Reviews – New movies opening May 24th 2013

We review this week’s new cinema releases, including The Hangover Part III and Epic

EPIC (USA/G/104mins) 
Directed by Chris Wedge. Starring the voices of Amanda Seyfried, Christoph Waltz, Coin Farrell, Josh Hutcherson, Chris O’Dowd, Aziz Ansari, Beyonce Knowles, Pitbull, Jason Sudeikis, Steven Tyler, Judah Friedlander.
THE PLOT: If you go down to the woods today, you may just see nutty professor Bomba (Sudeikis), too busy trying to spot those itsy, bitsy tiny warriors living a secret life in the plants to notice that his estranged daughter M.K. (Seyfried) is far from over the recent death of her mother. Just when M.K. decides to write off her dad as a lost cause – along with his fairy folk obsession – the sullen teen suddenly finds herself bug-small and engaged in the micro eco-battle her dad has been raving about. In the green corner, it’s the Leafmen, led by the noble Ronin (Farrell, employing his Dublin accent once again) and headstrong young Nod (Hutcherson); in the red corner, it’s Mandrake (Waltz), the Orc-like Boggans’ dark lord of destruction…
THE VERDICT: Whatever the inspiration and eco-hugging intention, Chris Wedge (Ice Age, Robots) seems determined here to make DreamWorks Animation look daring. 
Employing many a tried-and-tested animation trick – celebrity cast, doofus sidekick duo, teen love, wise old hen, fuzzy, pop-driven montages, etc – Wedge throws everything at the screen. Some of it sticks (about half of O’Dowd’s dopey slug-and-snail double-act with Ansari works) but quite a bit of it – Beyonce’s doe-eyed fairy queen; Farrell’s thick Alexander accent, the Fantasia overkill of the forest finery – just slithers on down, like sap from a tree. 
Review by Paul Byrne 

Directed by Todd Phillips. Starring Bradley Cooper, Zach Galifianakis, Ed Helms, Ken Jeong, John Goodman, Melissa McCarthy, Jeffrey Tambor, Heather Graham, Mike Epps, Justin Bartha.
THE PLOT: The Wolfpack reunite to save Alan (Zach Galiafinakis) from himself; after the death of his father, he goes completely off the rails so an intervention is called to bring him to a rehab facility. While on the way to Arizona, the gang are run off the road by Marshall (John Goodman), a gangster who kidnaps Doug (Justin Bartha) and gives the gang three days to bring Mr Chow (Ken Jeong) to him.
THE VERCICT: After the abysmal failure that was The Hangover Part II, the final instalment in the trilogy can only be an improvement, right? Well, yes. Although the magic of the first film is still lacking, turning away from the formulaic plot and bringing the action back across the Pacific was a wise choice.
This time out, the characters have actually developed slightly; OK, Alan has turned into even more of a monster, but at least this is growth. Bradley Cooper as Phil is still foul mouthed and brash, but at least he admits that he cares for his friends and Stu… Stu is the same as always, except he doesn’t manage to lose a tooth or get a face tattoo this time, that’s progress! Ken Jeong reprises his famous role as Mr Chow and is just as cocaine addled and insane as always, and newcomer John Goodman is nicely intimidating in his role as the villain, Marshall.
Thankfully, the story is not the same as the previous two films; instead of trying to piece together the events of the night before, the gang know where Doug has gone, who has him and how to get him back. Most of the comedy comes from Zach Galiafinakis’ deluded notion of himself – and his new relationship with Cassie (Melissa McCarthy) – and Ed Helms’ ability to make wonderfully realistic gagging noises on cue.
The story is riddled with plot holes, but it involves gold bars, a prison break and a return to Las Vegas. Ah yes, Las Vegas. Of course this is where the story would end up, but instead of having the city against them, this time Las Vegas appears to be on The Wolfpack’s side. That does not mean that they do not have to abseil down the front of Ceasar’s Palace or chase a parachuting madman across the city, but at least some of the shine is put back on Las Vegas.
Todd Phillips – and writer Craig Mazin – seem to have realised that the best comedy comes from having Chow as a source of tension, rather than an ally, and this leads to some rather silly but entertaining moments. As well as this, Alan coming off his medication leads to a wonderfully madcap opening sequence and Stu finally makes a bad decision in the closing credits. However, changing the formula means that The Hangover Part III is more of an action comedy thriller than a straight up comedy, and the murderous and dark tones of the film do sap some of the laughs… And the laughs are mostly giggles, not belly achers.
In all, The Hangover Part III is a step up from it’s immediate predecessor, but a step down from the original. Stepping away from the formula made this film stronger – as did returning to Las Vegas – but this is a wholly unnecessary sequel; it does not tell us anything new, and simply unties strings tangled in the second instalment. Bradley Cooper still looks great though.
Review by Brogen Hayes 

EVERYBODY HAS A PLAN (Argentina, Spain, Germany/118mins/TBC)
Directed by Starring Viggo Mortensen
THE PLOT: Augustin (Viggo Mortensen) and Pedro (also Viggo Mortensen) are twin brothers, but estranged. One is a doctor whose wife is intent on adopting a baby, the other a petty criminal and beekeeper in the Argentinean countryside. When their worlds collide, each brother must make a decision about his own life.
THE VERDICT: Viggo Moretensen takes on a lot in Everybody Has a Plan. Not only is he playing twin brothers whose lives could not be more different, but he also performs throughout the film while speaking in Spanish. Mortensen gives the nuanced and subtle performances that we have come to know him for, but also manages to make each brother different from the other.
Director Ana Piterbarg took a risk in creating a film that called for identical twins, but it is a risk that she pulled off. While Mortensen is great, however, the rest of the cast are equally as strong. Sofia Gala as Rosa is a standout. This is a young woman who lives on a remote island, but has the street smarts of a woman much older and wiser than she. When her world collapses however, Gala allows the character’s tough exterior to crumble.
The story – created by Piterbarg and Ana Cohan – is a fascinating one. We have seen the story of twins switching lives before, but the idea that a rich man with a successful career and loving wife would willingly and almost happily assume the life of his poorer and less glamorous brother is one that provokes debate. Yes, there is an issue within Augustin’s life, but it could have easily been solved without resorting to changing his entire identity. This raises the question as to why Augustin would do it, and why, when confronted, attacked and arrested while living life as Pedro, he would not just go off and be Pedro somewhere else. The answer is never clear but, as well as the love interest in the form of Rosa, it is implied that Augustin must atone for his brother’s sins – Pedro is part of a kidnapping ring – as well as wrestle with the demons that plagued him as a child.
Piterbarg has created a fascinating film carried by a strong performance from Mortensen, but this does not mean that the film is not without its problems. The pacing and running time severely weaken the impact of the story, as does the fact that nothing seems to be resolved at the end; neither of these men were perfect – Pedro asks his brother to kill him as he is already dying, and Augustin leaves the body for his wife to find. It seems rather cruel – but each had qualities that redeemed them and made them human. As well as this, many characters realise that Augustin has replaced his brother, but only one character says anything about this, and no-one does anything about it. Tension is built, as it seems as though Augustin is about to be found out, but it just slips away, leaving the audience feeling as though a whole avenue of the film as been ignored.
In all, Everybody Has a Plan is anchored with strong performances and beautiful cinematography but even Mortensen’s fantastic turn as twins cannot distract from the fact that the script is a lot weaker than it should be for a film with so much to say.
Review by Brogen Hayes

SOMETHING IN THE AIR (France/16/122mins)
Directed by Olivier Assayas. Starring Clement Metayer, Lola Creton, Felix Armand, Carole Combes, India Meuuez, Hugo Conzelmann, Mathias Renou, Dolores Chaplin.
It’s the aftermath of the May 1968 Paris student protests (a period French filmimakers of a certain age have a strong attraction to), and as the revolution slowly becomes fragmented by countless mini-revolts within the ranks, Gilles (Metayer) has decided that pure art is first, and shady politics a distant second. Initially hoping to mix the two, it proves a long and winding road for Gilles, especially when the women in his life – first free-spirited hippy chick Laure (Combes), and later, the earthy and earthed Christine (Creton) – seem to have a far better grip on life and all it has to offer. As Gilles’ disillusion with the revolution rises, his descent into the comforting madness that is filmmaking slowly takes a hold…
A companion piece of sorts to Assayas’ semi-autobiographical 1994 outing Cold Water, Something In The Air once again revisits blossoming French teen love, only this time, there’s a riot or two going on. The explosive opening shot of one such riot gives Assayas’ film a true kickstart, but the director isn’t trying to blind us with smoke and martyrs. There’s a sober melancholy at play here, an acceptance by an older man that the ideals of his younger self slowly gave way to looking after number one. Like so many others who grew up in the late ’60s and ’70s, the young Gilles fully believes that times were indeed a-changin’. And then, as always, everyone became their parents. Only, all going well, a little wiser, and richer.
Review by Paul Byrne