We review this week’s new cinema releases, including WHITE HOUSE DOWN and RUSH
WHITE HOUSE DOWN (USA/12A/131mins)
Directed by Roland Emmerich. Starring Channing Tatum, Jamie Foxx, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Jason Clarke, Richard Jenkins, Joey King, James Woods.
THE PLOT: The President’s brain is missing – or, to be more to the point, it’s in very real danger of being splattered all across the walls of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. Luckily, James Sawyer (Foxx) – a real Obama-esque charmer – isn’t averse to a little kick-ass violence when the going gets tough. Better still, he’s got a keen ex-Marine, John Cale (Tatum) by his side too. The latter hothead has just failed his Secret Service interview, and is taking his White House-crazy 11-year old daughter (King) along on a guided tour when a bomb takes down the Capitol dome. And that’s when proceedings go a little Die Hard. Mixed with a dash of Air Force One. And just a smidgen of Independence Day.
THE VERDICT: With a premise, cast and director that suggests a tongue-in-cheek comedy, it’s disappointing to find few laughs in the once-promising Roland Emmerich’s latest B-movie blockbuster. The surprise is that there are very few thrills either, which resulted in a surprise box-office defeat for young champ Channing Tatum, and yet another strike against Jamie Foxx. The latter really must thank his lucky stars daily that he landed in Django Unchained after Will Smith bailed, because taking that one glorious blaxploitation beauty out of Foxx’s stinker of a CV should have him in cameo purgatory right about now. Or worse, the West End.
Not much here to salvage in a fire, other than old supporting reliable such as Richard Jenkins, and seeing The Wire’s Lance Reddick (aka the upright, uptight Lt. Cedric Daniels) swing by. Other than that, this will be in Xtravision’s bargain bin before you can say ‘I reckon MLK would kick Obama’s ass right about now’.
Review by Paul Byrne
MOVIES.IE’S ONE TO WATCH!
Directed by Ron Howard. Starring Chris Hemsworth, Daniel Bruhl, Olivia Wilde, Natalie Dormer, Christian McKay, Stephen Mangan, Alistair Petrie, Pierfrancesco Favino, David Calder, Alexandra Maria Lara.
THE PLOT: Based on the real-life rivalry between Formula 1 legends James Hunt (Hemsworth) and Niki Lauda (Bruhl) – who pretty much ruled the racing car roost in the 1970s – Rush initially charts the former British ladies man’s ramshackle rise through the small leagues before he encounters the latter, the Austrian Lauda, just as they both moved into the big league. The footloose and fancy free Hunt takes the George Best approach to preparation and performance whilst Lauda analyses every aspect of the race, right down to the weight of the materials in his car. It’s clear who the public adore, but the seemingly fun-hating Lauda proves he might just be the better man after a pivotal race goes disastrously wrong for him…
THE VERDICT: Okay, I’m well aware of the fact that, for proper critics, the only 5-star film around right now is Paolo Sorrentino’s eyes-wide-open, forlorn Fellini homage The Great Beauty, but, dammit, despite its blockbuster pedigree (big stars, big director, big true-life story), for me, Rush is just as compelling, insightful and intelligent. It also happens to be a lot more fun.
It’s as though a flash Hollywood director had gotten his hands on the Ayrton Senna story. Which is pretty much what has happened here.
After the embarrassing misfire of The Dilemma and the travesty that is the Da Vinci Code franchise, Ron Howard returns somewhat to his Corman-produced Grand Theft Auto roots here, once again tackling the world of loose cars and fast women – and he does so with intoxicating style and dizzying pace. Hemsworth and Bruhl play it beautifully, and to their strengths, whilst the twists and turns of this Mozart-versus-Salieri-on-wheels rivalry are so incredibly, eh, twisty and turny, well, let’s just say that you just couldn’t make it up.
When it comes to strategy and career, Hunt is the hare and Lauda the tortoise amorous vs anal, up-for-it vs uptight – and the more Top Gear the golden-haired playboy becomes, the more you begin to admire, and favour, the dry and diligent ‘Ratboy’ (as James liked to call his rival). It’s like Rumble In The Jungle all over again, but with Frazer surging off the ropes after an 8-round beating instead of Ali. This is a film that will get your adrenaline pumping. It’s fast and furious but also true and deeply moving. It’s also a contender for film of the year, if you ask me. Alongside that arty Italian flick, of course.
Review by Paul Byrne
IN A WORLD… (USA/15A/93mins)
Directed by Lake Bell. Starring Lake Bell, Rob Corddry, Fred Melamed, Michaela Watkins, Eva Longoria
THE PLOT: Carol (Lake Bell), the daughter of a veteran voice-over actor, wants to break into the world so dominated by her father. The simple fact, however, is that this is a man’s game, with very little room for women. When the artist who originated the phrase ‘In a world…’ dies, Carol, her father (Fred Melamed) and rising star Gustav (Ken Marino) battle it out to make the phrase their own.
THE VERDICT: Who knew the world of the voice over was such a tough and competitive one? Bell has taken a world (sorry) that we are all aware of – that of the epic movie trailer – and crafted it into a story that resonates with the audience. As Carol, Bell herself is the kind of character the audience can relate to; she has her goals figured out, bit it seems the world is out to stop her from achieving them. Carol is sweet and warm and, although she makes some questionable decisions, this is part of what allows the audience to relate to her character.
Elsewhere, Fred Melamed, as Carols’ father Sam, is a man with a fantastic voice whose career is slipping as his midlife crisis takes hold, Ken Marino is just the sneaky womanising slime ball that is to be expected from someone who is slithering his way to the top. Rob Corddry and Michaela Watkins play Carol’s brother in law and sister, respectively, who she turns to when her life falls apart, without realising her actions could cause trouble between the couple. Nick Offerman turns up briefly as do Cameron Diaz and Eva Longoria.
Taking on the triple roles of writer, director and star is sure to have been a challenge for Bell, but she manages all three beautifully, as Carol, she is the warm heart of the film, her script is effortlessly funny and quirkily heartwarming and she coaxes the best from her cast as they negotiate the perils of breaking into a seemingly closed industry. The laughs come from the characters’ awkwardness and snappy one-liners, as well as the ridiculous situations they somehow find themselves in. However, the film does run out of steam here and there, and the love story seems a little shoehorned in for the sake of warmth.
In a World… is a brilliant premise for a movie, and is one that pays off. Pitting father against daughter is a great move, and Carol’s world is so familiar yet odd that it is easy for the audience to identify with. With In a World… Lake bell has proven herself a filmmaker to watch, while making audiences laugh, cry and have a think about what goes on behind the scenes of the things we take for granted.
Review by Brogen Hayes
JUSTIN AND THE KNIGHTS OF VALOUR (Spain/PG/97mins)
Directed by Manuel Silica. Starring Feddie Highmore, Saoirse Ronan, Antonio Banderas.
THE PLOT: Justin (Freddie Highmore) lives in an ancient world of dragons and heroes, where Knights have been outlawed by his lawyer father. When he is faced with going to college to be a lawyer like his father, Justin’s grandmother encourages him to go on a quest to become a Knight and protect his kingdom, like his gradfather did. Justin sets out on his journey, and meets a mysterious order of former Knights who are willing to train him. The trouble is that an angry former Knight is headed for the kingdom, and has sworn revenge on the Queen.
THE VERDICT: Justin and the Knights of Valour is a Spanish production presented by Antonio Banderas, who is obviously trying to do his bit for the Spanish film and animation industries, but there are better stories out there, or at least a more interesting way to tell this one.
Each character rides high on cliché; the controlling father, the wimpy son who does good, the tough chick who, for some reason, works in a fast food restaurant, the pretty but vapid girl. The list goes on. As for the villains, they are so thin and one dimensional as to be utterly boring. There is little motivation given and it seems that these villains are mean for the sake of it.
The animation looks good in places – mostly in the backgrounds – but the people in the film still look staid and plastic and, since the film was obviously animated to the Spanish language version of the dialogue, the lip-synching is an absolute mess. And it’s in 3D… Sigh.
The story is one that seems fine on the surface, but it is derivative of every other slightly medieval story you have come across; there are shades of The Princess Bride, Shrek and every adventure story you loved as a child, but watered down and thin. As well as this, there is a horse who behaves like a dog á la Tangled, a split personality magician and a massive chess like game being played over two continents… Ok, the last one is a rather nice idea, admittedly.
Manuel Silica’s film may well be lost in translation, and Spanish audiences will love it, but there seems to have been little imagination used, and Justin and the Knights of Valour comes of feeling reminiscent of everything, but with little substance and no appeal for either adults or kids.
Review by Brogen Hayes
INSIDIOUS: CHAPTER 2 (USA/15A/105mins)
Directed by James Wan. Starring Patrick Wilson, Rose Byrne, Barbara Hershey, Ty Simpkins, Lin Shaye, Steve Coulter, Leigh Whannell, Angus Simpson.
THE PLOT: It’s a new day, and a new house – grandma’s – so the Lambert family are hoping that all those things that went bump in the night will, you know, stay put. The head of the family, Josh (Wilson), isn’t too keen on revisiting the spooks’ home again either, but little does he realise that he brought something back from his trip to their parallel realm The Further. And so, it isn’t long before the nursery rhyme-soundtrack crazy starts happening all over again, as the roots start to stretch further back, into Josh’s childhood years…
THE VERDICT: I’m guessing even writer/director James Wan was a little spooked by the success of the 2010 original, but, just having repeated the trick – adding a light layer of slick to hackneyed scary movie cliches – with The Conjuring, there’s every chance he’ll make a fair chunk of change with this inevitable sequel. Even if it is sillier and, well, dumber than the original. In fact, the only semblance of integrity is to be found in its likeable leads, Wilson and Byrne. And the only semblance of intrigue is to be found in their agreeing to take part.
Of course, horror is pretty much the closest thing low-budget Hollywood has to a dead cert, with even the most inane and unoriginal offerings turning a tidy profit. All you need is a strong pitch, and a rug-pulling trailer. Heck, scratch the strong pitch thing – this is yet another haunted house/possessed kid schlock horrors, after all – all you need is the rug-pulling trailer. A jolt of fright is the only way some guys are going to get their date jumping into their arms. “He sees things no living person is supposed to see,” is a line that has stayed with me though.
Review by Paul Byrne