Reviews – New movies opening June 19th 2015

MR. HOLMES (UK/USA/PG/104mins)
Directed by Bill Condron. Starring Ian McKellen, Laura Linney, Milo Parker, Hiroyuki Sanada, Hattie Morahan, Patrick Kennedy, Roger Allam.
THE PLOT: It’s 1947, and we join the 93-year-old tired and retired Sherlock Holmes (McKellen) in his Sussex home, living the Beatrix Potter life deep in the country, with a scowling housekeeper (Linney) and her wide-eyed young son (Parker) keeping him company. And from dying alone at the end of the stairs.
Happiest when he’s attending to his beehives, Holmes is troubled by his recent visit to Japan, where his host, Umezaki Tamiki (Sanada), sprung the surprise claim that the great Baker Street detective was somehow responsible for his estranged father abandoning his young family to stay in England. Holmes cannot remember the details though, of this, or the failed case that sparked his retirement. Both cases begin to haunt him. Add to that the crushing weight of having to live up to the hero portrayed by his assistant Dr. Watson, and Holmes is a very troubled old man indeed…
THE VERDICT: With two Holmes currently on screen duties – Benedict Cumberbatch’s TV portrayal edging it over Robert Downey Jr.’s sardonic big-screen cartoon – it’s somewhat surprising and a little daring to see a much-loved English old dear taking on one of England’s most dearest literary loves.
Pretty much from the start though, the elderly Holmes feels like a good fit for McKellen, Conan Doyle’s grand old English detective being one third Gandalf, one third Ghandi and one third Gittes. Based on Mitch Cullin’s novel ‘A Slight Trick Of The Mind’, director Bill Condron (who enjoyed some major awards heat with McKellen with the 1988 biopic GODS AND MONSTERS) once again plays with the notion and nature of faded genius, fame and the need for solutions, true or otherwise. It makes for a beguiling, slow afternoon of a movie, free from exclamation marks and car chases. Which is a recommendation, by the way.
Review by Paul Byrne

ENTOURAGE (USA/15A/104mins)
Directed by Doug Ellin. Starring Adrien Grenier, Kevin Connolly, Jerry Ferrara, Jeremy Piven, Kevin Dillon, Billy Bob Thornton, Haley Joel Osment, Emmanuelle Chriqi, Perrey Reeves, Debi Mazar.
Picking up right from where the TV series left off, with movie star Vince (Grenier) insisting that the first movie under his agent-turned-studio-boss Ari Gold (Piven) be one that he not only stars in but directs too. Big movie stars insisting that they finally direct themselse, as anyone will tell you, always works out just great. Chief financier is Texas oil billionaire Larsen McCredle (Thornton), who, along with his idiot son (Osment), so, when this sci-fi superhero movie goes over-budget, hey, drama unfolds. Texan billionaire style.
THE VERDICT: It’s been four years since HBO called time on the behind-the-Hollywood-scenes series that ran for eight years and, well, nothing has changed. Which is possibly a good thing. Or a bad thing.
Hard to tell with this pretty-good-episode outing, ENTOURAGE never having quite managed the male bonding on Diner nor the biting backstage satire of The Larry Sanders Show, having settled instead for SEX & THE CITY for boys.
The gang’s all here, including Gernier’s movie star Vince, Matt Dillon’s B-list-actor brother as Vince’s B-list-actor half brother, the slippery Jeremy Piven as slippery superagent Ari Gold.
The presence of the adult, oddly-shaped Haley Joel Osment as the numbskull son can only make you think of Will Ferrell’s soap opera mini-series spoof THE SPOILS OF BABYLON, and the producers here really should have chased the neanderthal-featured comic genius for Thornton’s role here. Mainly because Thornton is a dick, and extremely hard to watch without being reminded of the fact that he is a dick.
So, not dreadful, but nothing to write a Hollywood script about either.
Review by Paul Byrne

Directed by George Tillman Jr. Starring Britt Robertson, Alan Alda, Scott Eastwood, Jack Huston, Oona Chaplin.
On their first date, college student Sophia (Britt Robertson) and bull rider Luke (Scott Eastwood) rescue an elderly man from a car crash. Sophia befriends Ira (Alan Alda) and, through reading old letters aloud to him, learns of his relationship with Ruth (Oona Chaplin) and finds a way to make her relationship with Luke work.
THE VERDICT: Britt Robertson does a fine job of playing headstrong city girl, and Luke Eastwood treads the line between Southern charm and misogyny very carefully. Both are fine in their roles and they are fine together on screen; the chemistry is not crackling, but they at least look as though they could stand to be in the same room as one another. Alan Alda brings a little gravitas to a film that desperately needs it, but is never really given a chance to be anything other than a vehicle for the story – as opposed to a fully rounded character. The rest of the cast is made up of Oona Chaplin, Jack Huston and Melissa Benoist.
Craig Bolotin adapted Sparks’ book for the big screen, and has created a film with two love stories, neither of which is particularly interesting. As always with a Sparks story, there is a star crossed couple who are fighting to be together, and this time, there is another one in the past, and the two stories intertwine. Both are highly melodramatic when there is no need for it, and neither one is particularly satisfying. The script is filled with cliché and exposition, and the box of letters written by Ira to his wife make little to no sense, since he is writing to her about the time they spent together, days after the events. OK, I can accept the story needed to be told for Sophia and Luke’s benefit, but there is no explanation as to why Ira does this weird journaling experiment.
As director, George Tillman Jr. – who previously brought us the Biggie Smalls story NOTORIOUS – plays up the melodrama and the overblown romances, and never really gives the characters the chance to be anything close to fully rounded or realised. As well as this, there are some heavy-handed music choices that seem to be used to substitute for emotion on screen, or to hammer it home.
In all, THE LONGEST RIDE is far too long, overblown and heavy handed. Two romantic stories are shoehorned in, but neither one is particularly engaging, although both are melodramatic. If you’ve seen THE NOTEBOOK, SAFE HAVEN, or any of the Nicholas Sparks adaptations that have made it to the big screen, then you know what’s in store here.
Review by Brogen Hayes

Directed by Thomas Cailley. Starring Kévin Azaïs, Adèle Haenel, Antoine Laurent, Brigitte Roüan, William Lebghil, Thibaut Berducat, Nicolas Wanczycki
Arnaud (Kévin Azaïs) is looking forward to a summer of hanging out with his friends and learning the family carpentry trade after the death of his father. When his friends sign him up for an army training fight, and he meets Madeleine (Adèle Haenel) however, things change. Finding himself falling for the aloof and army focused Madeleine, Arnaud decides to join the same boot camp as her, rather than spend a summer away from her.
THE VERDICT: Despite the cringey English language title, LOVE AT FIRST FIGHT is actually a sweet and warm story about first love, and the ridiculous lengths we will go to to be around the people we want. Azaïs and Haenel make a lovely central duo on screen, both complimenting and challenging each other, and allowing the power dynamic to shift and evolve with the situations they find themselves in. Although there is a familiar feeling about parts of the film – coming of age adventure tales like THE GOONIES come to mind – Azaïs and Haenel make the film their own, and conjure up the feeling of sun drenched first love on screen. The rest of the cast is made up of Antoine Laurent, Brigitte Roüan, William Lebghil, Thibaut Berducat and Nicolas Wanczycki.
Claude Le Pape and Thomas Cailley’s screenplay pits two opposites against one another, and allows friendship and romance to grow from there. Nothing is set up without it being allowed to affect the film as a whole – other than perhaps the death of Arnaud’s father, which feels a little out of place with the feel good emotions dancing across the screen – and although the central two characters are the ones most fleshed out, the smaller characters get their moments to shine. As the two head off to boot camp, the film feels as though it is settling into the world of Arnaud and Madeleine, and anything else that enters their bubble feels like a distraction to the audience, and the characters, getting to know one another better.
Director Thomas Cailley draws the audience into the relationship between Madeleine and Arnaud, allowing Arnaud to be a likeable everyman, so as not to make him vanilla, and Madeleine to be vociferous and determined, only to come around to other ways of thinking. The characters’ actions feel organic and well placed, even the inevitable romance seems to come from the right place within the characters, rather than being shoehorned in for the sake of the script.
In all, LoOVE AT FIRST FIGHT is a sweet and warm look at first love. Azaïs and Haenel are lovely together as the central couple; their easy chemistry and ability to allow the power in the relationship to flow back and forth is what makes the film so enjoyable to watch.
Review by Brogen Hayes

THE BURNING (EL ARDOR) (Argentina | Mexico | Brazil | France | USA/16/101mins)
Directed by Pablo Fendrik. Starring Gael Garcia Bernal, Alice Braga, Jorge Sesán, Chico Díaz, Claudio Tolcachir, Julián Tello, Lautaro Vilo, Iván Steinhardt.
As a group of nomads for hire begin to burn the forests of Argentina, Vania (Alice Braga) and her father begin to fear for their safety, as there have been numerous attacks on their land. When Kai (Gael Garcia Bernal) walks onto their farm unannounced, Vania believes that this man has come to help, but doesn’t yet realise how bloody the road to salvation will be.
THE VERDICT: THE BURNING premiered at the Cannes Film Festival last year, and tries to be a tale about the clash between two ways of life; between the physical and the metaphysical; the peaceful and the violent.
Gael Garcia Bernal and Alice Braga do well in their roles; the film is mostly about trying to solve the mystery of who Kai is, but it also focuses on the fact that we are forgetting the old ways of life, and Bernal straddles the line between these well. Braga is fearsome and vulnerable in her way and the two work well on screen together. The rest of the cast is made up of Jorge Sesán, Chico Díaz, Claudio Tolcachir, Julián Tello, Lautaro Vilo and Iván Steinhardt.
The story, written by Pablo Fendrik attempts to throw the difference between country and city living into relief on screen, and succeeds for the most part, but is when a jaguar (referred to as a tiger) consistently reappears throughout the movie that things get messy. There is the idea that the gods of the river are protecting the faithful and the peaceful – with the jaguar doing a lot of the dirty work – but this all falls by the wayside for the final set piece, which sees The Burning turning into a Western, complete will tolling bell and cowboy hats. This is not only jarring, but it feels like the wrong choice for a film that has been setting up the idea of the otherworldly from the outset.
As director, Pablo Fendrik allows the film to be a slow burn, but it is not long before this slow burn turns into downright heel dragging, meaning the pacing drops and the 101 minute running time suddenly feels a helluva lot longer. As well as this, the entire affair is rather predictable, with very few surprises to keep the audience engaged.
In all, THE BURNING has strong performances from Gael Garcia Bernal and Alice Braga, but with its muddled story and painful pacing, it turns from a thriller about survival to a slightly metaphysical tale starring Garcia Bernal as a modern Mowgli.
Review by Brogen Hayes