MAN UP (UK | France/15A/88mins)
Directed by Pen Palmer. Starring Simon Pegg, Lake Bell, Rory Kinnear, Ophelia Lovibond, Olivia Williams
THE PLOT: Nancy (Lake Bell) is returning from an engagement party where she was set up on a disastrous blind date when she meets a woman on the train who decides her attitude toward dating is terrible, and leaves her a self help book. As Nancy tries to return the book to the girl at Waterloo Station, she is mistaken for her, by a blind date. Rather than admit the mix up, Nancy decides to go on the date with Jack (Simon Pegg), knowing all too well that this too, could end in disaster.
THE VERDICT: Directed by Ben Palmer – of THE INBETWEENERS fame – Man Up is a film that feels uneven and overly written. Tess Morris’s script is sweet, charming and has a couple of giggles when Jack and Nancy are alone together, but once other characters are added to the equation – Rory Kinnear as Sean, a man with a crush on Nancy since high school, for example – the film suddenly tires too hard to be funny and quirky, and completely misses the mark.
Lake Bell is wonderful as the perennially single, 34 year old Nancy. The character suits Bell as an actress, and she breathes life into Nancy, making her relatable and recognisable. Simon Pegg equally does well as Jack, a divorced man who is trying his best to move on. The two have lovely chemistry together, and it is clear they enjoyed their time on screen. Rory Kinnear struggles with the over the top Sean, however, and Ophelia Lovibond never manages to make Jessica anything other than vanilla.
Tess Morris’ screenplay is filled with wit and charm, but inexplicably goes way over the top at regular intervals through the film, taking the entire shebang from charming and warm, to weird and cringey. Director Ben Palmer tries to compensate for this by making the entire film feel over the top, but it is so obvious that Jack and Nancy have a strong emotional connection, that these lower energy scenes, which form the heart of the film, don’t fit with the manic chaotic atmosphere created by the supporting characters. As well as this, the timeline of the film feels just a little off, and the climactic scene that involves a teenage house party following Jack to Nancy’s house, just feels like a rip off of LOVE, ACTUALLY.
In all, MAN UP would have been a charming little rom-com about mistaken identity if so much of the rest of the film had not been unnecessarily ramped up for the sake of laughs. Bell and Pegg are wonderful together, the soundtrack is fantastic and there is lots to love here, but MAN UP is let down by to much manic action going on in the background, and not enough time spent with the central characters.
Review by Brogen Hayes
SAN ANDREAS (USA/12A/114mins)
Directed by Brad Peyton.
THE PLOT: California finally
Having tried desparately to
THE VERDICT: If Arnold
Still, you’ve got to admire a
Despite all the crash, bang,
I guess if anyone deserves a
Review by Paul Byrne
DANNY COLLINS (USA/15A/106mins)
Directed by Dan Fogelman. Starring Al Pacino, Annette Bening, Christopher Plummer, Jennifer Garner, Bobby Cannavale.
THE PLOT: Danny Collins (Al Pacino) is an ageing rocker who still performs, but has never managed to give up the hard partying life of a rockstar. All of this changes when his manager Frank (Christopher Plummer) gives him a latter written by John Lennon, a letter written to Danny at the start of his career, a letter that never got to him until now. Danny dumps his cheating girlfriend and heads to pastures new… New Jersey.
THE VERDICT: Inspired by the true story of English musician Steve Tilston – who did receive a letter from John Lennon 40 years too late – DANNY COLLINS is a film that feels a little familiar, like maybe we have been down this road before. The thing that makes the film warm and entertaining, however, is the feeling that the entire cast, Pacino included, actually had a lot of fun making this charming little film.
Directed by Dan Fogleman, who as a writer most recently brought us LAST VEGAS (and the less said about that the better), this is the directorial debut for the veteran screenwriter. As mentioned, DANNY COLLINS is not exactly a film that feels fresh, new or innovative, but it is a film that is filled with heart and warmth, with strong performances from Al Pacino, Annette Bening, Christopher Plummer, Bobby Canavale and Jennifer Garner filling the film with charm and a couple of laughs.
Fogleman’s screenplay jumps off from a true story and takes it in a new direction. There are times, especially in the scenes concerning Danny’s family, where everything feels a little trite and familiar, but these soon balance out with some lovely chemistry between the cast, and some fun scenes between Pacino and Bening. As the film movies on, it is clear that this is a story about relationships, and not one about the regrets we may have in life, and Fogleman’s dialogue gets better and more honest as the film moves along.
As director, Fogleman sometimes lays the cringiness on a little too thick, but redeems himself when it comes to characters interacting on a more intimate level. There are a couple of montages in there that don’t always work – and don’t always reflect the passage of time – but Fogleman has coaxed a suave performance from Pacino, a giggly understated one from Bening and a strong and charming one from Garner. It is Cannavale that really shines, however, making Tom a complex, rounded and conflicted character; one who is the perfect foil for the vain and sheltered Danny.
In all, it may feel like we are heading down a well-worn path with DANNY COLLINS, but Dan Fogleman’s directorial debut has a few surprises up its sleeve, and a whole lot of warmth and charm. The central four shine, but none more so than Bobby Canavale, who is on the best from he has been for years.
Review by Brogen Hayes
THE CONNECTION (France/Belgium/15A/135mins)
Directed by Cedric Jimenez. Starring Jean Dujardin, Gilles Lellouche, Celine Sallette, Melanie Doutey, Benoit Magimel, Guillaume Gouix.
THE PLOT: Marseilles, 1975, and juvenile-court magistrate Pierre Michel (Dujardin) is being promoted to heading up organised crime investigations. And top of his list, given his experience with young heroin addicts, is apparently untouchable druglord Gaetano Zampa (Lellouche). Progress is slow though, and when a close friend dies of an overdose, Michel decides that it’s time to break a few rules too in order to get his man. Just who is working for whom becomes an issue though as Michel gets closer and closer, the cloud of corruption inside the force being just as much a hindrance as Zampa’s well-oiled elusiveness.
THE VERDICT: Taking place a few years after New York cop Popeye Doyle (Gene Hackman) broke a few rules, and bones, in THE FRENCH CONNECTION double-bill, Jimenez’s beautifully-constructed true-life tale covers another chapter in this decades-long, cross-Atlantic drug-smuggling saga. Jimenez grew up in Marseilles with Michel as a local legend, and his deep-rooted childhood fascination with Michel comes across here, the personal connection seemingly sparking new life into this very familiar genre. It’s a very fair cops and robbers, Guv.
Review by Paul Byrne
Directed by Abderrahmane
THE PLOT: The fundamentalists
THE VERDICT: A big hit at
Review by Paul Byrne