This week’s movie reviews, including Rise of The Guardians, Death of a Superhero and more…
DEATH OF A SUPERHERO (Germany/Ireland/15A/97mins)
Directed by Ian Fitzgibbon. Starring Thomas Brodie-Sangster, Andy Serkis, Jessica Schwarz, Ronan Rafferty, Sharon Horgan, Michael McElhatton, Aisling Loftus, Ned Dennehy.
THE PLOT: Determined to not just fade away, 15-year-old Dubliner Donald Clarke (Brodie-Sangster) is waging his own war on the leukemia that has left his parents (McElhatton and Horgan) visibly reeling – and sent the boy himself deeper into his comic strip hero drawings (beautifully realized here by Trixter, the German animation outfit). Being bald on top of being that little bit different means Donald doesn’t exactly see himself as the coolest kid in class. It’s a view seemingly not shared by troubled new arrival Shelly (Loftus), the sort of Goth chick who smokes in class. Also on his side is the reclusive, Starsky-cardigan-wearing, glasses-on-the-end-of-the-nose psychiatrist Adrian King (Serkis), a man who is battling his own demons…
THE VERDICT: Cinema doesn’t have a great track record when it comes to the old raging-against-the-dying-of-the-light genre. For every 50/50 (2011), there’s at least a dozen soppy offerings like Sweet November (a 2001 remake of a 1968 feelsick hit), A Walk To Remember (2002) and My Sister’s Keeper (2009). Thankfully, Ian Fitzgibbon’s Dublin-set drama is far closer in spirit and tone to Levitt and Rogen than it is to Theron and co, Death Of A Superhero – think Bad Will Hunting, or About A Dying Boy – finding the humour in the tragedy. And therefore making that tragedy all the more tragic. Young Thomas Brodie-Sangster (all grown up from being the little drummer boy in Love Actually) gives a truly touching performance, offering up a tangible sense of a boy caught between his first love and his last breath.
RISE OF THE GUARDIANS (USA/G/97mins)
Directed by Peter Ramsey. Starring the voices of Hugh Jackman, Alec Baldwin, Chris Pine, Isla Fisher, Jude Law, Dakota Goyo, Khamani Griffin, Kamil McFadden.
THE PLOT: When that dastardly swine Pitch (voiced by Jude Law) decides to paint our humble little planet black (all the better for kiddies to have nightmares, you see), it’s going to take more than one supercuddly superhero to save our sleeps. To be precise, it’s going to take five supercuddly superheroes – namely North, aka Santa Claus (Baldwin), E. Aster Bunnymund, aka the Easter Bunny (Jackman), Tooth, aka the Tooth Fairy (Fisher), and reluctant young upstart Jack Frost (Pine). But, will this unlikely crew pull together and get it together in time for our golden slumbers…?
THE VERDICT: For a very short while there, this big, shiny DreamWorks Animation offering was starting to look like the movie to beat at next February’s Oscars. Back in early October, The Hollywood Reporter basically said as much, with a headline that screamed Rise Of The Guardians Unveiled, Rises To Top Tier Of Animated Contenders. And then the movie actually came out. To decent if not quite spectacular reviews. And, in the US, to decent if not quite spectacular box-office.
So, now that your expectations have been lowered a tad, you may actually enjoy this Avengers-for-kiddies fireworks display. For me, it’s another beautiful, busy movie overcooked by DreamWorks. All in yawn-o-rama 3D, of course.
MOVIES.IE’S ONE TO WATCH
Directed by Ben Wheatley. Starring Alice Lowe, Steve Oram, Eileen Davis, Richard Glover, Monica Dolan, Jonathan Aris, Richard Lumsden.
THE PLOT: It’s Badlands in the Midlands, as nerdy middle-aged lovebirds Chris (Oram) and Tina (Lowe) go more than a little nuts in May after they head off on caravan holiday together through some minor British attractions. Tina lives with her right Royle mum (Davis), a woman who isn’t about to let her daughter go without a death-rattle moan or two. The old bat may have met her match in Chris though, a man who is psychotic about good manners. Just how psychotic we soon witness, as the couple’s grand week out starts rattling up the body count…
THE VERDICT: Writers – and stars – Alice Lowe and Steve Oram first came up with the characters of misfit Brummie couple Chris and Tina 24 years ago, as a live double-act, their teaming up here with Kill List writer/director Ben Wheatley a somewhat perfect fit for this black country comedy. Think Wallace & Gromit meets Natural Born Killers. Or Terry & June: Portrait Of A Right Pair Of Serial Killers. Proving once again there’s a thin line between dark humour and blood-splattering horror, Sightseers is a deliciously evil treat, and a film that proves once again that anyone who owns a small dog is trouble. And troubled.
TROUBLE WITH THE CURVE (USA/12A/111mins)
Directed by Robert Lorenz. Starring Clint Eastwood, Amy Adams, John Goodman, Justin Timberlake, Robert Patrick, Matthew Lillard, Scott Eastwood.
THE PLOT: Grizzly old baseball scout Gus Lobel (Eastwood) may not be losing his touch, but he is losing his sight. Too damn grizzly to admit such a failing, it’s left to his saintly buddy Pete (Goodman) to find a solution – enlist the help of Gus’ lawyer daughter Mickey (Adams) to accompany the old codger on his yearly scouting trip through the Carolinas. Much bantering, bitching and bonding ensues, as the dynamically opposed duo try to find some common ground. Like, eh, a great instinct about baseball, perhaps? Hot on their trail is rival scout Johnny (Timberlake), who soon has the hots for Gus’ hot-headed daughter…
THE VERDICT: The once invincible Eastwood once again trots out his grumpy old-ways-are-best routine to just about as much effect as his unfunny uncle turn for his beloved Republican Party back in August. Clint’s trouble with the chair will no doubt prove to be the cinema icon’s biggest hit this year, Trouble With The Curve being a baseball family saga so predictable that you’re always at least three plays ahead of the plot. Some will find comfort in such capital letter clichés – especially after their sense of fair play in this ferociously dull American sport (for your average three-hour game, the ball is in play for 15-17 minutes) has taken a mild kicking courtesy of Moneyball – but, for most sensible folk, this is going to prove a mildly disappointing rental.
THE HUNT (Denmark/15A/115mins)
Directed by Thomas Vinterberg. Starring Mads Mikkelsen, Thomas Bo Larsen, Annika Wedderkopp, Lasse Fogelstrom, Alexandra Rapaport, Susse Wold, Anne Louise Hassing, Lars Ranthe, Ole Dupont.
THE PLOT: It’s November, and life seems sweet in this small, close-knit Danish community. Just back from a drunken hunting weekend in the woods with his mates – including best friend Theo (Larsen) – popular kindergarten teacher Lucas (Mikkelsen) has hardly a worry in the world. Well, just the one – his ex-wife is making access to his teenage son, Marcus (Fogelstrom) very, very difficult. Other than that though, the kids love Lucas (even lying in ambush every morning for his arrival), and new teacher Nadja (Rapaport) thinks he’s cute.
She’s not the only one. Little Klara (Wedderkopp) is having trouble getting to and from school, thanks to her constantly bickering parents. As luck would have it, Lucas is best friends with Klara’s dad, Theo (Larsen), and is more than happy to walk her there and back. When Klara lets her growing crush be known to Lucas though, he quickly informs her that kissing on the lips is purely for mums and dads. As any fool knows though, hell had no fury like a woman scorned – not even when that woman is four years old. Klara soon claims that Lucas sexually abused her, and, unsurprisingly, her word is far, far stronger than his. It doesn’t take long for the town to ostracize him. Completely…
THE VERDICT: It’s taken a while for Thomas Vinterberg to deliver on the promise of his astounding 1998 breakthrough, but The Hunt certainly packs the gut-punch of Festen. It’s a timely film too – this might just be The Crucible for our times. Or, at the very least, Doubt with clout. The merest whiff of child abuse, and the accused is Jimmy Saville. Or is it Lord McAlpine? Suffice to say, it doesn’t take much these days to turn a community into a mob of Newsnight producers.
Not to belittle the dark, subtle savagery of Vinterberg’s powerful film, The Hunt seducing us entirely into this sweet life, and then pulling the rug from underneath as it all turns sour in one misinformed, misguided moment. It’s also a perfect example how a common enemy can spark a mob mentality, and by the end, you’re left feeling positively misanthropic.
Words – P Byrne