We review this week’s new cinema releases, including I’m So Excited and Chimpanzee
MOVIES.IE’S ONE TO WATCH!
I’M SO EXCITED (Spain/16/90mins)
Directed by Pedro Almodovar. Starring Javier Camara, Raul Arevalo, Hugo Silva, Cecelia Roth, Antonio de la Torre, Lola Duenas, Paz Vega, Jose Maria Yazpik, Penelope Cruz, Antonio Banderas.
THE PLOT: After a little banana-slip drama involving cooing Madrid airport ground staff parents-to-be (Cruz and Banderas in a short cameo), an hour-and-a-half later, Penisula Flight 2549 to Mexico City has realised that there’s a problem with their landing gear. In business class, passenger Bruna (Almodovar regular Duenas) knows something is wrong. Because she’s psychic. When she bursts in on the two pilots and cabin steward Joserra (Camara, another Almodovar favourite), Bruna may appear more psycho than psychic as she unleashes her visions, but the trio are all ears. Or maybe they’re just too preoccupied with the fact that Joserra and married chief pilot Alex (de la Torre) are having a lovers tiff. Or that hunky co-pilot Infante (Yazpik) has been straying outside his heterosexual world.
With the economy passengers drugged, Joserra and his two co-stewards, Benito (Silva) and Ulloa (Arevalo), have to keep the increasingly angry business class passengers entertained. With death possibly just around the corner though, each passenger seems to have a story to tell…
THE VERDICT: Harking back to his early, funny and giddily camp films, Pedro Almodovar lets it all hang out once again with I’m So Excited. After his melancholic and melodramatic Hitchcock-does-Mexican-soap offering The Skin I Live In, Almodovar reckoned it was time to tackle Spain’s crippling recession. With a sex-sozzled farce that plays like the Marx Brothers’ crowded cabin scene from A Night Of The Opera reworked as musical by Baz Luhrman. A musical with only one number. If you don’t count the rumpy-pumpy montage set to Django Django’s Skies Over Cairo.
It is, of course, an effervescent, fluorescent and spangly, spandex-stretching, candy-coloured, moustache-sporting, eye-rolling bucket of fun, a hedonistic glitter-ball of a film that’s full of frothy soap drama and frothed drama queens. Almodovar has said of I’m So Excited, “I like the idea of helping people to have fun, because the atmosphere right now is so very bleak”, and, on that front, the 63-year old mischievous maestro certainly delivers.
Review by Paul Byrne
Directed by Alastair Fothergill, Mark Linfield. Narrated by Tim Allen.
THE PLOT: Following a group of Ivory Coast chimps as new arrival Oscar goes from infant to just-about-adulthood in the Tai Forest, Chimpanzee charts the trials and tribulations of our cuddly little star. With the leader of the pack, Freddy, looking after 35 or chimps, there’s plenty of potential friends and foe for the young Oscar, but, luckily, he’s got mum Isha to show him the way. Not only to make friends and influence people but also how best to gather those nuts and berries. And how to keep said nuts and berries from falling into the hands of a rival tribe. It doesn’t help the impartiality of the filmmakers here when the leader of that rival gang is given the name Scar. After that, it all gets a little West Side Story. Via Disney.
THE VERDICT: The fourth offering from DisneyNature is one of those soft, beautiful documentaries that Roy Jr. Used to make in the 1970s. When the studio didn’t want him anywhere near the controls. Tastefully done, with lots of screensaver-worthy shots of our little furry friends (if they are our closest relatives, how come they never send xmas cards?) going about their daily routines. Oh, and having a showdown, of sorts. Otherwise, you know, the editor would just be hitting the shuffle button. We need an arc here, people. We also keep expecting our good friend Sir David to emerge out of the shrubbery to hit us with a hushed superlative or two, but, instead, we have faded funnyman, and Disney refugee, Tim Allen, reading out an occasionaly very silly script co-written by Disney Animation veteran producer Don Hahn (Beauty & The Beast, The Lion King, etc). The kids will just about get a kick out of it, but it’s hard not to see this as a TV experience. Despite all those glorious screensaver shots.
Review by Paul Byrne
ALL STARS (UK/G/106mins)
Directed by Ben Gregor. Starring Theo Stevenson, Ashley Jensen, Akai Osei-Mansfield, Fleur Houdijk, Dominic Herman-Day, Amelia Clarkson, Kimberly Walsh, Ashley Walters, Kevin Bishop, Mark Heap, Hugh Dennis.
THE PLOT: The kids have to save the community hall! By putting together a dance crew! And, er, that’s it…
THE VERDICT: Fresh outta da UK, dis is wickedly ordinary. What is it about British filmmakers and family films? Are they all made by the same people, because, as with Nativity, and Trinian’s, and just about every other British film aimed at the youff market over the last ten years, All Stars is predictable as hell. Right down to its standard-issue roll-call of sitcom favourites for all the adult roles. There’s Ashley Jensen, the sweet Scottish actress who always plays mildly-desperate, mildly-over-the-hill halfwits. There’s Hugh Dennis, from Outnumbered and that really bad Radio 4 show that leapfrogs seasons with The News Quiz. Oh, and there’s that guy from Bunny And The Bull who seems to be Julian Barratt’s stunt double.
There is the occasional gag that lands, but this is all a bit Grange Hill with sparkly nobs on. Only not half as cool as that sounds.
Review by Paul Byrne
21 & OVER (USA/16/93mins)
Directed by Jon Lucas and Scott Moore. Starring Justin Chon, Miles Teller, Skylar Astin.
THE PLOT: Jeff Chang (Justin Chon) is turning 21, so his friends Miller (Miles Teller) and Casey (Skylar Astin) blaze into his college town to take him out for a night he will never forget. The trouble is that Jeff’s father has other ideas.
THE VERDICT: 21 & OVER comes from the writing and directing team that brought us THE HANGOVER and, while this sounds like a dream combination – teenagers and The Hangover guys – remember that the second Hangover movie was nowhere near as good as the first.
Astin and Teller play the sensible and the obnoxious friends, respectively. Neither one is allowed to develop the character beyond the bounds of the obvious, so Casey spends the film chasing after a girl with a boyfriend, and Miller is drunk, obnoxious and slightly rapey for most of the film. Justin Chon, as Jeff, spends most of the film unconscious or running, so he certainly never gets a chance to develop the character. That is, until the final 15 minutes, when Jeff suddenly becomes a different, more confident person and finally puts his foot down with regard to his future.
So the characters are not that well developed, but this is not a slow burning drama, this is a film about all night drinking and madcap situations, and there are certainly plenty of both. Within the first half hour of the film, we are treated so a slow motion vomit scene, and a character urinating while standing on the bar, so this should give an idea of what the film is aiming for; lowest common denominator. There seems to be a belief in cinema at the moment that, in order to be funny and speak to teenagers, the film must focus on the ridiculous and forget any attempt to tell story or define characters. Congratulations then, 21 & OVER, you have succeeded.
There are a couple of laughs through the film, but it is easy to see that these have mostly been inspired by the premise of THE HANGOVER and the best throwaway lines from ANCHORMAN. The Tower of Power looks to be fun, but didn’t they do something similar on BLUE MOUNTAIN STATE?
21 & OVER is a gross-out ‘comedy’ that will surely play well with some demographic somewhere, it is just hard to see what that demographic is, as 21 & OVER felt unoriginal and uninspired.
Review by Brogen Hayes
DEAD MAN DOWN (USA/15A/117mins)
Directed by Niels Arden Oplev. Starring Colin Farrell, Noomi Rapace, Terrence Howard, Isabelle Huppert.
THE PLOT: Colin Farrell stars as Victor, a man seduced and blackmailed by his neighbour; a woman seeking revenge for a tragic accident that left her disfigured. Little does Beatrice (Noomi Rapace) realise, there is much more to Victor than meets the eye.
DEAD MAN DOWN is made by the same man who made the Swedish GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO – Niels Arden Oplev – and it seems the director has not grown or developed since moving into the realm of Hollywood cinema, instead, he continues in the way that worked for the first of three films in the Millennium Trilogy.
THE VERDICT: Colin Farrell does what he can with the character of Victor, but every time he tries to round the character out, he seems to have been pushed back. Victor is taking out a vendetta on the man that he works for, and we know that Beatrice may have seen something she shouldn’t have, but we are not told about Victor’s past until late into the second act of the film, which leaves it just long enough for the audience not to care about the character. As well as this, being monosyllabic and violent with a bad accent does not a character make.
Similar goes for Beatrice. Noomi Rapace does what she can with the character, but she so quickly shows herself to be without scruple that, by the time Beatrice truly reveals herself we have lost interest. Neither hero nor anti-hero, Beatrice comes off as ill defined. Scars do not a character make, either.
It is never really clear why Isabelle Huppert signed up for DEAD MAN DOWN. Having given a stellar performance in AMOUR last year, Huppert is reduced to a hard of hearing mother who wants nothing more than to set her daughter up with a nice murderer. Terrence Howard gives another lacklustre performance as the villain, Alphonse. Dominic Cooper hams it up spectacularly as henchman Darcy.
Writer J.H. Wyman has most recently been involved in TV’s FRINGE, but with DEAD MAN DOWN, what should be a slow burning noir mystery turns into a boring and badly paced story about revenge. The set up is interesting, but the film tries to capitalise on the monosyllabic and stoic nature of the Driver from Drive, but does not give him anything real to fight for, leaving Victor feeling creepy rather than anything else.
Niels Arden Oplev made THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO for television, and it seems that this is where his talent lies. Dead Man Down feels like a Tuesday afternoon TV movie, and never lives up to its premise. Character development is non-existent and emotional turns come off as creepy or hammy. It seems that Oplev’s success with the DRAGON TATTOO may have been a fluke.
DEAD MAN DOWN could have been an interesting and entertaining noir thriller with a healthy dose of mystery. Instead the film suffers from ill defined characters, messy pacing and a ridiculous final battle. Although DEAD MAN DOWN is silly, it is not silly enough to be entertaining, or serious enough to carry the weight of its bad characterisation.
Review by Brogen Hayes
GIMME THE LOOT! (USA/15A/80mins)
Directed by Adam Leon. Starring Ty Hickson, Tashiana Washington.
THE PLOT: The film follows two young graffiti artists as they try to do the impossible; tag the giant apple at Citi Field, or Shea Stadium as they call it, in New York. This has been tried many times over the past 20 years, but Sofia (Tashiana Washington) and Malcolm (Ty Hickson) believe they are the ones who will finally succeed.
THE VERDICT: GIMME THE LOOT is a sweet story of two friends running across New York City, pulling scams to try and raise the money they need to make their dreams come true. The acting may leave a little to be desired at times, but in all, the film is a charming story of friendship and loyalty.
This is not the first film for either of the lead actors, but at times both Hickson, Washington and the rest of the cast feel as though they are waiting to be fed lines, rather than allowing the dialogue to spring from their situations. That said, there are genuine moments within the film, and these are mostly when Hickson and GIRL are interacting one on one.
The catalyst that sets this duo on a voyage across New York City is one of fame and legend. It has been 20 years since someone first attempted to graffiti the apple at Citi Field/Shea Stadium, and none have succeeded. Malcolm and Sofia decide that doing this would cement their names as street artists and gain them respect from rival gangs. As they try and raise the money they need to make this happen, it seems that fate is against them; they are mugged, have their shoes stolen and their clothes tagged by rival gangs, but they are not deterred. Morality does not come into play in their quest and they see no wrong in stealing from others to make their dreams come true. That said, these are still endearing characters and the audience is rooting for them to succeed.
Perhaps the fault for the wooden acting lies with director Adam Leon. The film feels focused on dialogue and profanity, and if this was the primary focus then it stands to reason that acting would suffer. However the simple story and endearing characters go some way to make up for this.
In all, GIMME THE LOOT is a portrait of a certain section of New York society. In their quest for respect, Malcolm and Sofia discover the good and the bad in their city and ultimately, they discover one another. Underneath the slightly underwhelming performances is a sweet story of loyalty and friendship that left the audience smiling.
Review by Brogen Hayes