Reviews – New movies opening August 9th 2013

We review this week’s new cinema releases, including THE LONE RANGER and ALAN PARTRIDGE: ALPHA PAPA

Directed by Declan Lowney. Starring Steve Coogan, Colm Meaney, Tim Key, Darren Boyd, Felicity Montagu, Simon Delaney, Sean Pertwee.
Radio Nowrich is under new management, and they’re chasing the 98FM crowd. And that means old fogeys such as latenight host Pat Farrell (Meaney) and early afternoon chatterbox Alan Partridge (Coogan) have to give way to some wacky yuffs. When the cowardly Alan recognises that it is indeed a case of either him or Pat who’s going to get the chop, he convinces the new board that, yep, it should be Pat. Which leads to a Rupert Pupkin siege, the bedragged Irishman taking over the radio station, holding a bunch of hostages with him whilst refusing to talk to anyone but his loyal and faithful radio buddy, Alan. The latter gradually recognises a way to boost his profile nationally. And live out his Andy McNab wet dream in the process…
Managing to avoid the pitfalls of so many small-to-big-screen leaps, the Alan Partridge movie works as both a celebration for the bungling, drowning radio DJ and a smart introduction to the, well, complete and utter cult. With Declan Lowney also making the leap to the big screen – after such small screen successes as Father Ted and Moone Boy – it’s a relief to see the 90 minutes here being put to good use. Hey, look, it’s a story arc!
As Spaced largely became Shaun Of The Dead, Partridge here works because he’s been dropped into a genre film. Deeply. I’m just surprised Alan didn’t insist on 3D.
Review by Paul Byrne

Directed by Gore Verbinski. Starring Johnny Depp, Armie Hammer, William Fichtner, Tom Wilkinson, Ruth Wilson, Helena Bonham Carter, James Badge Dale, Barry Pepper.
THE PLOT: In this origins story, John Reid (Armie Hammer) takes on the mantle of the Lone Ranger when Butch Cavendish (William Fitchner) and his crew ambush, and brutally murder Reid’s brother. Reid joins forces with an odd but insightful Native American Tonto (Johnny Depp) in his quest for justice.
The Lone Ranger is a cultural phenomenon that has seeped into our consciousness, whether we grew up watching it or not. The movie has already been brutalised by US critics, but since Irish audiences may have less of a vested interest in the movie, and here, the film may not have as much weight of history hanging over it.
THE VERDICT: The choice to cast Armie Hammer as the Lone Ranger was an interesting one. There is little doubt that Hammer has proven himself as an actor, but it also does not seem as though he is quite ready to carry a movie the size of The Lone Ranger by himself. This is where Depp steps in, and avoids some of the mess made by trusting Taylor Kitsch with the weight of John Carter. Hammer does well enough with what he is given, but playing up the comedy of a tragic character seems strange at times. That said, a lot of the main laughs in the film come from Hammer’s performance and there is a standout moment involving him being shot with an arrow.
Johnny Depp gives the same performance as he did in the Pirates of the Caribbean trilogy. Tonto is made out to be eccentric and socially awkward; much more at home talking to (obviously fake) horses than his human counterpart. Depp gives the same wide eyed, slightly stoned performance as we have seen from him many times in recent years and, while there is no doubt that this is something he is good at, this makes the film feel as though we are watching Jack Sparrow in the Wild West.
Helena Bonham Carter dials down the eccentricity and plays brothel owner Red as a strong woman with a dark past. Of course, the character has her eccentricities, but for Bonham Carter, this feels almost sedate. Tom Wilkinson plays Cole, a venture capitalist with a fondness for bending the law, William Fitchner does admirably as bad guy Butch and Ruth Wilson is insipid and thin as love interest Rebecca – this is not the actress’ fault, however.
With a two and a half hour running time, THE LONE RANGER is perhaps an hour too long, which means that the film feels bloated, drawn out and seriously loses pace at more than one point. There is also too much going on in the film, with Reid battling his own demons, coming to terms with the death of his brother, taking on the might of the Native Americans and capitalism in the form of the railroad. As well as this, it feels as though a decision could not be made with regard to tone; the film swings between tragedy and farce many times, and there are moments when the film dances dangerously close to racism, although the Native Americans manage to get their own back on the white man. Hurrah!
The set pieces are loud and silly, but this is what we have come to expect from the pairing of Gore Verbinski and Johnny Depp, with some Jerry Bruckheimer thrown in for good measure. All of the sets for the film were actually built, which gives THE LONE RANGER a feel of reality and warmth, and the cinematography shows Monument Valley at its most beautiful.
The Lone Ranger feels like a film we have seen before; Johnny Depp’s performance certainly helps to reinforce this. That said, the film looks beautiful and has moments of greatness, it’s just a shame that this is lost in a bloated running time, messy pacing and repetitive set pieces. Tonally, the film is a mess, but this is not to say that there is nothing fun here; leave your brain at the door, ignore the mess and enjoy the ride, just don’t expect it to make a lot of sense.
Review by Brogen Hayes

FOXFIRE (France/Canada/Spain/UK/Switzerland/IFI/143mins)
Directed by Laurent Cantet. Starring Raven Adamson, Katie Coseni, Madeleine Bisson, Claire Mazerolle, Paige Moyles, Rachael Nyhuus, Lindsay Rolland-Mills.
It’s America, it’s the 1950s, and that means that woman is very much the African-American of the world. Something that the free-spirited and outspoken Legs (Adamson) isn’t about to take lying down. Or on all fours, for that matter. Pulling together some other heavenly creatures, Legs forms Foxfire, a gang of girls on a mission to fight back against the man. Each and every man. Whether it’s a horny uncle forcing himself on his niece, or, later, when an unwitting John starts to get slap-happy with the bait. After Legs pulls a knife on a school bully and then escapes with the rest of the girls in a stolen car, the law finally catches up with her. And she comes out of the correctional facility more militant than ever. And keen to make some real changes, and some real money…
Having been previously brought to the big screen in 1996 – with Angelina Jolie leading a modern-day reworking – Joyce Carol Oates’ 1993 novel about a gang of rebellious 1950s schoolgirls should prove rich pickings for award-winning French director Laurent Cantet. As with his last offering, The Class, for his first English-language outing Cantet has cast his film with non-professional actors, having scoured schools and delinquent centres for his leading ladies. It worked beautifully in The Class, many critics fooled into thinking that drama was a documentary, but here, Cantet is let down, badly, by some incredibly stilted performances. Heck, Adamson even swaggers like a 5-year old. Worse, you never really believe these girls, or their causes, or their contradictions. Ultimately, these young feminists come across as Girl Scouts on a bad sugar rush more than any rock’n’roll-era Pussy Riot. I’m pretty sure Oates was aiming for the latter. 
Review by Paul Byrne 

Directed by Thor Freudenthal. Starring Logan Lerman, Anthony Stewart Head, Stanley Tucci
THE PLOT: When a new evil threatens Camp Half-Blood, Percy Jackson (Logan Lerman) and his friends must travel through the Sea of Monsters – or Bermuda Triangle to you and me – to find the Golden Fleece. The trouble is, not only has a quest already set out from the camp, but someone else is after the fleece, and Percy has a new family member to get used to.
THE VERDICT: Logan Lerman returns to the franchise that brought him to public attention, after the success of The Perks of Being a Wallflower. Lerman does not have an awful lot to do here, other than be a leader, and he manages it well. It is unclear whether Lerman does not delineate, or whether Percy is created as a character who is the brave underdog, but either way, he feels a little generic; perhaps the screenwriter felt that enough character was established the first time around. The same goes for most of the younger cast, which is made up of Alexandra Daddario and Leven Rambin.
The adults fare a little better, however. Stanley Tucci obviously has a good time playing a small role as Dionysus – or Mr. D – and rails against a curse by Zeus that does not allow him to drink his beloved wine. Anthony Stewart Head takes over from Pierce Brosnan’s advisory character Chiron, the centaur and takes on the role of mentor, which is why we love him. Nathan Fillion plays the messenger god; Hermes, and manages to slip in a line about all the best TV shows being cancelled (hello Firefly!). A lot of the original cast from the first film has jumped ship, which is disappointing since the first one wasn’t terrible, but Sea of Monsters is a vast improvement.
The story is actually rather simple, but it is told in a fun and adventurous way. The film mixes elements from our world and the magical in order to tell the story; our world is shown to be a little more wondrous through the eyes of a demi-god and, as he discovers more, so do we. Little explanation is given of the creatures encountered along the way to the Sea of Monsters, but enough is revealed to keep the audience interested.
Script writer Marc Guggenheim has managed to blend the every day and myth to create a story that is simple, scary and engaging, although the lack of contact with the higher gods means that this film feels more closed than its predecessor, and a little more like a Harry Potter film than a film about gods living among mankind. While director Thor Freudenthal focuses more on the action than the characters, this works for the film, for the most part, when the target audience is taken into account. The film is produced by Harry Potter veteran Chris Columbus, which may explain the parallels with the Boy Who Lived,
Percy Jackson Sea of Monsters is a fun, funny and action filled adventure, with enough one-liners and references to keep the adults entertained, and enough danger, action and fun to keep the younger audience members engaged. Sadly, Sea of Monsters does presume knowledge on the audience’s part, and therefore struggles to be a stand-alone film.
Review by Brogen Hayes

Directed by Pascal Bonitzer. Starring Jean-Pierre Bacri, Kristen Scott Thomas, Isabelle Carre
THE PLOT: Damien (Jean-Pierre Bacri) and Iva (Kristen Scott Thomas) have been together for so long, they are all but married. The professional couple’s relationship is thrown into chaos when Iva is tempted into an affair by her leading man, and Damien meets Aurore (Isabelle Carre), a Serbian waitress.
THE VERDICT: For those who think this film will be carried by Scott-Thomas’s impeccable performance as a woman whose choices appear to be entirely superficial and easily swayed, will be sorely disappointed. As strong as Scott-Thomas’s performance is, this film is focuses on her live in companion, Damien.
As Damien, Jean-Pierre Bacri plays a character who appears to be downtrodden by the mundane nature of his life. Iva’s betrayal appears to be more of a fait accompli than actually hurtful, his relationship with his father and friends is strained and his job – teaching Chinese customs to French entrepreneurs – no longer excites him. Bacri is subtle in the role, it insist a shame that he is let down my lacklustre writing that allows the audience to see the twist coming from a mile away.
Screenwriter and director Pascal Bonitzer tells a story that feels achingly familiar to the audience, and, as soon as Aurore is introduced into the mix, it is clear where the story is headed. As well as this, many of the subpkots are introduced then simply allowed to fade away, unresolved. That said, the film is beautifully shot and shows Paris off at its very best.
LOOKING FOR HORTENSE is a film that we have seen before, albeit in different guises, and although the central performances are strong and the cinematography beautiful, this is a film with surprisingly little to say.
Review by Brogen Hayes