GREEN ROOM (USA/16/95mins) Directed by Jeremy Saulnier. Starring Anton Yelchin, Imogen Poots, Alia Shawkat, Macon Blair, Patrick Stewart. THE PLOT: Punk band Ain’t Rights travel the country picking up gigs and making enough money for petrol and food. When a gig is badly managed, the organiser promises a better one at a bar his cousin knows… A white supremacist bar in the middle of nowhere. After the gig, the band stumble across the aftermath of a murder, and suddenly find themselves in an unrelenting and violent fight for their lives. THE VERDICT: Alia Shawkat, and Anton Yelchin as part of the punk band Ain’t Rights make their characters fearless in that 20-something punk band type of way, but once the action kicks off, Yelchin and Shawkat come into their own, carefully balancing fear and bravado in a way that makes us root for these small, outnumbered underdogs. Imogen Poots plays Amber, a regular of the bar, caught up in the crossfire; her chemistry with Yelchin is sweet, but Poots makes sure the audience knows this is a girl with a seriously dark undertone. On the other side of the barricaded door to the green room Patrick Stewart leads the charge against the young interlopers, stepping away from some of the more comedic roles he has done of late to make Darcy quietly spoken and terrifying. Of course, Stewart gets some brilliantly dry and hilarious lines (‘can you hear me if I speak at this volume?’) and the double act between he and Macon Blair, and their slight push and pull of power, is a joy to watch on screen.
Saulnier’s screenplay for ‘Green Room’ is incredibly simple – often frustratingly so, as we never truly know what spurred the initial murder – but it is also this simplicity that makes the film work. Jokes recur throughout the film, with the cast making spectacular use of the question of who their ‘Desert Island Band’ would be; initially naming the bands that sound cool (Slayer, The Misfits) before recanting as their situation deteriorates to give us an insight behind their swagger (Madonna, Prince, Simon & Garfunkel). While the screenplay is gruesome – often prompting gasps of disgust and shock from the assembled audience – it is also darkly hilarious as it plays with horror movie clichés to wonderful effect.
As director, Jeremy Saulnier plays with tension and fear, allowing both to build before they are dispelled with a carefully placed laugh or a gentle moment. The film feels a little like ‘The Raid’ in places; a claustrophobic, dark and violent fight for survival, but Saulnier never truly allows ‘Green Room’ to be anything other than inspired by other great surviival and war flicks. The action comes in bursts, is often blood spatteringly gruesome, and is definitely not for the faint of heart. This never becomes gratuitous though, and always feels in keeping with the characters and the story being told. The pacing is strong throughout the film, but runs out of momentum a little once the action moves outside the bar, but Sean Porter’s cinematography plays with colour and light, leaving the entire film feeling breathless and weirdly beautiful.
In all, ‘Green Room’ is twisted, massively violent and darkly hilarious. While it may be light on story in places, and suffer some pacing issues, it is also draws the audience into this unfamiliar world, and leaves us to fight our way out with the characters. Shawkat, Yelchin, Stewart and Blair shine in this film. Can’t wait to see which colour Saulnier tackles next. RATING: 4.5/5 Review by Brogen Hayes
THE ANGRY BIRDS MOVIE (USA/PG/97mins) Directed by Clay Kaytis, Fergal Reilly. Starring the voices of Jason Sudeikis, Josh Gad, Peter Dinklage, Kate McKinnon, Sean Penn, Bill Hader, Maya Rudolph, Danny McBride. THE PLOT: That Red (Sudeikis) is having trouble with his anger isn’t all that surprising, given the chirpy-chirpy, beep-beep world that he lives in. Sometimes, that raging temper is only there because you’re surrounding by major assholes, something that lands Red on an anger management course. Whatever progress Red may have reluctantly been making at the course is soon squashed though when two pigs park their boat on top of his beachfront home. And those two pigs are soon four. And then, 104. As the town falls under the all-singing, all-dancing pigs’ charms, Red is convinced the little oinks are up to something. And he’s right… THE VERDICT: This year’s ‘Lego Movie’, it’s a very pleasant surprise indeed to discover that the ‘Angry Birds Movie’ is a hoot from beginning to end. Jason Sudeikis makes for a perfect Chris Pratt, as the hot-tempered Chicken Little whose BS meter is set to 11. Just like so many great comic creations, from W.C. Fields to Larry David.
The jokes come thick and fast, thanks to a tight and bouncy script from ‘Simpsons’ veteran Jon Vitti, whilst directors Clay Katis (a Disney refugee) and Fergal Reilly (an Irishman, begorrah!) clearly know their pacing.
There’s so much to love about this movie, not least the solid cast, with everyone from Gad and Dinklage to Hader and, eh, Penn clearly having the time of their lives.
It could have been so easily ‘Minions’ so-so or ‘Penguins of Madagascar’ disappointing, but ‘Angry Birds’ soars high, firing on all cylinders and all fronts. Which, now that I look back over those sentences, is all very generic poster-quote stuff, so, I’d best just sign off by saying, hey, I feckin’ loved it. RATING: 4/5 Review by Paul Byrne
EVERYBODY WANTS SOME!! (USA/15A/117mins) Directed by Richard Linklater. Starring Blake Jenner, Juston Street, Ryan Guzman, Tyler Hoechlin, Wyatt Russell. THE PLOT: Jake (Blake Jenner) arrives at college in September 1980, the weekend before classes start. For the last three days of his summer freedom, Jake spends his time getting to know his housemates and fellow baseball team members, trying out almost every bar in town, and figuring out the best way to approach a girl he has a crush on. THE VERDICT: According to writer director Richard Linklater, ‘Everybody Wants Some!!’ is not only a follow up to his 1993 film ‘Dazed and Confused’ – which takes place in a high school – but a follow up to his hugely successful film ‘Boyhood’, since that film ends with the title character heading off to college. Whatever the case, ‘Everybody Wants Some!!’ is a nostalgic celebration of those last days of summer, with a kick ass soundtrack, but not a lot happening in terms of story.
Richard Linklater populated his cast of college kids with Blake Jenner, Juston Street, Ryan Guzman, Tyler Hoechlin, Wyatt Russell, Glen Powell, Temple Baker, J. Quinton Johnson, Will Brittain and Zoey Deutch as the only notable female character in the film. All of the cast do well with their roles, making these superficially smart kids obviously lacking in real world experience as they spout Walt Whitman and Carl Sagan quotes at one another, smoke weed and get themselves thrown out of bars. The trouble is that the script never develops any of the characters properly, does not give the film an over arching narrative and, since the film takes place in a short space of time, never allows any of them to change or grow; they are arrogant at the start and, on the first day of class, little has changed.
Richard Linklater’s screenplay for the film seems to have been less of a script than a loosely structured story idea and this is the film’s major failing. So many of the characters have throwaway moments that could have become the main narrative of the film, but this is never allowed to happen. Instead, we drift through one drunken weekend with a bunch of sexist, misogynistic and often idiotic college students – most of whom are male – and although it is engaging to spend time with them to begin with, the film runs out of steam when it becomes obvious that the main narrative of the film is get drunk and party all night. As well as this, there are very few female characters in the film; Zoey Deutsch as Beverley gets a couple of good moments, but the rest of the women seem simply to be set dressing, there to be seduced and discarded.
As director Richard Linklater obviously has fun being in the nostalgic world of 1980s American colleges, and although there are times when the film touches on deeper issues, these are quickly discarded. The pacing is fine – each of the three days passes fairly quickly – but without a reason to spend time with these college kids, all the great music, 80s dancing and strong costumes cannot make the film as engaging as it should be.
In all, it is fun to spend time with the college age kids at the heart of ‘Everybody Wants Some!!’ but there are anachronistic turns of phrase that feel wrong, the cast are never given a chance to develop their characters and the narrative arc of the film is missing. On the positive side, the characters feel real and it is fun to spend time in their world, but they would have benefitted from having a strong narrative arc to work with. RATING: 3/5 Review by Brogen Hayes
MUSTANG (France | Germany | Turkey | Qatar/15A/97mins) Directed by Deniz Gamze Ergüven. Starring: Günes Sensoy, Doga Zeynep Doguslu, Tugba Sunguroglu, Elit Iscan and Ilayda Akdogan. THE PLOT: In a small Turkish village, sisters Lale (Günes Sensoy), Nur (Doga Zeynep Doguslu), Selma (Tugba Sunguroglu), Ece (Elit Iscan) and Sonay (Ilayda Akdogan) find themselves kept under tight watch after they are seen playing with young boys their own age. As time passes and the older sisters are married off, the house becomes more and more claustrophobic, and the girls resort to desperate measures to gain their freedom. THE VERDICT: Nominated for Best Foreign Language Film of the Year at this year’s Oscars, ‘Mustang’ is the story of past meeting present, traditional values being questioned and, most of all, five young women’s quest for freedom.
The five actresses who play the young sisters, Günes Sensoy, Doga Zeynep Doguslu, Tugba Sunguroglu, Elit Iscan and Ilayda Akdogan have an easy chemistry together, and it would be easy to believe that these young girls have known one another their entire lives. There is much more going on underneath the surface, and these actresses all manage to convey a feeling of unease, as well as a desire to be free and live as they wish. Nihal G. Koldas plays the girls’ grandmother, and swings between over protection to fear and intimidation, and Ayberk Pekcan plays the controlling male presence in the house, Erol.
Deniz Gamze Ergüven and Alice Winocour’s screenplay focuses on the story as told by one of the youngest sisters in the family. There is always a hint that more is going on in the house and simple control, but much of this is left to the audience to discover, rather than being explicitly thrown onto the screen. As well as being a story of abuse and intimidation, Mustang is a story of adolescence, discovery, first love and solidarity, with scenes of sunlight and sunbathing juxtaposed against the bars on the windows and outdoor areas of the house.
Director Deniz Gamze Ergüven makes her first feature length film one that does not seem to have much going on in terms of pace, but once events in the film really begin to take shape, the film gathers speed and strength. The performances feel natural and the rare bursts of comedy and happiness balance out the creeping feeling of dread throughout the film.
In all, ‘Mustang’ is a dark and extreme coming of age story, marked with tragedy and loss. The performances in the film anchor the slightly meandering and loose story, and the tone of the film is balanced between despair and happiness, with the five central actresses supporting one another through the story. RATING: 4/5 Review by Brogen Hayes
OUR KIND OF TRAITOR (UK/15A/107mins) Directed Starring: Ewan McGregor, Stellan Skarsgard, Naomie Harris. THE PLOT: Toward the end of their holiday in Morocco, Perry (Ewan McGregor) and Gail (Naomie Harris) encounter Russian oligarch Dima (Stellan Skarsgard) and quickly find themselves spending their last few days in the man’s company. When Dima gives Perry a memory stick containing information about a potential banking scandal, in the hope he will pass it on to the UK authorities, Perry and Gail are soon caught up in a plot to help Dima and his family defect from Russia, while uncovering a scandal involving a UK politician. THE VERDICT: ‘Our Kind of Traitor’ is based on a novel by John le Carré; other films based on the author’s books include The Spy Who Came In From The Cold, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy and The Constant Gardener, but unlike the films that have gone before, Our Kind of Traitor lacks the trademark tension that makes these films so thrilling.
The cast features Stellan Skarsgard as Dima, the Russian gangster who wants out of Russia and into a safer life, Ewan McGregor as Perry, the English man drawn into Dima’s plan, Naomie Harris as Perry’s wife Gail and Damien Lewis as a British Secret Service official with an agenda of his own. Each of the cast does well enough with their role; McGregor makes Perry a relatable everyman, Skarsgard obviously has fun with the larger than life Dima – although his accent is a little chewy from time to time – Damien Lewis is never challenged by his role, but makes the character rounded, with his own motvations, and although Naomie Harris doesn’t have an awful lot to do, the chemistry between her and the rest of the cast is engaging.
Screenwriter Hossein Amini, whose other work includes ‘Snow White and the Huntsman’, and the thrilling Ryan Gosling kill-fest Drive, does his best to make ‘Our Kind of Traitor’ thrilling and engaging, but seems to have forgotten to inject any real feeling of danger into the film. Although all the parts are in place to make Our Kind of Traitor work as an espionage thriller – even though the story is a lot more simple than other le Carré works that have been adapted for the big screen – they never really add up on screen, meaning the film never really feels anything more than pedestrian.
As director Susanna White creates strong chemistry between the cast of characters, but never allows the tension of the film to be amped up. This was needed to make the film work, but without a sense of danger in the film, all the pretty visuals and fast paced action falls flat, as it feels, in the end, inevitable.
In all, ‘Our Kind of Traitor’ never lives up to the promise of its cast and the author of the novel. Skarsgard, Lewis, Harris and McGregor do well enough with their characters, but the danger needed to make the film engaging is missing, leaving ‘Our Kind of Traitor’ less of a espionage thriller, and more a film about random chance. RATING: 3/5 Review by Brogen Hayes