Your Highness, Winnie The Pooh, Red Riding Hood and more are reviewed by Paul Byrne
WINNIE THE POOH (USA/G/73mins)
Directed by Stephen J. Anderson, Don Hall. Starring the voices of Jim Cummings, John Cleese, Craig Ferguson, Tom Kenny, Bud Luckey, Travis Oates, Jack Boulter, Kristen Anderson-Lopez.
THE PLOT: Returning to Milne’s original books – and to the handdrawn style of the early Disney Winnie The Pooh outings – our intrepid if not particularly bright bear heads out through the Hundred Acre Wood in search of honey, but is sidetracked by Eeyore’s quest for a new tail. And the feared arrival of a Backson – which just happens to be Christopher Robin’s note sign-off of ‘Back soon’….
THE VERDICT: Given that Winnie The Pooh makes more money for Disney than Mickey, Minnie, Donald, Pluto and Goofy combined, it’s surprising how long it’s taken them to treat the little guy with some respect. His early, Oscar-winning featurettes from the ‘60s and early ‘70s were truly magical, and this feature is clearly a painstaking attempt to revisit such magic. It’s certainly a far cry from the second-rate fluff churned out in the intermediate years, and the little ‘uns will love it. Still not as good though as those first three outings. RATING: 3/5
SCREAM 4 Back in her native Woodsboro for the first time ten years, to launch her book charting her battles with the serial killer The Ghostface Killer, Sidney (Campbell) is shocked to discover that the murders have started again. And for Sheriff Dewey (Arquette), that means keeping Sidney in town until the investigation is complete. The only people enjoying the new thrill ride are Dewey’s jaded spouse, Gail (Cox), and Sidney’s book publicist, Rebecca (Brie)…
THE VERDICT: Well, at least that’s two people enjoying this cynical attempt to revive a generally-loved, self-referential and initially very smart horror franchise. Writer Williamson clashed badly with producer Bob Weinstein, and left the production early, whilst Craven is clearly happy just to be back in the spotlight after a string of so-so outings. Ditto the returning lead cast, of course. That might have been the angle to take – faded stars, ready to do anything for a little more celebrity buzz. Even make a mediocre sequel. Too much meta, not enough magical mayhem, this might as well be Scary Movie 5. RATING: 2/5
YOUR HIGHNESS (USA/16/102mins)
Directed by David Gordon Green. Starring Danny McBride, James Franco, Natalie Portman, Zooey Deschanel, Justin Theroux.
THE PLOT: McBride plays the lazy, conniving, two-timing Prince Thadeous, forced into accompanying his dashing brother, Prince Fabious (Franco), into rescuing the latter’s bride, Belladonna (Deschanel), from the evil sorcerer Leezar (Theroux). Along the way, they encounter wizards, minotaurs, female gladiators, a magic compass, and the rather fetching kick-ass heroine, Isabel (Portman)…
THE VERDICT: Danny McBride – the king of Ultra-Confident Assholes – teams up with regular working partner, director David Gordon Green (the two having made All The Real Girls, Pineapple Express and Eastbound & Down together) and his buddy James Franco for this medieval carry on. Which might as well be a Carry On. The gags come thick and fast, but the problem is, they’re often that little bit too thick. And Your Highness is never fast enough for you not to notice how lame those thick gags really are. Still, the stoners up on screen seem to be having a good time. RATING: 2/5
RED RIDING HOOD (USA/12A/99mins)
Directed by Catherine Hardwicke. Starring Amanda Seyfried, Gary Oldman, Max Irons, Shiloh Fernandez, Julie Christie, Virginia Madsen, Lukas Haas.
THE PLOT: In the small fairytale village of Daggerhorn, Valerie (Seyfried) is due to marry wealthy blacksmith Henry (Irons) – but her heart, and her libido, wants woodcutter Peter (Fernandez). To add to all the lustful confusion, the villager’s monthly offering to the wolf that lives in the nearby woods isn’t going to plan, and after Valerie’s sister is found dead, the hunt is on. Father Solomon (Oldman) warns of a werewolf curse, but is ignored. Then Valerie is visited by a werewolf, who wants her to come away with him…
THE VERDICT: Having been bounced off the Twilight franchise after the first outing, it’s plainly business as usual for director Hardwicke here. Heck, she even brings along an Edward finalist, Fernandez, to play, well, the Edward role here, as well as Twilight’s Billy Burke (as Valerie’s dad). Having broached teenage wildlife before, with Thirteen and The Nativity Story (where the teen actress playing Mary miraculously became pregnant off-screen; praise the Lord!), Hardwicke’s fairytale revisionism might make for a fine sleepover movie, but, for everyone else, the lust and darkness here is only skin deep. RATING: 2/5
Directed by Daniel Barnz. Starring Alex Pettyfer, Vanessa Hudgens, Mary-Kate Olsen, Neil Patrick Harris, Dakota Johnson.
THE PLOT: An update of Beauty & The Beast, New York teen Kyle (Pettyfer) is arrogant, rude and running for his high school’s Green Committee, despite his complete indifference about the environment. When he turns his charmless insults upon class goth Kendra (Olsen), a quick hex sees Kyle bald, ugly and tattoo-covered. And the only way to break the spell is to have someone say “I love you” within a year…
THE VERDICT: Besides the spot-on casting of arrogant Alex Pettyfer (I Am A Number Two) in the title role, there is much to laugh at in this particular – and particularly lame – fairytale update. Is it the bad directing that’s inspiring the incredible bad acting, or maybe it’s the clichéd script that’s to blame? Or maybe the makers of Red Riding Hood put a hex on the whole production, so that they would win the tween market’s fair heart and ill-gotten pocket money? Whatever the reason, run away. Far, far away. Or at least to another screen. RATING: 1/5
MEEK’S CUTOFF (USA/PG/104mins)
Directed by Kelly Reichardt. Starring Michelle Williams, Bruce Greenwood, Paul Dano, Will Patton, Shirley Henderson, Joe Kazan, Rod Rondeaux.
THE PLOT: Oregon High Desert, 1845, and three pioneer families are beginning to fear that their blowhard guide, Stephen Meek (Greenwood, who appears to have spent a few too many hours in the costume department), doesn’t actually know where they’re going. Their fears are compounded when they fail to find water for days, instead encountering a lone Indian brave (Rondeaux), who Meek insists they kill but Emily Tetherow (Williams) protects, the families believing he can lead them to water. But will he…?
THE VERDICT: As with Kelly Reichardt’s acclaimed 2008 collaboration with Williams, Wendy And Lucy, this is a film where, on the surface, very little seems to be happening. And, for the most part, very little does happen upon the surface here – those big wagon wheels just keep on turning as various individuals go slowly crazy with the heat. This is a West, as novelist Marilynne Robinson described it, ‘dominated by space and silence’, and Reichardt revels in leaving her protagonists, and the audience, forever unsure, forever hanging, in this desolate landscape. And never moreso than in the film’s brave ending… RATING: 3/5
Coming to us digitally restored, Peter Bogdanovich’s 1971 Oscar-winning classic The Last Picture Show (USA/IFI/118mins) will be running at the IFI for the coming week.
Based on Larry McMurtry’s eponymous novel, and starring a cast of such young unknowns as Jeff Bridges, Cybill Sherpherd, Randy Quaid and Timothy Bottoms, as well as more established actors such as Ben Johnson, Cloris Leachman and Ellen Burnstyn and Eileen Brennan, this tale of life in a sleepy 1950s town in America’s Midwest deals with the death of innocence, and the passing of a generation. And it’s pretty much perfect.
It’s our One To Watch! this week. So, you know, go see it. Nothing else this week comes even close…
A big hit at the recent Dublin Film Festival, Enda Hughes’ documentary Men Of Arlington will be screened on April 17th at 1pm, as part of the IFI’s Ireland On Sunday series.
London’s Arlington House is home to many an Irishman who, fleeing poverty and other charms back home, sought out a new life in England. Only to lose themselves along the way.
The fact that this 100-year old building has long served as a refuge for such lost sons of Ireland means Hughes’ documentary has much ground to cover. Which may explain why it took more than two years to make.
Hughes will be present for a Q&A after the screening. Full details on www.ifi.ie.