Photo credit: Christian Black

Reviews – New movies opening July 31st 2015

Directed by Christopher McQuarrie. Starring Tom Cruise, Jeremy Renner, Simon Pegg, Alec Baldwin, Rebecca Ferguson, Ving Rhames, Sean Harris, Simon McBurney, Hermione Corfield.
THE PLOT: With CIA chief Alan Hunley (Baldwin) determined to disband the Impossible Missions Force, the independent espionage agency’s no.1 operative, Ethan Hunt (Cruise), is just about to uncover the sinister and highly secretive international terrorist organisation known as The Syndicate when he’s captured and quickly framed as a rogue agent. With a little help from undercover agent Ilsa Faust (Ferguson), Hunt escapes, and with the CIA on his tail, he sets out to prove the existence of The Syndicate – and, more importantly, bring down its leader, the lizard-like Solomon Lane (Harris). But, who to trust…?
THE VERDICT: Hitting the ground running, and pretty much never slowing down for its slightly-too-long 131 minutes, once again, Tom Cruise tries the Trojan Horse approach back into box-office glory, after the superior Brad Bird-directed Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol in 2011 gave the former multi-plex messiah his only true box-office hit since, well, MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE III in 2006. So, he must be pretty damn happy to have a franchise to hide in, ROGUE NATION continuing the last MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE trick of making Cruise part of an OCEAN’S 11 crew rather than a Bond alone.
Which is not to say that you don’t get plenty of bang and gadgets for your buck here, the Mission: Impossible franchise being far more Pierce Brosnan than Daniel Craig as it chooses the ridiculous over the sublime on the bowtie-is-really-a-camera front.
The increasingly harangued-looking fanboy Pegg does his Pegg thing as bumbling computer geek Benji, whilst Renner, Baldwin and Rhames pretty much do Renner, Baldwin and Rhames. The only notables are the great Sean Harris (HARRY BROWN, RED RIDING, DELIVER US FROM EVIL), who once again does a perfectly chilling everyday Clockwork psycho, and Swedish newcomer Rebecca Ferguson, solid as the seductively quadruple-crossing killer queen.
Serviceable rather than remarkable, ROGUE NATION should keep Cruise’s hopes of winning another title fight some day alive and kicking. For another few years.
Review by Paul Byrne

HOT PURSUIT (USA/12A/87mins)
Directed by Anne Fletcher. Starring Reese Witherspoon, Sofía Vergara, Michael Mosley, John Carroll Lynch, Matthew Del Negro.
THE PLOT: Uptight and by the book Texas cop Rose Cooper (Reese Witherspoon), who just happens to be on desk duty for over reacting to a simple statement is sent on protective detail for Daniella Riva (Sofía Vergara), the widow of a man who was set to inform on a dangerous drug boss. Things do not go according to plan, however, and the odd couple find themselves fleeing for their life from hitmen and crooked cops.
THE VERDICT: HOT PURSUIT sounds like a film that should work on paper; an odd couple comedy starring an Oscar winning actress whose breakout role was in a comedy (Witherspoon), and the hottest comedic actress on TV right now (Vergara), but the trouble is that the film is just not funny.
Witherspoon does her best with the uptight, rule following Cooper, but the character is so broadly written as to be ill defined, and there are times when her character arc just does not make sense. Vergara plays a loud Latina woman who is quick to fly off the handle and filled with fire and passion. There is no subtlety to the fact that Cooper needs Riva to help her to mellow out in life, and both Witherspoon and Vergara’s characters play so well into racial stereotypes throughout the film that one cannot help but wonder what the film would have been if the actresses had switched roles. The rest of the cast is made up of Matthew Del Negro, Michael Mosley and John Carroll Lynch, who have very little to do.
David Feeney and John Quaintance’s screenplay seems to have been hugely inspired by the odd couple cop comedy THE HEAT – which starred Sandra Bullock and Melissa McCarthy – but the jokes don’t land. Seriously, not once during the film is there cause for even a smirk, let alone a decent belly laugh. The chase across the state of Texas is also ridiculous, with the women dressing in a moose costume, hiding out in a casino and being somehow forced into a faux-lesbian embrace to fool a man into thinking they are not the women whose images are all over the news, even though their sole effort to disguise themselves is a costume change.
Director Anne Fletcher – who previously brought us STEP UP, THE PROPOSAL and THE GUILT TRIP – seems to have little grasp of comedy, and seemingly encourages her actresses to simply shout in the hope that this will be perceived as funny. As well as this, the pacing of the film is a mess with the women blundering from one stupendously silly situation to the next with no let up or time for the characters to develop.
In all, HOT PURSUIT is a hot mess. Witherspoon and Vergara are not given a chance to show off their comedy chops, the script is not funny, and the situations ridiculous. Fans of both actresses will be disappointed with their turns in this film, which feels like a cheap knock off of THE HEAT.
Review by Brogen Hayes

Directed by Jean-Baptiste Leonetti. Starring Michael Douglas, Jeremy Vince, Martin Palmer, Renny Cox, Hanna Mangan Lawrence, Patricia Bethune, David Garver.
THE PLOT: The hunting guide becomes the hunted when American southwest desert tracker Ben (Irvine) discovers that trigger-happy LA businessman John Madec (Douglas) would rather not face justice for accidentally shooting a drifter (Palmer). Instead, he’d like Ben to take the blame. And if Ben doesn’t like that idea, well, John is just going to have to kill him too. Even if means playing fat cat and nice-guy mouse for an hour and a half. We know Madec is a maniac from the beginning, and not even an all-American idiot either – his car is imported, his gun is imported, and he’s about to sell his company to China. So, you know, the NRA will be happy to disown this particular gun nut.
THE VERDICT: A film all about a city slicker who comes bearing guns and grief to a small desert community – hmm, if only the makers of BEYOND THE REACH had thought of making our boy an Minnesota dentist. Instead, we get an unscrupulous LA businessman, played with relish but without panto baddieness by Michael Douglas (on something of a creative roll these days, with the likes of BEYOND THE CANDELABRA and ANT-MAN), the only almost-interesting element of BEYOND THE REACH.
Jeremy Irvine delivers his nice-guy Ben with a blandness that soon has you rooting for his bullet-riddled demise, whilst the cat and mouse thrills on offer are never even close to thrilling. Even Cameron’s regular DoP, Russell Carpenter, fails to bring this ferociously mediocre offering to life. This doesn’t even belong on Netflix, never mind the telly.
Review by Paul Byrne

13 MINUTES (Germany/Club/114mins)
Directed by Oliver Hirschbiegel. Starring Christian Friedel, Katharina Schüttler, Burghart Klaußner, Johann von Bülow, Felix Eitner, David Zimmerschied, Rüdiger Klink
THE PLOT: Georg Elser (Christian Friedel) is a man who could have changed the world; on November 8th 1939, Elser rigged a bomb in Munich which, had it gone off 13 minutes earlier, would almost certainly have killed Adolf Hitler. After the bomb plot is unsuccessful, Elser is caught and tortured to give up the names of those who he was working with. As Elser considers his options, he thinks back on his life, a life full of peace and tranquillity until he day came that he could not ignore the fact that Hitler was leading Germany into war.
THE VERDICT: 13 MINUTES is based on the life of Georg Elser, whose attack on Hitler cam just moments too late. The film is a look into the life of a man who seemed to want to spend his time making music and spending time in the company of women, but found himself radicalised in the face of the growing power of the Nazi Party.
Christian Friedel carries the film as Georg Elser, and brings a quiet dignity to the character who is described as a person who’d ‘rather be beaten to death than give in’. Friedel allows the character to slowly be radicalised; he rails against the treatment of his friends and colleagues as the small town he inhabits is slowly turned into a Nazi stronghold. Katharina Schüttler plays Elser’s former girlfriend Elsa, and she is magnetic and charming in the role. The rest of the cast is made up of Burghart Klaußner, Johann von Bülow, Felix Eitner, David Zimmerschied and Rüdiger Klink.
The story, written for the screen by Léonie-Claire Breinersdorfer and Fred Breinersdorfer follows a man whose idea has informed the plot of many a time travel movie and TV show; let’s kill Hitler. The film romanticises Elser to some degree, and pulls the affair with the married Elsa to the fore, perhaps for the sake of filling the 114 minute running time or perhaps to give us another reason to root for Elser. There are times when the balance between past and present in the film; between torture and freedom is not quite evenly struck, which then means that the pacing of the film suffers. That said, it is interesting to watch the slow radicalisation of a gentle man on screen, and to watch his loyalties change.
Director Oliver Hirschbiegel previously brought us the slow burning thriller Downfall, and the much less successful Diana; 13 MINUTES falls somewhere between these two. Less of a slow burn than DOWNFALL, 13 Minutes is about the changes a man goes through in his life, at a dangerous and violent time in our history. The balance between the frivolous times in Elser’s life, and his time in the lands of some of the Nazi Party’s most vicious men is almost evenly struck, but the film feels incredibly drawn out in places and, since we know the motives of Hitler and those around him, while the film is interesting, the ending feels like a foregone conclusion.
In all, 13 MINUTES is an interesting tale, and raises the age old question of ‘What If’ one of the plots against Hitler had been successful, although the film almost always sticks to the truth of the matter, and does not try to theorise how our world could be different. Christian Friedel carries the film, although there are times when the pacing suffers due to an imbalance in storytelling between past and present.
RATING: 3.5/5
Review by Brogen Hayes

IRIS (USA/Club/80mins)
Directed by Albert Maysles. Starring Iris Apfel, Carl Apfel.
THE PLOT: Albert Maysles’ penultimate film focuses on the day to day life of legendary New York fashion icon Iris Apfel, as she continues to work at the age of 90.
THE VERDICT: Iris Apfel is an inspiring woman; full of life and joie de vivre in her 90th year, she is endlessly quotable and full of passion for fashion and design. A wonderful subject for a documentary, Iris appears more than happy to talk about her early life and career as Maysles documents her daily life.
The film is more concerned with Iris as she is now, rather than being a retrospective of her career, but does give a cursory glance into the past in order to give the film context and depth. Iris has had a remarkable career as an interior decorator – even furnishing The White House on a number of occasions – and has now become a fashion icon in her own right. Maysles follows Iris as she goes on talk shows, fashion shoots and public appearances, as well as documenting her shopping, her wardrobe and her recent decision to start giving her massive collection of clothing and accessories away.
The film shows Iris as a woman still living her life, and loving every moment of it, but it is clear that she is a shrewd woman and a force to be reckoned with. This is never explicitly explained in the film, as Iris comes off gentle and sweet, but the fire that made her such a respected person in the fashion world is hinted at throughout the film.
Although the film is sweet, engaging and very funny at times, it does feel rather slight in places, as the back story is limited. That said, there are many poignant moments, as Iris explains she broke her hip without telling her husband of 66 years (‘he would flip!’), as she combs through the pieces she is giving away to the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem, and as she goes through a storage unit to find things to sell off. It is clear Iris is aware she cannot live forever, and these moments are delt with very carefully.
In all, Iris is a fascinating, funny and engaging subject for a film, and it is a joy to follow her through her days, and allow her to tell us about her past, but there are times where the film feels rather slight, and determined to only show one side of its subject. Still, IRIS is a must see for those with a love for fashion.
Review by Brogen Hayes