Reviews – New movies opening September 6th 2013

We review this week’s new cinema releases including AIN’T THEM BODIES SAINTS and ABOUT TIME…

Directed by David Lowery. Starring Rooney Mara, Casey Affleck, Ben Foster, Keith Carradine, Nate Parker, Robert Longstreet, Charles Baker.
It’s the wilds of Texas, the 1970s, and, after a little shoot-out at the shack, happy loving couple Bob (Affleck) and Ruth (Mara) are arrested, Bob going to jail after taking the rap for his wife. Just why they were involved in a shoot-out is never fully explained; we’re more concerned here with Bob’s promise to come back for Ruth. Even it means escaping from prison. Eventually. Ruth, meanwhile, is taken in by the kindly gentleman Skerritt (Carradine, on familiar ground, thanks to Thieves Like Us, McCabe & Mrs Miller and The Long Riders). Naturally, there’s more to all this than initially meets the roving camera eye…
Suffering from the same muffled Malick mystic that nobbled Shane Carruth’s recent Upstream Colour, it’s telling that writer/director David Lowery was editor on the latter. Just like Carruth, Lowery can handle just about every aspect of filmmaking, and here, after a string of shorts and two features, he’s finally put them all to good use. Not that Ain’t Them Bodies Saints is quite the modern noir western it so desperately wants to be. Casey got closer to that dark twisted genre with Michael Winterbottom’s The Killer Inside Me, Lowery’s flowery lover-come-back-to-me drama lacking that all-important true grit. Still, Mara and Affleck give it their considerable all.
Review by Paul Byrne

RIDDICK (USA/UK/15A/119mins)
Directed by David Twohy. Starring Vin Diesel, Karl Urban, Katee Sackhoff, Nolan Funk, Jordi Molla.
THE PLOT: Everyone’s favourite escaped convict and merry murderer returns, although we join Riddick (Diesel) as he somehow manages to lose the crown of Lord Marshal of the Necromongers – a crown he’d fought hard for nine years ago, in The Chronicles of Riddick – to the nasty Vaako (Urban). The latter leaves our hapless anti-hero on a planet almost as desolate and despairing as Kilcoole, but, after seeing to some of the hungry wildlife, Riddick finally makes it to an outpost of intergalactic thugs. Life on this hospitable planet surrounded by violent mercenaries soon wears off for Riddick though, and so he activates the beacon that will bring a slew of bounty hunters. Well, our boy does need some space wheels, after all…
THE VERDICT: Running with the second shot at box-office gold that everyone’s favourite undead franchise, The Fast & The Furious, has brought him, Vin Diesel does what any self-respecting Hollywood huckster would do with a second coming – resurrect a former glory. It’s a role that the bouncer-turned-glorified-extra has little trouble tackling, given that its demands are solely a deep voice and a shiny head, but even he has trouble igniting Riddick here. Reunited with the franchise creator David Twohy – the two having hit career paydirt with 2000’s Pitch Black – Diesel tries to make amends for the first sequel, 2004’s flabby The Chronicles Of Riddick, by the expressed promise of a tighter and more toned second sequel. At least, that’s the idea, reiterated by the sparse title, but Riddick is once again simply an antihero largely stepping into a series of flatteringly-lit battle sequences. Only this time, the budget ain’t half as big.
Despite the comeback status, the relatively young Vin Diesel is already beginning to smell like the new Chuck Norris. Or maybe he’s the new, luckier Tor Johnson? Nothing wrong with that, of course, but B-movie cool can only get you so far.
Review by Paul Byrne

Directed by Jem Cohen. Starring Mary Magaret O’Hara, Bobby Sommer.

THE PLOT: Museum Hours is the story of a friendship that springs up between a museum guard (Bobby Sommer) and a woman (Mary Margaret O’Hara) who finds herself in Vienna to visit her ailing relative.
THE VERDICT: Museum Hours could easily have been a tale of friendship and finding a connection in the most unexpected of places, and in a sense, it is. It is also an odd cinematic essay, art lecture and frankly, a mess.
Jem Cohen, renowned for his documentary work, tries to weave a narrative in with a documentary style, and make comments on the friendship between his leading characters, and the world we live in, through an extended scene that focuses on a tour guide taking visitors through the museum. It is easy to see that this is what the director was trying to do, but what comes out of the film is a self indulgent examination of the museum and an audience who is bored, confused and ultimately doesn’t care about the fate of any of the characters.
We do not get to know much about the central pair, which would not be a problem if there were some revelations through their interactions with one another, but there are not. All we are left with is a series of dull conversations about the history of Vienna, interspersed with awkward cuts to art work and the poles that are traditionally left on the streets of the city. As well as this, Cohen has somehow managed to make Vienna – one of the most beautiful cities in the world – seem dull and grey, which is certainly an achievement on the part of the director.
The pacing of the film is an absolute mess, and the audience may well struggle to find any piece of the film to hold on to, as it meanders, seemingly without purpose, through it’s running time, which ends up feeling like a lifetime.
In all, Museum Hours is a torturous study of self-involvement and an experiment in mixing styles of cinema that simply does not work. The ideas are clear to see, and are interesting ones, but the execution of the film is ill advised and painful.
Review by Brogen Hayes

ABOUT TIME (UK/12A/123mins)
Directed by Richard Curtis. Starring Domhnall Gleeson, Rachel McAdams, Bill Nighy
THE PLOT: On his 21st birthday Tim’s (Domhnall Gleeson) father reveals a secret; that all men in the family can travel backwards through time. Being 21, Tim quickly takes on the search for love, and realises that even though he can change his past, the path to true love doesn’t always run smooth.
THE VERDICT: Domhnall Gleeson is seriously making some great choices in his career, and About Time is no exception. Written and directed by the king of romantic comedies – now we have lost John Hughes anyway – Richard Curtis, About Time sees Gleeson take on a charming and warm role that shows off his tender, and his funny sides.
Tim travels backwards through his life, even as he keeps moving forward, in the hope of helping those around him and finding the love of his life. When she appears in his life, he realises that Mary (Rachel McAdams) is the woman he has been searching for. McAdams has shown time and again that she excels in this kind of sweet and slightly awkward role, so she is at her best here. Bill Nighy, as Tim’s father, is just as endearingly befuddled as his son and he is also the catalyst that sets many of the events in motion.
About Time wilfully ignores many of the time travel ‘rules’ that we have learned through watching the great movies from our childhoods, and in this way, feels a little similar to The Time Traveller’s Wife; Tim can only travel back through his own timeline, there is no fear of ‘the butterfly effect’ and meeting himself not only doesn’t happen, but there is the feeling that if he did, it would not be the end of the world.
Richard Curtis’s story is literally riddled with plot holes, so much so that if one thinks about the logic of time travel too much, then the film will surely unravel under the weight of your questioning, but as it stands, it is just as warm, sweet and heartbreaking as you would expect from a Richard Curtis film. The film is littered with the characters we have seen in Curtis’s previous work; the charmingly awkward man, the quirky supporting characters, the sweet love interest, but this simply serves to make the film feel familiar, like snuggling up with a beloved blanket.
About Time is a warm and comfortable film that not only showcases Gleeson at his very best, but feels safe and familiar, while being unpredictable enough to keep the audience interested. As mentioned, the film is filled with plot holes – hidden under the idea that cause and effect don’t matter – but About Time is still a lovely film that feels like a hug from your best friend. Go and see it, enjoy it, just don’t think about it too deeply.
Review by Brogen Hayes

THE GREAT BEAUTY (Italy/France/15A/142mins)
Directed by Paolo Sorrentino. Starring Toni Servillo, Carlo Verdone, Sabrina Ferilli, Carlo Buccirosso, Iaia Forte, Pamela Villoresi, Galatea Ranzi, Franco Graziosi.
THE PLOT: Having made his name not only as a top-rated journalist but also with a one-hit wonder novelist, it’s easy to see why Jep Gambardella (Servillo) is known as Rome’s King Of The Socialites. He’s got the wit, the charm, and the venom. Opening on a lavish rooftop party marking Gambardella’s 65th birthday, it’s divas, disco and growing disdain all the way. Gambardella would seem to have it all, but he’s clearly jaded with the jet set. His parties may thrive on the glittering artifice, but, after all these years, the host with the most wants to look beyond the masquerade. And he’s not impressed.
THE VERDICT: After planting Sean Penn’s jaded, faded rock star in the middle of Dublin for his last movie, the underrated This Must Be The Place, Paolo Sorrentino returns to his native Italy for his latest offering. And he’s Fellini groovy this time out, in this sequel-of-sorts to La Dolce Vita. Not that Sorrentino is trying to copy the master here; instead, he uses Felini as a backbeat. The groove is all Sorrentino’s own. 
And The Great Beauty is a groove, as Sorrentino invites us to get down and dirty with Rome’s current high life – a high life the filmmaker plainly finds as invigorating, vainglorious and vapid as his main protagonist. That Gambardella is played by the filmmaker’s regular muse, the great Toni Servillo (so powerful in Il Divo), helps us find the humanity in the increasingly hateful social kingpin’s long night’s journey into day. 
Still, good to know that the Bunga Bunga party scene isn’t having quite as much fun as it looks. Especially given that, when it comes to the bewitching hour over here in sunny Ireland, by 8pm, most of us are living la vida sofa. 
Review by Paul Byrne