We review this week’s new cinema releases, including FRANK and THE WIND RISES…
Directed by Lenny Abrahamson. Starring Michael Fassbender, Domhnall Gleeson, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Scoot McNairy, Francois Civil, Carla Azar, Tess Harper, Paul Butterworth.
THE PLOT: Fassbender plays the eccentric Frank, forever hiding beneath a giant papier mache head, and regarded by those in his band as a certifiable genius, the craziest diamond of them all. When the band head to the wilds of Ireland to record the album that is going to change the world, and finally give Frank the recognition he deserves, along for the ride is their new wide-eyed keyboard player, Jon (Gleeson), our eyes and ears for some serious cabin fever (think Ted and Dougal trying to compose My Lovely Horse, but on mushrooms). Also in the mix is Gyllenhaal as the highly-strung and highly protective theremin ice queen Clara, musician Carla Azar as surly drummer Nana, Francois Civil as the far-from-civil French bass player Baraque, and Scoot McNairy as burnt-out manager Don.
THE VERDICT: A film that instantly polarised audiences from its Sundance debut at the start of the year, for director Abrahamson (ADAM & PAUL, GARAGE, WHAT RICHARD DID), the fact that many more people love FRANK than hate it has given him reason to be cheerful. Based on Jon Ronson’s account of his time in Frank Sidebottom’s band back in the 1980s (Sidebottom being the Shuttleworth-esque creation of Kaufman-esque Manc comedian Chris Sievey), Abrahamson’s movie follows the beat of its own drummer. Even if that drummer sometimes just uses his head. FRANK shares quite a bit of DNA with the loved Paolo Sorrentino’s unloved Dublin-based rock oddity THIS MUST BE THE PLACE, both films being, at heart, a free-form, stoned, Performance-tinged road trip.
Like all great pop eccentrics, you’re left wondering here whether boy is Mark E. Smith or Marky Mark. And it hardly matters. It’s the journey, not the destination. It’s the size of the ego, not the audience.
Review by Paul Byrne
THE WIND RISES (Japan/PG/126mins)
Directed by Hayao Miyazaki. Starring the voices of Hideaki Anno, Morio Kazama, Jun Kunimura, Hidetoshi Nishijima, Masahiko Nishimura, Mansai Nomura.
THE PLOT: Thanks to the bumpy, uneven arc of real life, the true-life tale of famed Japanese airplane designer Jiro Horikoshi (Hideaki) hits quite a bit of turbulence on its way to a happy ending. Of sorts. His dreams of becoming a pilot dashed at a young age, thanks to his nearsightedness, the teenage Jiro finds inspiration in famed Italian aeronautical designer Caproni (Mansai). Living through the Great Kanto Earthquake of 1923, The Great Depression, the tuberculosis epidemic and Japan’s plunge into war means Jiro’s dreams are often put on hold, but his pioneering airplane designs revolutionise the industry just as he settles down with the love of his life, Nahoko (Takimoto)…
THE VERDICT: The swansong of the man who, for many, is the true heir to Walter Elias Disney, Hayao Miyazaki’s latest technicolour dream isn’t quite dreamy enough. Of course, there is incredible beauty to be found here, but they’re often just a glanced oasis in a desert of some fairly flat storytelling. That Miyazaki’s long farewell should prove to be one of his more mediocre offerings is a shame, but it still boasts those moments of breathtaking beauty.
Based on a true story (think the young Howard Hughes in Wonderland), Miyazaki’s trademark magic-realism is this time stuck heavily in the realism. Which is hardly our boy’s strong point. It’s hard to dazzle when you’re depicting a gormless German playing some oompah-pah on the piano to an indifferent room or eating what appears to be a great big bowl of hedge. Like every Miyazaki, this is worth seeing, especially on the big screen. It’s just not, you know, crucial.
Review by Paul Byrne
MOVIES.IE’S ONE TO WATCH!
NEXT GOAL WINS (UK/IFI/97mins)
Directed by Mike Brett, Steve Jamison. Starring Thomas Rongen, Jaiyah Saelua, Nicky Salapu, Gene Ne’emia, Larry Mana’o, Rawlston Masaniai, Charles Uhrle.
THE PLOT: The tiny island of American Samoa knows it’s got possibly the worst football team out there, not having won in 17 years. During that time, the national soccer team have scored only two goals, whilst giving up 229. Back in 2001, it played Australia, losing that particular match 0:31 – a record defeat for international soccer. As they prepare for the FIFA 2014 World Cup, we jump back to 2011, when British commercials directors Brett and Jamison (making their feature debut here) first starting charting the team’s fortunes. Competing in the Pacific Games in New Caledonia, the team suffered five straight losses, and let in 26 goals. Not a good start. But then, along comes Dutch maverick Thomas Rongen as their new coach, responding to a challenge to turn around the team in one month…
THE VERDICT: A film that’s unlikely to be noticed at the box-office this weekend, NEXT GOAL WINS is undoubtedly the finest film to hit our screens this weekend. Like all great films, it’s equal parts comedy and tragedy. All human life is here, and quite a lot of our emotional maps are played out too, as various team members battle their own demons and enjoy their own little victories on the team’s path to unlikely glory. When it comes to this particular team, just one goal would be deemed a victory. A near-historic victory. So, you know, there’s always hope.
Review by Paul Byrne