Is England’s Thomas Turgoose in a skirt). Kudos to Dumont too for delivering a film that’s not only brazenly ambiguous and theologically complex but also deceptively unassuming. It would have been easy here to go for the exclamation marks. RATING: 3/5