Reviews – New movies opening January 30th 2015

We review this week’s new cinema releases, including BIG HERO 6, INHERENT VICE and KINGSMAN: THE SECRET SERVICE…

BIG HERO 6 (USA/PG/102mins)
Directed by Don Hall, Chris Williams. Starring the voices of Ryan Potter, Scott Adsit, Jamie Chung, Daniel Henney, T.J. Miller, Damon Wayans Jr., Genesis Rodriguez, James Cromwel, Alan Tudyk, Maya Rudolph, Abraham Benrubi.
It’s the near future, in mash-up city San Fransokyo, and 14-year-old Hiro (Potter) is a dab hand at creating deadly little monsters. His older brother, Tadashi (Henney), is also quite the techno wiz, bringing his runaway little brother to his lab at San Fransokyo Tech in the hope of setting him on the straight and narrow. Top of Hiro’s gasp list is Baymax (Adsit), a gentle, white, inflatable vinyl nurse droid that Tadashi hopes will revolutionise healthcare. When Professor Callaghan (Cromwell) challenges Hiro to come up with a new invention for a college fair, his microbots make a spectacular debut before the building explodes, and Tadashi and Callaghan are gone. In the midst of his grieving, Hiro inadvertently reactivates Baymax, and the two are soon tracking down the mysterious masked figure who has set his microbots to use…
As much Ghibli and Gorillaz as it is the godfather of animation himself, Uncle Walt, BIG HERO 6 manages to be both kick-ass and cuddly. And very, very cool. The Mouse House cleverly bows to the mighty Manga with this slick adaptation of a blink-and-you’ll-miss-’em 1998 Marvel creation, Lasseter having instructed his many minions to go digging in the basement of Disney’s latest property purchase. Unsurprisingly, that original creation has been somewhat remade and remodelled, the iconic and bouncy Baymax going from being a green, muscle-bound, shape-shifting dragon in the comic-books to the Bean-esque balloon here, his character now a cross between WALL-E and MY NEIGHBOUR TORTORO. With just a dash of Khloe Kardashian in a white onesie. It’s all good, clean, smart, hip, beautifully-crafted family fun, and if BIG HERO 6 isn’t quite THE INCREDIBLES, it does make for a neat companion piece to Disney’s other Marvel minors Mickey make-over, GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY. Which, as you know, is pretty darn fine.
Review by Paul Byrne

INHERENT VICE (USA/16/148mins)
Directed by Paul Thomas Anderson. Starring Joaquin Phoenix, Josh Brolin, Owen Wilson, Katherine Waterston, Jordan Christian Hearn, Eric Roberts, Maya Rudolph, Serena Scott Thomas, Michael Kenneth Williams, Benicio del Toro.
It’s California, 1970, and oblivious-verging-on-obliterated hippy detective Doc Sportello (Phoenix, sporting Wolverine chops) doeesn’t realise that the summer of love is long gone. And the girl that once held his shabby room together, Shasta (Waterston, the perfect hippy chick pin-up here) is just about to turn her world upside down, asking for help in protecting her millionaire boyfriend, Mickey Wolfman (Roberts), about to be committed by his devious wife (Scott Thomas). Before you can say “Where’s me Rizla?!” though, Shasta goes missing. And Doc finds himself being framed for a murder, getting dragged in by his hard-nosed LAPD contact Bigfoot Bjornsen (Brolin) just as Mickey Wolfman goes missing too. And that’s when things start to get complicated. And confusing. And generally very, very stoned.
About as light and breezy as Anderson’s previous bad trip down memory lane, THE MASTER, this dense, murky, loaded adaptation of Thomas Pynchon’s dense, murky, loaded 2009 novel is akin to FEAR & LOATHING IN LAS VEGAS without all the fun and frolics. Or THE BIG LEBOWSKI without the love. Then again, when your stoner sleuth is played by Joaquin Phoenix, and the man he turns to for legal advise is played by Benicio del Toro, you just know you’re in a very wibbly, wobbly wonderland right from the start. And so it proves, Phoenix continuing to morph into Vincent Gallo, here once again making you wonder at times if anyone told him they were making a movie.
And how the hell did Anderson manage to make Owen Wilson appear so uncomfortable in his own skin? And Martin Short as an Austin Powers dentist peddling new sensations hardly gets the head and heart racing either.
A real cult of a film, INHERENT VICE may end up being adored and analysed by some, but most will find it a great, big kaleidoscopic melt.
Review by Paul Byrne

Directed by Matthew Vaughn. Starring Colin Firth, Michael Caine, Mark Strong, Samuel L. Jackson, Taron Edgerton.
When Kingsman and experienced spy Galahad (Colin Firth) has his life saved, he promises one favour to the family of the man who saved him. 17 years later, Eggsy (Taron Edgerton) finds himself in trouble with the law and desperate for a way out, and calls in the favour. Galahad sees something special in Eggsy, and decides to put him forward for training to be a Kingsman; the most elite and secret espionage agency in the world.
THE VERDICT: Colin Firth is making a nice turn in his career, playing bad guys and bad-asses, of which Galahad is the latter. Firth obviously enjoyed the mix of gentlemanly violence in KINGSMAN: THE SECRET SERVICE, and obviously has a ball playing the foul mouthed, capable yet caring Galahad. Taron Edgerton doesn’t have a whole lot to do, in terms of Eggsy’s character development – angry young man channels his energy into something spectacular – but he is good at what he does. Samuel L. Jackson, however, as megalomaniac Richmond Valentine, feels a little miscast as the lisping, weak stomached villain, coming off as a little insipid, and not nearly camp or colourful enough. The rest of the cast is made up of Michael Caine as Arthur, Sofia Boutella as Gazelle, Jack Davenport as Lancelot, Sophie Cookson as Roxy, Mark Strong as Merlin and Mark Hamill as Professor James Arnold, who actually manages a fairly decent English accent.
The story, based on Millar’s graphic novel, is a pastiche of the early James Bond films, which were filled with over the top villains and outrageous plots of world domination. There are plenty of nods to the world created by Ian Fleming, not least the fact that the spies are considered to be gentlemen, gadgets abound and the entrance to their HQ is through a bespoke tailor on Saville Row. The tale is one of training, acceptance and a madman’s plot, infused with Vaughn and Goldman’s trademark violence and the feeling that this could be our world, but a version we are unfamiliar with. Things fall apart slightly in the final act however, with mass murder and potentially distasteful sex acts referred to, seemingly without consequence.
As director, Vaughn makes the film engaging and interesting; the performances are fit for purpose, and discovering the world of the Kingsmen is a delight for audiences. The set pieces are sufficiently bloody and over the top, and often set to beloved music, such as Lynyrd Skynyrd’s Freebird. There is a feeling of ridiculousness about the whole affair, but this serves the world of the film well.
In all, KINGSMAN: THE SECRET SERVICE is a fun adventure through a familiar yet distinct world. The subplot of the villain tries to emulate early Bond tales, but never quite works, and Samuel L. Jackson never truly settles into his role convincingly, but Firth, Caine, Edgerton and Strong are all on form, giving KINGSMAN: THE SECRET SERVICE a strong start, but an ultimately weak narrative finish. Still, this is sure to be addressed in the sequel…
Review by Brogen Hayes

SON OF A GUN (Australia/15A/108mins)
Directed by Julius Avery. Starring Ewan McGregor, Alicia Vikander, Brenton Thwaites, Damon Herriman, Matt Nable, Nash Edgerton.
Locked up in prison, JR (Brenton Thwaites) has not yet learned the rule to stay out of other peoples’ business. Targeted by a gang of violent inmates, JR finds himself under the protection of one of Australia’s most notorious criminals; Brendan Lynch (Ewan McGregor). Protection comes at a price, however, and when JR is released from prison, his debt is called in.
Short film director Julius Avery’s feature debut is surprisingly old fashioned in a way; prison break, gold heist and double crosses are classic tropes of thriller cinema, and Avery has pulled out all the stops here. Brenton Thwaites follows up last year’s Oculus with a strong performance as JR. Thwaites captures the innocence and cynicism of a man who finds himself in prison at a young age, but still dreams of a better life in the future. Thwaites is the emotional heart of the film, and he gets audiences on his side, with his portrayal of a young man who finds himself in over his head, and desperate to survive.
Ewan McGregor has built a reputation playing nice guys – and Jedi – over the years, so it is a refreshing change for him to not only take a supporting role, but to take on a character with few scruples and even fewer loyalties. McGregor still has his trademark twinkle in his eye, but through a strong performance as a thoroughly unpleasant character, this twinkle is less about charm, and more reminiscent of a snake about to strike. Alicia Vikander, in her third cinema release in as many weeks, carries on her reputation as an actress to watch, and makes Tasha pragmatic and practical, yet somehow still hopeful and charming.
The story, written by John Collee and director Julius Avery feels rather familiar. In the last few years, we have had crime films such as SNOWTOWN and ANIMAL KINGDOM emerge from Australia, and SON OF A GUN perpetuates the idea that the land down under is home to violent criminals. There are precious few surprises throughout the film, certainly until the final act, but this crime thriller is filled with glamour and violence, and is more than enough to keep the audience’s attention.
As director, Julius Avery allows the tension to ebb and flow throughout the film, while making the heist scenes and set pieces to be tense and brutal. As mentioned, there is a feeling of familiarity to the whole affair, but Avery manages to keep audience attention, even if we feel we have seen this before somewhere. Nigel Buck’s cinematography also adds to the feelings of isolation and far in the film, and ramps up the tension on the set pieces.
In all, SON OF A GUN is a moderately clever crime thriller, dogged by the feeling that we have seen this all before. McGregor and Thwaites form a strong duo at the centre of the film and, although Vikander is slightly wasted by being pushed to the side, her performance is as strong as we might expect.
Review by Brogen Hayes

TRASH (UK | Brazil/114mins/15A)
Directed by Stephen Daldry. Starring Martin Sheen, Rooney Mara, Eduardo Luis, Rickson Teve, Gabriel Weinstein.
ardo (Eduardo Luis), Raphael (Rickson Tevez) and Rato (Gabriel Weinstein) are three young Brazilian kids who spend their lives hunting through the rubbish dumps of Rio to find money, or items they can sell. When Raphael discovers a wallet that contains a large sum of money and a key, the boys find themselves at the centre of a mystery, with the cops on their tail.
THE VERDICT: Based on Andy Mulligan’s novel of the same name, TRASH combines the adventure from THE GOONIES, with real life thrillers to create a fun and heart warming film. The three young leads have wonderful chemistry together, and seem utterly unselfconscious, and go along for the adventure of the film. They are backed up ny Martin Sheen playing a priest (again!) and Rooney Mara playing an aid worker who supports and defends the boys. Both the adults are warm and strong in the film, but allow the kids and their story to take centre stage.
The story, adapted for the screen by Richard Curtis, is part thriller, part child adventure game and part friendship tale. The kids have a strong sense of loyalty to one another, a powerful belief in what’s right, and an innate distrust of the cops. The adventure leads them across Rio, into prisons, favelas and private homes, all in the name of doing what’s right and solving the mystery. There are plenty of twists and turns to keep the audience on the journey with the boys, but there are times when scenes and sequences feel unnecessarily drawn out. That said, combining genres and styles – think THE GOONIES meets CITY OF GOD – works surprisingly well, and keeping the movie family friendly, but scary enough to provoke conversation was a clever move.
Director Stephen Daldry has not stepped behind the camera since 2011’s EXTREMELY LOUD & INCREDIBLY CLOSE, and thankfully, has manages to shake off the saccharine sweet feel of his previous film. Daldry allows the kids to take centre stage, and for the audience to warm to these underdogs, who take on the might of the police and established and powerful politicians, all for the sake of adventure, and doing what’s right. The film is well paced and gripping, however the ending is a little too sweet and a little too drawn out to fit with the tone and style of the film.
In all, TRASH is a gripping and engaging adventure, anchored by strong performances from the young cast. The story is the right balance of fun and fearful, but is let down by an overly sweet and rather odd ending. Still, Trash is a family friendly adventure that will remind adults of their youths, and seeing THE GOONIES for the first time.
Review by Brogen Hayes