Review: Manglehorn

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DIR/WRI: David Gordon Green • WRI: Paul Logan • PRO: Molly Conners, David Gordon Green, Derrick Tseng • DOP: Tim Orr • ED: Colin Patton • DES: Richard A. Wright • MUS: Explosions in the Sky, David Wingo • CAST: Al Pacino, Holly Hunter, Chris Messina, Harmony Korine

 

After a largely unsuccessful foray into broad comedy that brought us turkeys like The Sitter and Your Highness, director David Gordon Green has firmly established his return to low-key, naturalistic character studies with the Al Pacino starring Manglehorn. Following on from Prince Avalanche and Joe, Green’s latest chronicles the day to day shuffling’s of Pacino’s aging locksmith, A.J. Manglehorn. Paul Logan’s script reads like a build your own melancholy indie drama instruction manual, equipping our protagonist with your run of the mill disappointed offspring (Chris Messina), a quirky age-inappropriate romantic interest (Holly Hunter) and of course, a sickly pet; a cat named Fanny. Manglehorn flits between these three scenarios, attempting to make paternal inroads with his successful but estranged financial wizard of a son in between weekly and flirtatious trips to see his favourite bank teller, played with an earnest charm by Hunter and a constant struggle to get his ill feline to eat her food.

Gordon Green’s past work in this manner has always succeeded by evoking a strong sense of place and Manglehorn doesn’t disappoint in this regard. The locksmith’s shop feels wonderfully lived in as does the small Texan town where it’s located. The George Washington director’s films often take time out for characters with no relation to the central plot or its characters, giving them a moment to themselves before returning back to the business of the story. Manglehorn boasts one such scene, a beautifully spontaneous gospel duet between one of Hunter’s fellow bank tellers and her loving husband. Details like this, memorable characters and the brash colourful daytime palate of Manglehorn’s quiet but living locale contrast with a much less welcoming washed out nightlife of EDM-throbbing clubs and seedy casinos. It’s here that we’re introduced to cult director and sometimes actor Harmony Korine’s Gary, a massage club proprietor who gabbles endlessly about his ill-conceived entrepreneurial endeavours and constantly refers to Pacino as “coach”, a throwback to when the locksmith took charge of the local schools baseball team. Korine’s turn is at once compelling and hugely irritating, representing as he does the rotting heart at the centre of this Texan backwater, though every second he spends onscreen he threatens to derail the film entirely. He functions as the opposite to Hunter’s well-meaning and thoroughly optimistic Dawn who exists to drag Manglehorn up by his bootstraps and out of his fugue state into a better life. Unfortunately their story never quite takes off, their friendly exchanges building to an intentionally excruciating dinner date whilst never really offering a convincing portrait of the muddled beginnings of a late in life relationship.

With a soundtrack by Explosions in the Sky, Green’s film contains many singular moments of pure aural joy but overall the film finds him over experimenting sonically, with many sequences featuring disparate dialogue sequences playing on top of each other, with a slowly swelling soundtrack drowning them both out. It’s a device that whilst initially interesting soon proves to lend an unwelcomingly woozy tone to the film that, coupled with Pacino’s uncharacteristically quiet performance robs the experience of any real urgency.

Ultimately Gordon Green’s latest is a visually interesting though slow and meandering experience, your tolerance of which will largely hinge on your ability to swallow a near endless streams of vaguely whimsical and regret-filled Pacino voiceover.

Jack O’Kennedy

12A (See IFCO for details)
97 minutes

Manglehorn  is released 7th August 2015

Manglehorn – Official Website

 

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Review: Danny Collins

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DIR: Dan Fogelman • WRI: Dan Fogelman • PRO: Nimitt Mankad, Jessie Nelson • DOP: Steve Yedlin • ED: Julie Monroe • MUS: Ryan Adams, Theodore Shapiro, John Lennon • DES: Dan Bishop • CAST: Al Pacino, Annette Bening, Jennifer Garner, Bobby, Cannavale, Christopher Plummer

 

Despite having carved a lionized career playing mordacious mobsters, murderers, moguls and mentors in crime thrillers, Al Pacino has peppered such tragedian roles with the odd foray into the sunnier comedy genre over the course of his forty-something career. While early comedy roles in films such as Dick Tracy and Frankie and Johnnie may have garnered Pacino critical success, later roles in lesser critically received comedies such as Stand Up Guys and The Humbling have failed to reposition Pacino with anything of significant weight outside his celebrated career as the introspective intimidator in Hollywood crime dramas.

 

In his latest comedy jaunt Danny Collins, Pacino stars as the eponymous ageing pop star who compromised his musical integrity for commercial success when starting out in the industry forty years ago. In spite of his enduring successful career, he has grown cynical and frustrated with belting out the same repetitive hits to an increasingly older audience. When he discovers a letter from John Lennon written in 1971 encouraging him to remain faithful to his musical integrity, it inspires him to take control of his creativity in the way he should have done a long time ago. He sets about righting the wrongs of the past and along the way encounters a new family, true friendship and a psychological battle composing the songs he feels he was truly meant to write.

 

Inspired by the true story of British folk musician Steve Tilston, who received a letter from John Lennon thirty-four years after he wrote it, assuring him that success would not compromise his songwriting abilities, renowned Hollywood screenwriter Dan Fogelman (Crazy, Stupid, Love. The Guilt Trip, Last Vegas) debuts his first foray into comedy as feature film director. With such screenwriting credentials and illustrious cast at the helm, it would be safe to assume that Fogelman should be able to elevate the over-familiar narrative of sentimental self-discovery into a refreshingly contemporary and cautionary tale about the malignancy of greed and success. Unfortunately, the hit-and-miss Fogelman is unable to draw on the screenwriting resources of some of his previous films, instead lapsing into the well-oiled narrative of transformation that Hollywood ubiquitously churns out by the bucket load. Evidently assuming this universal parable is not in need of refreshment, Fogelman repeatedly meets narrative expectations, which surprisingly for an experienced screenwriter, results in a somewhat indifference to his narrative, relying all too easily on Lennon’s soundtrack to bolster the film’s predictable ruts, of which there are far too many.

 

What was much needed in Danny Collins to leaven the formulaic narrative was to engage with the dark subtext that is sporadically introduced but let flaccidly hanging. In the hands of the ever-ruminative Pacino, the exploration of Danny’s morality and conscience; addiction, abandonment, manipulation of and by the industry, would have rooted his moral transition from self-obsessed, pitying crooner into worldly-wise family man, all the more tangible had his character been given the multi-textured attention Pacino is renowned for but is instead carpeted over with sugared-coated fluff. Indeed, it is the outstanding performances from its leading actors that saves Danny Collins from becoming another forgettable, twee comedy drama and Pacino can honourably salute his latest comedy role, which is nigh on flawless as the impish and childlike, washed-out, raspy crooner who balances the burden of self-destruction from the perilous trappings of show business with the emotional sensitivity of the first flushes of genuine love, friendship and family bonding. When given the opportunity, Pacino displays the emotional pain of the tragic loner with such palpable nuance; it is a tragedy in itself that this lack of emotional exploration into Pacino’s character, concealed behind the overuse of Lennon’s soundtrack, becomes a wasted opportunity and severe oversight by Fogelman.

 

Annette Bening is as infallible as ever and plays the perfect foil to Pacino’s roguish guff with understated sophistication and razor-sharp wit, while Christopher Plummer as Danny’s corrosive manager, is failed too often by misplaced vulgar dialogue, which is so painfully at odds with his character’s intent at times, that when he does express emotional humility, it appears alienating and disingenuous. The surprise revelation is Jennifer Garner who displays impeccable comedic timing and although remains within the boundaries of her habitual risk-free maternal roles, could have stolen the acting accolades from Pacino and Bening, had she benefitted from a more robust script and developed characterisation.

 

It would be expected that a film by a first-time director would contain many of the lesser-polished elements than would be customary from a more experienced filmmaker. However, it is not the direction that is the weakest component in Danny Collins but rather ironically, its immensely lethargic script that relies too heavily on thundering clichés that devalue the illuminating comedic performances from Pacino, Bening and Garner. Within a more solid and polished narrative of self-discovery, the conclusion would be fittingly apt, however, in the absence of this, it merely appears Fogelman has run out of steam or has just simply given up.

Danny Collins is, at times, an engaging and downright hilarious comedy drama that will have you laughing through the tears but this is simply owing to the sublime performances from its cast and not through a refreshingly new perspective on the hackneyed Hollywood narrative of transformation.

 

   Dee O’Donoghue

 

15A (See IFCO for details)

106 minutes

Danny Collins is released 29th May 2015

 

Danny Collins – Official Website

 

 

 

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Cinema Review: Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2

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DIR: Cody Cameron, Kris Pearn • WRI: John Francis Daley, Erica Rivinoja , Jonathan M. Goldstein  PRO: Kirk Bodyfelt  ED: Robert Fisher Jr., Stan Webb DES: Robert Fisher Jr., Stan Webb CAST: Bill Hader, Anna Faris, James Caan, Will Forte, Kristen Schaal, Terry Crews, Andy Samberg, Neil Patrick Harris, Al Pacino

Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2 is a comedy/adventure for all ages. Featuring Flint Lockwood, Sam Sparks and all of their friends

Flint Lockwood, who lives in Swallow Falls, gets invited to California by his hero scientist Chester V to join the live Corp company where they have the best inventors in the world.

Chester then sends Flint and his friends to go on a dangerous mission to stop a food-making machine Flint had made back at Swallow Falls

I like the animation and the characters and I loved when there was a leak (leek!) in the boat. The script was well written and the music was good as well and even my mum enjoyed it.

In my opinion the film was on for a reasonable amount of time and thought it was very funny and well written although you would really need to see the first one to understand the second one a little more.

Overall it was very enjoyable.

 Deabhan Murray

Aged 10

G (See IFCO for details)

92 mins

Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2 is released on 25th October 2013

Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2 – Official Website

 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f2YsOtCL6c8

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JDIFF 2012 Out of the Past Cinema Review: The Panic in Needle Park, starring Al Pacino

Jameson Dublin International Film Festival

Out of the Past: The Panic in Needle Park

Wednesday, 22nd February, 5:30pm, Cineworld 

Cautionary tales are a tricky thing to get right, especially when the subject matter is drug use, the temptation for the material to get heavy handed is always there and skill must be taken to ensure that while not condoning the lifestyle, the film doesn’t just become a sermon.

For the majority of its running time The Panic in Needle Park views its characters in a detached manner. Glimpses of intimacy between its central pair, the streetwise but permanently small fry Bobby and naive and sympathetic Helen are there, but the film covers a lot of ground in their relationship so the courtship is sketched rather than painstakingly pored over. This suits the subject of the film, the relationship begins like the giddy rush of drug use when parties stretch on for days and in that heady context the wastrels and prostitutes which surround the couple are given a worldly bohemian glow. While not glamorised in any real way the initial stages of the film do have a charming air. Pacino is at his best in these scenes, conveying Bobby’s roguishness that when divorced from the practicalities of what he actually does would make him quite seductive to the sheltered and introverted Helen. It’s not long before the inevitable comedown as we see Helen descend into a seedy lifestyle of her own, turning tricks to score drugs and become the main breadwinner .

In a post-Trainspotting world this arc is quite standard and as an audience we can see the beats as they come, anticipating the debasement we get on the screen. For its time I have no doubt it was shocking and a milestone regarding its themes and was greatly influential but it is more interesting for the impact it made rather than for its actual content. Some lovely moments are undercut by a narrative that stretches on for too long, the ups and downs of Helen and Bobby soon become quite wearying and it definitely overstays its welcome as in its latter moments the whole thing loses narrative focus and indulges some cliches and overly moralistic asides.

As Pacino’s second ever acting role The Panic in Needle Park is an interesting curio for fans of his, however it is surprising that as the film becomes more dramatic and pointed his performance falters a bit.

Kitty Winn on the other hand is a revelation throughout and the finest performance on screen, her gradual fall from innocence is full of nuance and it makes her the most tragic figure of all. She very much deserved her Best Actress win at Cannes that year for her work here. As an artifact of the 70s the film is very much of its time, and shows us the curdling of the ’60s hippie ideal of recreational drug use into a more desperate arena of shooting up and getting strung out. The dream was over well before the panic started.

 Emmet O’Brien

Click here for Film Ireland’s coverage of this year’s Jameson Dublin International Film Festival

Click here for full details and to book tickets for this year’s Jameson Dublin International Film Festival

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Screen legend Al Pacino confirmed to attend 10th Jameson Dublin International Film Festival

Screen legend Al Pacino confirmed to attend 10th Jameson Dublin International Film Festival

Oscar®- winning screen legend Al Pacino is confirmed to attend the 10th Jameson Dublin International Film Festival, Ireland’s largest film event, which takes place from the 16th-26th February 2012.
The veteran Hollywood actor-turned-director will present the Irish premiere of his latest project and personal obsession Wilde Salome. A fascinating documentary which delves into the world of one of Ireland’s greatest writers Oscar Wilde, it is an arresting onscreen celebration of Dublin’s storytelling heritage.
Speaking about the announcement, Festival Director Gráinne Humphreys said: ‘as a cinemagoer, I have long admired the ambition and range of Al Pacino’s film career, which has created such an indelible legacy on world cinema. A provocateur, an innovator and a consummate artist who has created some of the most iconic characters in movie history, he is also a film director driven by his personal passions. The festival is honoured to present the Irish premiere of Wilde Salome – a new film by one of the world’s greatest screen actors.’
Ireland’s foremost film event, the Jameson Dublin International Film Festival will be celebrating its 10th year this coming February, with a varied and absorbing programme of over 130 feature films, documentaries, shorts and events spanning an action packed 11 days. The full programme will be announced in early February.
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