THE YOUNG OFFENDERS (Ireland/15A/84mins)
Directed by Peter Foott. Starring Alex Murphy, Chris Walley, Hilary Rose, PJ Gallagher, Dominic MacHale
THE PLOT: In 2007, 61 bales of cocaine were washed into the sea off the coast of Cork. 15 year olds Conor (Alex Murphy) and Jock (Chris Walley) dream of a better life, away from stealing bikes in Cork City and getting chased by local police, so when they hear that each bale of cocaine floating in the sea is work €7 million, they steal bikes and head off on the trip of their lives.
THE VERDICT: Inspired by real events, ‘The Young Offenders’ is an over the top dream of a movie, starring two young actors whose chemistry together in screen feels real and infectious, as well as a cast of characters that will be instantly recognisable to Irish audiences.
Alex Murphy and Chris Walley lead the cast as the wannabe young offenders of the title. The two characters – Conor and Jock – are not only best friends, but they egg each other on as they desperately try to make better lives for themselves through petty crimes. The two are opportunistic but charming, and their natural feeling relationship is lovely to watch on screen, even as they tease one another, jokingly fight and generally behave as though they don’t like each other; it’s the Irish way. These two are backed up by Hilary Rose as Conor’s mother Mairead, PJ Gallagher as a man hell bent on vengeance and Dominick MacHale as tenacious local Garda Healy.
Peter Foott’s screenplay takes its inspiration from true events, then pits two fictional characters against the truth. The fact that people flocked to Cork to try and fish bales of cocaine out of the sea is not necessarily true, but definitely could be, and this is where the screenplay not only gets its charm, but also its outlandishness. The pacing of the film is strong for the most part, although the final act of the film – after the road movie portion of the film is over – feels as though it runs out of energy. The laughs are there in the film, but are rather intermittently spaced, and a lot of them seem to come from scenes that feel improvised rather than deftly scripted.
As director, Foott makes the film a sundrenched caper – unusual for Irish film in more than one way – and it is a joy to spend time with these two foul mouthed wannabe criminals as they are chased all over County Cork by a tenacious cop determined to catch them for petty theft, without realising what they are actually on the road for. The film is well paced for the most part, but the over the top final act and some dodgy acting from comedian PJ Gallagher and a rogue nail gun ups the ante in almost the wrong way.
In all, ‘The Young Offenders’ is a quirky comedy with plenty of heart, but it falls apart slightly in the final act, the laughs are paced through the film but it struggles through some messy pacing. It is a delight to spend time with Conor and Jock – the two tearaways at the heart of the film – and it is clear that these are two young actors on the rise.
Review by Brogen Hayes
HUNT FOR THE WILDERPEOPLE (New Zealand/12A/101mins)
Directed by Taika Waititi. Starring Sam Neil, Julian Dennison, Taika Waititi, Rhys Darby, Rima Te Wiata
THE PLOT: Ricky Baker (Julian Dennison) is sent to live on a remote New Zealand farm with his new foster parents Hec (Sam Neill) and Bella (Rima Te Wiata), as a last resort; Ricky has a reputation for being troubled, so the hope is that so far away from everything, he cannot get into trouble. When Bella unexpectedly dies, Child Services arrange to take Ricky back into care so he makes a run for it, with Hec following after him. With the two hiding out in the wilderness, and rumours circulating of child sexual abuse – of which there is none – Hec and Ricky have no choice but to live off the land until the national manhunt for the pair is called off.
THE VERDICT: Directed by Taika Waititi, ‘Hunt for the Wilderpeople’ is as strange and wonderful as you could hope, seeing as Waititi previously brought us ‘Eagle Vs Shark’ and ‘What We Do in the Shadows’. A tale of renegades, outlaws and two people making a connection, ‘Hunt for the Wilderpeople’ is fun, funny and surprisingly touching.
Julian Dennison is on fantastic form as the pre-teenage Ricky Baker in ‘Hunt for the Wilderpeople’. Not so much troubled as ignored, Dennison makes Baker charming and slightly ridiculous, as he tries to become the gangster he believes himself to be, and seemingly has trouble staying quiet for more than a couple of moments. In this way, Ricky is the perfect foil for Sam Neill’s monosyllabic Hec, who seems to only want to be left alone in life, but when duty calls, he answers. The two are lovely on screen together, and make for an utterly charming and watchable odd couple. The rest of the cast features Taika Waititi, Rima Te Waita, Rachel House, Oscar Kightley and Rhys Darby, whose small cameo is hilarious and delightfully odd.
As screenwriter, Taika Waititi has adapted Barry Crump’s book ‘Wild Pork and Watercress’, and sets it in a heightened reality where a missing foster kid would cause a national manhunt. This then allows Waititi to populate the film with over the top characters, and makes a small adventure seem huge and dangerous. The dialogue for the film is top notch, and simultaneously takes the mick out of new Zealand and those who call the country at the bottom of the world home, while simultaneously being a love letter to Waititi’s homeland. There are also several references to other films in this madcap and charming film, including ‘Thelma and Louise’, and ‘The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring’, which of course, has been one of New Zealand’s most successful cinematic outings.
As director, Taika Waititi makes sure that ‘Hunt for the Wilderpeople’ is funny and exciting in equal measure, coaxing wonderful and slightly absurd performances from his cast, while taking full advantage of New Zealand’s beautiful scenery in the film. The entire film is imbued with a sense of adventure, with a warm heart beating at the centre of the film that leaves the audience never wanting this odyssey across New Zealand to end.
In all, ‘Hunt for the Wilderpeople’ is odd, funny and utterly heart warming. Dennison and Neill are wonderful together, and Taika Waititi has done a wonderful job in making a small story seem huge, and allowing the audience to care for the characters right from the very start. ‘Hunt for the Wilderpeople’ is a truly special cinematic experience, and a film that needs to be seen.
Review by Brogen Hayes
BLAIR WITCH (USA/16/89mins)
Directed by Adam Wingard. Starring James Allen McCune, Callie Hernandez, Corbin Reid, Brandon Scott, Wes Robinson
THE PLOT: James (James Allen McCune) discovers some footage in which he believes to have spotted his long-lost sister Heather. She disappeared in a house within the woods reputed to be haunted by the infamous Blair Witch. He is determined to find out what happened to her, so he teams up with Lisa (Callie Hernandez) and a few others friends to venture out into the woods near Burkittsville.
They kit up, with wearable tech and a small remote-control drone for aerial footage but soon find themselves lost in the woods. They start to lose sense of time as well, with hours and even days passing by in the blink of an eye. Then there are loud noises in the night, creepy stick figures appear all around the camp and a presence is soon felt. The presence of something evil…
THE VERDICT: Released in 1999, ‘The Blair Witch Project’ generated a lot of hype surrounding whether it was based on actual found footage or whether it was a fictional story. The then-innovative website stoked a lot of curiosity and interest… but the film itself turned out to be over-hyped and under-whelming to the point where this reviewer could not see what all the fuss was about. Fast forward 17 years and we have ‘Blair Witch’ as it is now called, a stealth sequel that hid under the name of ‘The Woods’ while in production.
Unlike ‘Book Of Shadows: Blair Witch 2’, this new film is actually a direct sequel to the 1999 original. Once again, it has been hyped up. Take the exaggerated quotes on the poster with a pinch of salt. This is neither one of the scariest films of all time nor a new beginning for horror – that would be more applicable to the excellent ‘It Follows. Instead, it is something of a re-hash of the original but updated for more found footage-aware modern audiences.
Just when you thought the found footage sub-genre had nowhere else to go and nothing new to say… along comes this new take. The catch this time though is that it is a chase film which ups the ante by having more scary moments and actually giving the audience fleeting glimpses of the Blair Witch herself. That is both a good thing and a bad thing – good in that it creates tension and terror, bad in that the audience’s imagination is not as relied upon this time to fill in the visual blanks. What you see in your mind is far scarier than anything else a director can put onscreen.
Director Adam Wingard has already proven himself to be a superb director of modern genre films with ‘You’re Next’ and ‘The Guest’. ‘Blair Witch’ is an interesting turn of direction for him, going back to another film and seeing what could be done with it now. The use of technology in the film is a welcome addition, as is the attempt at exploring the backstory of the Blair Witch. There are certainly some unsettling and claustrophobic what-is-that moments that crank up the tension and atmosphere, particularly in the rain-soaked finale. But the film lacks the originality that Wingard has displayed so far in his other work. The characters are cardboard-thin and indistinguishable from each other – they are just cyphers to run and be terrified. That said though, ‘Blair Witch’ has its scary moments and is gut-wrenchingly entertaining from the get-go. This is one journey back into the woods that is mostly worth taking.
Review by Gareth O’Connor
BRIDGET JONES’S BABY (Ireland | UK | France | USA/15A/122mins)
Directed by Sharon Maguire. Starring Renée Zellweger, Colin Firth, Patrick Dempsey, Gemma Jones, Jim Broadbent
THE PLOT: Five years after the end of her relationship with Mark Darcy (Colin Firth), Bridget Jones (Renée Zellwegger) finds herself celebrating her birthday alone… Again. In a effort to turn over a new leaf, Bridget and her work colleague Miranda (Sarah Solemani) head to a music festival for a bit of fun. After she hooks up with the dashing Jack (Patrick Dempsey) at the festival, and falls back into bed with the familiar Mark Darcy a few days later, Bridget finds herself pregnant, with no clue who the father could be.
THE VERDICT: 12 years after her last big screen outing, Bridget Jones is back for more. This time, everyone’s favourite singleton is 43, and although she may have finally got her weight under control, her love life is as much of a mess as ever, and although there may be simple answers in real life, this wouldn’t be a Bridget Jones movie if she didn’t make a right mess of everything.
Most of the cast from the first two movies have returned for ‘Bridget Jones’s Baby’; Renée Zellweger, Colin Firth, Gemma Jones, Jim Broadbent, Sally Phillips, Shirley Henderson and James Callis are all back in their roles, with new additions from Patrick Dempsey as the charming but annoying Jack and Sarah Solemani as Bridget’s rather funny and fearless new friend Miranda. All of the cast do fine in their roles, but it is Emma Thompson as Bridget’s gynaecologist Dr Rawlings that is the standout in the film, with her consistently funny quips and perfect timing.
The screenplay – which is not based on a Bridget Jones book for the first time in the franchise – was written by Helen Fielding, Dan Mazer and Emma Thompson, but it struggles to make Bridget relevant 12 years after her last movie. Bridget Jones was never a character that was particularly feminist, but this time out her views on motherhood and love seem positively archaic, and her decision to keep the baby she finds herself pregnant with seems to be purely based on the fact that her obviously bonkers mother seems to think she should have given in to her biological imperative by now. The jokes, such as they are, are really not that funny – thank god for Emma Thompson! – and the idea of throwing a cameo in from Ed Sheeran feels very out of place.
As director, Sharon Maguire never really manages to get the film moving in terms of its pace, and although Bridget has swapped her handwritten diary for an iPad, her words actually turning up on screen is erratic and jarring when it finally does happen. The performances are perfectly fine, although the comedic timing is off, for the most part, and there is a feeling of familiarity about the whole thing as Bridget still falls over, hooks up with the wrong guy and, even though she should know better, generally makes a mess of things. Also, just a point of order, there are easier ways to do paternity tests than amniocentesis.
In all, ‘Bridget Jones’s Baby’ feels as though it is trying too hard to be funny, to be relatable and to be relevant. There are precious few laughs throughout the film, and the entire affair feels rather dated and backward looking. We can only hope now that Bridget has a family, she will finally do some growing up.
Review by Brogen Hayes
THE BEATLES: EIGHT DAYS A WEEK – THE TOURING YEARS (UK | USA/12A/137mins)
Directed by Ron Howard. Starrring Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr, John Lennon, George Harrison, Eddie Izzard
THE PLOT: In 1964, The Beatles stopped touring, after years of being on the road, and gruelling schedules. Filmmaker Ron Howard takes a look at the years leading up the decision for the band to stop playing live, and the madness that was Beatlemania.
THE VERDICT: The title for Ron Howard’s newest documentary on The Beatles seems pretty darn appropriate; at the height of the mania that surrounded them, the band were releasing a single every three months and were almost always on tour. Eight days in a week would have suited this schedule down to the ground, so they could play as many shows as possible. This could not go on indefinitely however, and the band quickly tired of the music coming second to the spectacle of The Beatles.
Ron Howard takes a look back over the years between the small gigs the band played at The Cavern Club in Liverpool, through to when Beatlemania started with “Please Please Me” in 1963, and the subsequent tours that were the first for the band since their regular trips to Ham burg in the early days. What is clear through archive footage and new interviews with Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr, Eddie Izzard, Elvis Costello, Whoopi Goldberg and others is the fun that the band had with this first brush with mega stardom, and their first trip to the US. The archive footage shows four cheeky, funny and united young men playing with their fans and the media, while shaking u the status quo with their very presence.
While it is always enjoyable to watch The Beatles at the height of their fame, it is not long before dissent and unhappiness begins to set in, a fact that Howard carefully shows, as well as the justifications for the bands unhappiness; they made all their money from touring due to their bad record deal, but they knew the audience could not hear their music over screaming girls, and music began to play second fiddle to the sight of The Beatles on stage. Howard shows this with great care, against the backdrop of the period in history, when the civil rights movement was on the rise, as was the era of the “teenager”, an era that allowed The Beatles to thrive.
The new interviews are revealing, and it is clear that Paul and Ringo have conflicting emotions when looking back over the touring years, while the archive footage shows the near hysteria that followed the band almost everywhere they went.
Ron Howard cleverly does not pay much attention to the personal lives of the band members at this point in their careers, instead focusing on the music and their experiences with fame. The music sounds great throughout the film, and reminds audiences of just how talented and smart The Beatles really were, making us want to dig out our favourite albums all over again.
In all, ‘The Beatles: Eight Days A Week – The Touring Years’ could serve as a cautionary tale for up and coming artists who desire fame and fortune. In focusing on just the years that the band tours, director Ron Howard reveals a new side of the band that often gets skimmed over in the rush to tell the complete story. ‘The Beatles: Eight Days A Week – The Touring Years’ is a delight for fans of The Beatles and perhaps a warning for those who desperately desire international renown.
Review by Brogen Hayes
THE SIEGE OF JADOTVILLE (Ireland|South Africa/15A/108mins)
Directed by Richie Smyth. Starring Jamie Dornan, Mark Strong, Jason O’Mara, Michael McElhatton, Amy Louise Wilson
THE PLOT: In the early 1960s, as both sides of the Cold War vied for control of the newly created Republic of the Congo and the rich minerals the country was home to, Irish peacekeeping troops were sent to the country by the UN to keep watch at the Jadotville compound. After a military operation goes wrong, the Irish troops suddenly find themselves laid siege to by French and Belgian mercenaries. Outnumbered and outgunned, it seems that help is not on the way.
THE VERDICT: Based in true events and the novel ‘The Siege at Jadotville: The Irish Army’s Forgotten Battle’ by Declan Power, ‘The Siege of Jadotville’ serves as recognition for Irish soldiers whose brave standoff was swept under the carpet after they were forced to surrender. The film is actually a Netflix Original, but after a successful screening at the Galway Film Fleadh, ‘The Siege of Jadotville’ is getting a release in Irish cinemas.
Jamie Dornan leads the cast, and is backed up by Mark Strong, Michael McElhatton, Mikael Persbrandt, Amy Louise Wilson and Jason O’Mara. All of the cast are fine in their roles, but this is not really a character driven film, but one that focuses on the shoot ‘em up siege in the middle of nowhere.
Kevin Brodbin’s screenplay is sufficient for the most part, but a little more attention could have been paid to the history of the conflict in the Congo, and the events that led to the siege in Jadotville since pieces of the puzzle only fall into place towards the end of the film. The Irish troops are shown as plucky and strong, and the dialogue between them feels real and relatable.
As director, first timer Richie Smyth does well with the action sequences in the film; these are exciting and fast paced and, since this is a story that was suppressed for so long, keep the audience at the edge of their seats. The background of the conflict is dealt with with less care, and this is where the film falters, and although we root for the Irish soldiers as a group, no one of them is brought properly to the fore, so we are never truly given a central character to root for.
In all, ‘The Siege of Jadotville’ is an important story, and it is great to see a story kept secret finally make it to the big screen. The set pieces are well created and the cast do well in their roles, but greater attention to characters and the background to the conflict in the Congo would have made for a stronger and more engaging film.
Review by Brogen Hayes
THE INFILTRATOR (USA/15A/127MINS)
Directed by Bud Furman. Starring Bryan Cranston, John Leguizamo, Diane Kruger, Daniel Mays, Tom Vaughan-Lawlor
THE PLOT: It’s 1980s America, and federal agent Robert Mazur (Cranston) is leading a double-life, being the good husband and father at home, and being pretty much whatever undercover badass creation his bosses need him to win this darn war on drugs. Shooting straight ain’t always easy, of course, especially when the drug ring you’ve worked so hard to win over gift you a fine hooker but your faithfulness to your wife means you got to create a fine fiancee. Who, in turn, the Feds have to flesh out, by putting a wide-eyed bit streetwise rookie (Kruger) on your case too.
Hoping to work his way right up through the drug chain to current kingpin Pablo Escobar – who we merely glance in a lobby – Mazur rises incredibly high through the ranks, he and his blushing bride-to-be getting up close and very personal with the Mexican crime lord’s second-in-command, Roberto Alcaino (Bratt). Have they gotten a little too close to do their job properly though…?
THE VERDICT: Taking an enormously thrilling, real-life undercover narcotics cop story and turning into a fairly thrilling, real-life undercover narcotics cop film, ‘The Infiltrator’ feels, for the most part, like The Imitator. We’ve been down in the underbelly of America’s crime lords many times before, and the distance Ted Demme’s ‘Blow’ or Mike Newell’s ‘Donnie Brasco’ are from Scorsese’s Goodfellas, well, Furman’s film is that distance again.
It’s one of those films where nothing’s actually wrong – good story, good cast, a mercifully muted John Leguizamo – but something’s not quite right. With The Infiltrator, there’s no true rush to the head here. And its two-hour running length begins to drag heavily about halfway through. So much so that you soon find yourself trying to place all the strong character actors in the support slots. “Hey, there’s that nice geezer from ‘This Is England’, the one who played Woody!”. “Oooh, Daniel Mays, from ‘Ashes To Ashes’!”. “Ah, it’s feckin’ Nidge, off ‘Love/Hate’!”.
So, file under Tuesday night, More4, 9pm.
Review by Paul Byrne