Reviews – New movies opening February 14th, 2014

We review this week’s new cinema releases, including THE LEGO MOVIE, HER and CUBAN FURY.

THE LEGO MOVIE (Australia/USA/Denmark/G/100mins)
Directed by Phil Lord, Christopher Miller. Starring the voices of Will Arnett, Elizabeth Banks, Chris Pratt, Liam Neeson, Craig Berry, Alison Brie, Anthony Daniels, Charlie Day, Will Ferrell, Jonah Hill, Will Forte, Morgan Freeman.
THE PLOT:Emmet Brickowoski (Chris Pratt) is an ordinary Lego Minifigure; he follows the instructions and is happy in his ordered world until he meets the mysterious Wyldstyle (Elizabeth Banks) and is mistaken for a Lego MasterBuilder. Emmet finds himself on a mission to save the universe from the evil President Business (Will Ferrell), with the help of Batman (Will Arnett), Benny (Charlie Day) and the wise MiniFig Vitruvius (Morgan Freeman).
The voice talent in THE LEGO MOVIE do a fantastic job with their characters; Chris Pratt makes Emmet an all round nice guy with some issues to work through, Will Ferrell obviously relishes playing a good, old fashioned villain, Liam Neeson is perfectly cast as Good Cop/Bad Cop and Will Arnett completely out does himself as the Lego version of Batman. The rest of the cast is made up of Morgan Freeman, Elizabeth Banks, Charlie Day, Alison Brie, Jonah Hill, Nick Offerman… The list goes on. Each of the actors brings a little something special to their roles, making the ensemble nature of The Lego Movie fun and incredibly entertaining.
The script is rather simple yet rather clever, once the plot is finally revealed; the journey of discovery that Emmet goes on is the standard voyage of self discovery and finding something special within himself, but it definitely works in terms of the audience of the film. As well as this, the simple message; you don’t always have to follow the instructions and be like everyone else is a great one for kids, and a great starting place for playing with Lego. Lord and Miller fill the movie with jokes, one-liners and visual gags that recur throughout, and never cease to be funny. The film feels a little chaotic at times, which is often confusing as it is hard to keep track of who everyone is, and what they are doing, but this also works in its favour as the pace never really lets up and the game is definitely on.
Visually, THE LEGO MOVIE is stunning; the entire world of the movie is created from Lego pieces – from water to buildings and everything in between – and this detail serves to reinforce that this is a Lego movie, gives the film a tactile, real feeling and allows the plot twist to happen in a rather odd but charming manner. The hints are there, but try not to think about it too much; let it happen.
THE LEGO MOVIE is chaotic, silly and tons of fun. The voice cast have a great time with their characters, the world is wonderfully realised and the joke come thick and fast. Lord and Miller have done it again; even the seemingly odd twist works for the movie and there is plenty here for kids and adults alike.
Review by Brogen Hayes

HER (USA/15A/126mins)
Directed by Spike Jonze. Starring Joaquin Phoenix, Amy Adams, Rooney Mara, Chris Pratt, Olivia Wilde, Scarlett Johansson.
THE PLOT: Set in the very near future (which is where, as Tina Fey recently pointed out, leading man Phoenix permanently resides), Theodore excels at his office job – penning heartfelt, handwritten (by a computer program, of course) and highly personal letters. Whether it’s a 50th anniversary declaration of love or a thank you note from a young kid to his grandmother, Theodore is the company’s greatest pretender. It’s an increasingly necessary social skill, as more and more people live online, boasting more and more contacts whilst having less and less actual friends.
For Theodore, getting over a particularly painful break-up has seen him shut down his social life almost completely, living instead like an overweight Japanese teen with plenty of money. In his LA penthouse apartment, Theodore can seemingly find all the distraction he needs – interactive virtual reality video games; voice-activated personal computer; anonymous websex at the flick of a wrist – but still, this loneliness won’t leave him alone. And so, when a new operating system offers some technological tenderness, with an artificial intelligence who’s there for your every whim and need – from organising your emails to choosing the right tie – Theodore is curious. And when his OS comes with the voice of Scarlett Johansson (think Harvey meets Jessica Rabbit), well, how could he not fall in love…?
THE VERDICT: There are so many modern ailments – and some eternal ones – tackled in Spike Jonze’s sweet, funny, melancholic and mischievous film, it should be required viewing for anyone who ever suffers from not being here because they would rather be there. For all its skinny tweed hipness and colour-co-ordinated cool, Her is also a deeply heartfelt film. When Phoenix’s Theodore says of his soon-to-be-ex-wife Catherine (Rooney), “I hid myself from her, left her alone in the relationship”, you can’t help but think of Lost In Translation, Jonze’s then soon-to-be-ex-wife Sofia Coppola’s ode to a marriage breaking down somewhere on the way to hipster heaven.
Here, we get the same mix of happy and sad, of the mundane and the mad, of the ironic and the iconic, all merrily mixed up in one big melting pot. And it is funny. And it is sad. And it will leave you thinking about how we love today, and how we live. The growing pull of a virtual world where we get to be bigger, faster, stronger avatars. Next time we’re online being that great pretender, perhaps Her will help us realise that we’re here mainly because we’re not all there. RATING: 5/5
Review by Paul Byrne 

THE MONUMENTS MEN (USA, Germany/12A/118mins)
Directed by George Clooney. Starring Matt Damon, Bob Balaban, Jean DuJardin, Cate Blanchett, John Goodman, Bill Murray and George Clooney.
Toward the end of World War II, American art lover Frank Stokes (George Clooney) realised that precious pieces of work were being gathered or destroyed by the Nazi forces. With permission from the President, he sets about forming a taskforce to recover and return the stolen works of art.
The cast of the film is a veritable who’s who of great actors working today; as well as Clooney himself, the film stars Matt Damon, Cate Blanchett, Bill Murray, Bob Balaban, Jean Dujardin, John Goodman and Hugh Bonneville. All of these are actors who are known for both their comedic and dramatic skills, but oddly and sadly, none of them really get the chance to show off either. None of the characters are properly fleshed out, other than a small amount of back-story, and other than some well-intentioned teasing; none of them really get the chance to know one another properly. There is a nice touch in pairing actors who have worked together before – Balaban and Murray, Dujardin and Goodman – but even this doesn’t elevate the film from a travelogue with some good actors in it. There are some funny moments in the film but the sad part is that most of these are in the trailer, and this cast of funny people thrown together in a silly situation – running around Europe trying to find hidden Nazi treasure; sounds like an Indiana Jones film – never quite gets off the ground.
THE MONUMENTS MEN could have been Clooney’s answer to INGLORIOUS BASTERDS, by way of O BROTHER, WHERE ART THOU? and the cinematography and scenery certainly lends weight to the theory that this is what Clooney was trying to achieve, but by stifling the actors and getting tangled up in technicalities, the film feels doomed before it starts.
The story is an interesting one, and certainly one that needs telling, but there voice over’s and speechifying about the importance of art do nothing for the tone of the film; of course art is important; these characters are risking their lives to save it, there is no need to bash us over the head with the moral of the story. There is tons of scope for comedy, and sending up the Nazi decision to stockpile art, even as they destroy the lands from whence it came, but this is an opportunity missed.
THE MONUMENTS MEN is an interesting yarn that gets bogged down in it’s own technicalities, and by having it’s cast scattered across Europe. Comedic moments are missed and dramatic ones are overplayed. A true disappointment from director and actor George Clooney, who is usually right on the money in terms of script and tone, THE MONUMENTS MEN becomes an Indiana Jones film with none of the fun. Still, at least it’s better than KINGDOM OF THE CRYSTAL SKULL…
Review by Brogen Hayes 

ENDLESS LOVE (USA/12A/103mins)
Directed by Shana Feste. Starring Alex Pettyfer, Gabriella Wilde, Bruce Greenwood, Joely Richardson.
Jade (Gabriella Wilde) is the quiet girl at school, after her brother died young she retreated into herself, but David (Alex Pettyfer) could always see there was something special about this girl. After a chance encounter brings them closer together, Jade and Alex begin an intense relationship, a relationship that her father Hugh (Bruce Greenwood) is deeply opposed to.
ENDLESS LOVE is billed as a remake of the 1981 Franco Zeffirelli film of the same name, but other than sharing a name, it is difficult to see how the two films are related. Whereas the 1981 film was a story of love, obsession and death, this new version of the story feels rather like an Abercrombie and Fitch ad, with about the same amount of depth and emotion.
Alex Pettyfer plays David as your average boy next door, and comes off as vapid and uninteresting. Gabriella Wilde seems about 25 years younger than Pettyfer, which makes the film even more creepy, and although the pair look good together, Wilde’s character is about as vapid as Pettyfer’s and she spends much of the film swinging from euphoric highs to screeching lows, all of which begin to wear on the audience. As well as this, Wilde seems only capable of expressing her character’s emotion through running and dancing through scenic places, which is pretty, but emotionally dull.
Joely Richardson, as Jade’s mother Ann, does her best with what she is given, but her infatuation with the young man who is romancing her daughter is never developed, and comes off as weird. Bruce Greenwood chews his way through every piece of scenery available and never develops his character beyond shouty, controlling father.
Screenwriters Shana Feste and Joshua Safran seemed to take the original film, remove anything that may be slightly interesting and create a vapid film filled with vapid people. The dialogue is completely over the top and the characters underdeveloped, leaving us with a lifeless affair between two consenting adults whose parents disapprove. This may sound familiar, but Romeo and Juliet this ain’t. As director, Shana Feste draws out the melodrama of every scene and filling time with montages and fireworks. As a result, Endless Love is more of a music video crossed with an Hollister ad, than narrative film that is satisfying in any way.
ENDLESS LOVE is a vapid, thin and oddly melodramatic music video/Gap ad. The dialogue is ridiculous and choices made leave the characters and their motivations feeling like they come from a place of creepiness, rather than anything even resembling love. Pettyfer and Wilde are paper thin and Greenwood is so torturously over the top, it’s laughable.
Rating: 1/5
Review by Brogen Hayes 

Directed by Peggy Holmes. Starring Christina Hendricks, Tom Hiddleston, Lucy Liu, Mawe Whitman.
Misunderstood dust-keeper fairy Zarina (Christina Hendricks) is ridiculed and cast out of Pixie Hollow. A year later Tinkerbell and her friends discover their former friend has teamed up with the pirates of Neverland, when Zarina returns for her revenge.
This is a film that is made for very young girls, so if you go into this film expecting a cross between JM Barrie’s cantankerous fairy and the dread Pirate Captain Hook… Well, you may not be disappointed, but it almost certainly will not be the film you expect. It seems fairly clear that the outcry of making Barrie’s Tinkerbell a kid friendly character has died down, so I am just going to have to put aside my deep love of the original material and view this film with fresh eyes.
There has been a whole world created around Tinkerbell and the world the fairies inhabit in Neverland, and this is where the film is set. The film follows a fairly standard tale of expulsion, revenge and redemption, but there is something odd in making Zarina’s character almost like a terrorist as she returns to her home to plunder what she needs. This aside, making a fairy queen of the pirates is an interesting idea that means Tinkerbell and Captain James Hook cross paths earlier than Peter’s arrival to Neverland, but then this changes the timeline of Barrie’s original novel. Maybe I am overthinking it.
In terms of the voices, it is rather surprising that Christina Hendricks and Tom Hiddleston signed on to do this thin and tooth achingly sweet film, but it seems that Hiddleston is having fun playing a pirate – he’s working his way through the realm of fantasy rather quickly – and his delight is a little infectious.
The film stumbles badly in terms of animation; the fairies and their world is clunky but rather pretty, but the pirates feel as though they have not yet been fully animated. The 3D makes the fairy dust a little more sparkly but other than that, adds little.
TINKERBELL AND THE FAIRY PIRATE is a film for girls aged 3-6; there is a little charm in the design of the world, but it feels as though this particular Disney Toon is reaching a little too far. Little girls may enjoy it, but there is nothing her for older children, or their parents. Fans of JM Barrie should especially steer clear as the Tinkerbell of his devising is nowhere to be seen here.
Review by Brogen Hayes