Reviews – New movies opening December 12th 2014

We review this week’s new cinema releases, including THE HOBBIT: THE BATTLE OF THE FIVE ARMIES…

Directed by Peter Jackson. Starring Martin Freeman, Ian McKellen, Orlando Bloom, Aidan Turner, Evangeline Lilly.
THE PLOT: In the final instalment of THE HOBBIT trilogy, Bilbo (Martin Freeman) finds himself dealing with a Thorin (Richard Armitage) driven mad with greed, the people of Laketown flee from the fearsome Smaug, and the entire company faces threats from within, and without.
THE VERDICT: By now, if you have seen a HOBBIT film, you will know what to expect; loads of spectacle, lots of talking, and a ruddy great fight at the end, and to this end THE HOBBIT: THE BATTLE OF THE FIVE ARMIES does not disappoint.
Once again, Martin Freeman is the heart and soul of the film as Bilbo; not only is he the voice of reason, but he is the only one without a familial loyalty, and perhaps the only one who can see things as they truly are. Freeman proves, once again, that he has a talent for playing the relatable everyman, and this is exactly what he does here. Richard Armitage gets a small chance to show off his acting chops as he delves deep into the role of Thorin, a dwarf whose greed consumes him, Luke Evans plays the hero as Bard, Evangeline Lilly, Orlando Bloom and Aidan Turner make up the ass-kickin’ love triangle, and manage both with ease, and Ian McKellen brings some weight to the entire affair with another stellar turn as Gandalf the Grey. Once again, this is a film that lives and dies with the ensemble and as a whole, the cast are on fine form.
As we know from the HOBBIT films that have gone before, Jackson, Walsh and Boyens and Guillermo Del Toro have stretched out the original book to fill three incredibly long films. For the first time, however the pacing in this HOBBIT film does not suffer as a result. Yes, there are some times when individual fight sequences go on a little long – Aidan Turner reliably informing me that there are 55 minutes of battle in this movie – but this is more a question of editing, than scripting, it seems. The dialogue heavy scenes work well too, with the interactions between Bilbo and Thorin coming out on top. That said, however, some of the more comedic moments feel a little out of place, tonally, with Stephen Fry as the Master of Laketown coming out worst of all. Billy Connolly head butting Orcs while carrying on chitchat, however, is a touch of comic genius. Speaking of comedy, the deus ex machina moment, which had to arrive, is rather unintentionally funny, and quite ludicrous, even by THE HOBBIT’s standards.
As mentioned, director Peter Jackson keeps the pace zipping along – sometimes to the film’s detriment, as Smaug and other storylines are wrapped up in what seems like the blink of an eye – although his attempt to focus on the more dramatic elements of the battle does slow things down from time to time. As with the rest of the films in THE HOBBIT franchise, THE BATTLE OF THE FIVE ARMIES is never quite sure where it should end, although when the film finally does wrap up, there is a nice nod to what’s to come. The Battle is a battle in a Peter Jackson film, meaning that if you have seen one before, you know what’s to come. The feeling of familiarity does damage the film at times, as does the knowledge of who will survive and who will not. The 3D, as usual, is rather useless, apart from a couple of moments with Smaug and the HFR, while making the film look like a bad sitcom, seems less intrusive than in the past. Perhaps we are getting used to it after all?
In all, THE HOBBIT: THE BATTLE OF THE FIVE ARMIES is a fitting end to THE HOBBIT trilogy. It’s still action heavy with some moments of unintentional comedy, but fans of the series will be satisfied with the resolution, and the rest of us will have to find another franchise on which to hang our Christmas tradition. Until, that is, Jackson gets his hands on The Silmarillion…
Review by: Brogen Hayes

Directed by Bryn Higgins. Starring Agyness Deyn, Lenora Crichlow, Christian Cooke, Paul Anderson, Tom Georgeson, Alice Lowe, Ben Batt.
Having been thrown down the stairs by her drunken mother as a child, seaside arcade worker Lily O’Connor (Deyn) suffers from epilepsy. When her mother passes, Lily get in touch with her older brother, Barry (Anderson), insisting the proceeds from selling the old family home should also be split with younger brother Mikey (Cooke), who had always protected her, and was later taken into care. Heading to London in the hope of finding Mikey through an ex-girlfriend, but there be shysters in the big city. And a very angry Mikey, as it turns out…
The Brits are a dab hand at making these touching but tough little dramas centred on people living between the cracks. The sort of people who might just earn themselves an hour-long documentary on Channel 4. Here, director Bryn Higgins finds some new sensations to play with, giving us a visceral journey inside the eye of the epileptic fits that strike at such random points in Lily’s story. Dop Si Bell does a fine job taking the audience out of their comfort zone, as does leading lady, model-turned-actress Agyness Deyn. If the film’s momentum wanes slightly towards the end, it is still, nonetheless, an engrossing affair. Based on Ray Robinson’s 2007 debut novel, ELECTRICITY has the spark.
Review by Paul Byrne

THE GREEN PRINCE (Germany/USA/UK/Israel/IFI/101mins)
Directed by Nadav Schirman. Starring Mosab Hassan Yousef, Gonen Ben Yitzhak, Sheikh Hassan Yousef, Yassar Arafat.
When the 17-year-old son of one of the founders of Hamas is picked up by Israeli intelligence, after having just bought himself his very first gun, it doesn’t take long for his handler to realise that he may have struck gold. For Israeli intelligence always ask any Palestinian prisoners if they would consider working for them. And either answer has repercussions. In prison, if you tells your fellow Hamas fighters that you said “No” to the Israelis, they automatically assume that you’re lying. And it was in prison, when Mosab Hassan Yousef informed his fellow Hamas fighters that he said “Yes” as a ruse to reek revenge, the son of party leader Sheikh Hassan Yousef recognised the brutality of his comrades against Israeli occupation of Palestine that “We were living a lie”. For the next ten years, Mosab would work for Gonen Ben Yitzhak, the Shin Bet agent who invited him to spy for Israeli secret service. That the two would become friends triggers another twist in Mosab’s story…
Based on Mosab Hassan Yousef’s 2010 memoir SON OF HAMAS, director and co-writer Nadav Schirman (here following up THE CHAMPAGNE SPY and IN THE DARK ROOM) uses talking heads and archive footage to tell this spy-behind-enemy-lines true-life tale to deliver this thriller of a documentary. Or documentary of a thriller. As the relationship between Mosab and Zonen develops over the years, there are tensions, especially when Mosab threatens to walk. His true desire for the violence to end would normally have caused trouble within Hamas for Mosab, but being his father’s right-hand man – and gatekeeper when it came to public appearances and secret meetings – meant immunity from such suspicions. That Mosab and Zonen would end up in THE LIVES OF OTHERS territory makes for a surprisingly upbeat ending to this inside glimpse into an ugly war.
Review by Paul Byrne

Directed by Steve Loter. Starring Mae Whitman, Ginnifer Goodwin, Mel B, Lucy Liu, Pamela Adlon.
THE PLOT: Pixie Hollow is threatened when a green comet streaks through the sky, awakening the mythical NeverBeast. Fawn (Ginnifer Goodwin), a fairy with responsibility for caring for animals, encounters the NeverBeast and, despite his fearsome appearance, soon learns that there is more to the creature than what meets the eye. When danger looms on the horizon, however, Fawn must face the possibility that she was wrong about her new friend.
THE VERDICT: Ah, the TINKERBELL franchise. Fans of JM Barrie’s feisty fairy may as well take a seat now; your outrage over how Tinkerbell has been changed is not needed at this stage, since the Tinkerbell juggernaut seems to be grinding to a halt, with THE LEGEND OF THE NEVERBEAST seeming to be the final film in the franchise. That said though, there are some great moments in this new cinematic outing, and a rather sweet message for the little ‘uns in the audience.
The voice cast is made up of Ginnifer Goodwin, Mae Whitman, Mel B, Rosario Dawson, Lucy Liu and Pamela Adlon, making this a seriously female led film, and a film full of vocal talent that has been proven time and again.
In terms of story, LEGEND OF THE NEVERBEAST is a classic tale about not judging a book by it’s cover, and standing up for those who don’t have a voice. The relationship between Fawn and the NeverBeast is sweet and warm; one of friendship, acceptance and curiosity. Of course everything in Pixie Hollow is super sweet and all about fluffy bunnies and the like, but this is still a strong message for kids, and something they can learn from. That said, there are sequences that drag on a little too long, some of the fairies are still unfunny airheads, and the super sweet, religious allegory filled ending may just make the film a little too long for the tiny kids in the audience.
The animation is incredibly pretty, and in creating the NeverBeast, Disney opened up a whole new colour palette for the film, and added a little more mystery and magic to the franchise. Of course, it doesn’t need to be in 3D, but these things rarely do.
In all, TINKERBELL AND THE LEGEND OF THE NEVERBEAST is a pretty film with a sweet message. The NeverBeast – a perfect mix of dog, cat and Stitch – is a lovely addition to Pixie Hollow, and this is perhaps the best Tinkerbell film of the lot. This is the second TINKERBELL film released in Ireland this year, but it is a huge step up from TINKERBELL AND THE PIRATE FAIRY in almost every way, but as to whether this film could reinvigorate the franchise remains to be seen.
Review by Brogen Hayes