Review: Sisters

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DIR: Jason Moore • WRI: Paula Pell • PRO: Gerard Lough, Tanya McLaughlin • DOP: Barry Peterson • ED: Lee Haxall • DES: Richard Hoover • MUS: Christophe Beck • CAST: Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, John Cena, Madison Davenport

The unstoppable duo of Amy Poehler and Tina Fey have had us keeling over with laughter time and time again over the years. Their appearances on sketch show Saturday Night Live (a personal favourite has to be Fey as the insatiable politician Sarah Palin) are priceless, one liners in Mean Girls (‘I’m not like a regular mom, I’m a cool mom!’ – Poehler) from Fey’s script for the film are timeless, and their hosting of the Golden Globes awards ceremony for three consecutive years: inspired. Now we see Poehler and Fey take on the roles they’ve been practically playing throughout their long friendship and career together – as two loyal siblings who are full of love for life.

Recently divorced Maura Ellis (Poehler) works as a dutiful care-giving nurse, an extension of her childhood tendency to look after and ‘mom’ everyone she meets. Katie Ellis (Fey) is a beautician and wandering spirit who gets easily bored and restless, going from job to job and place to place in spite of complaints from her young adult daughter, Hayley (Madison Davenport – Over the Hedge), that she needs to start acting like a responsible adult. Mind you, when Maura and Katie get together, they are as infantile and irresponsible as each other… When the sisters find out that their parents (played by Dianne Wiest and James Brolin) are selling their childhood home, they start to move out their things, contemplating their current lives and indulging in the nostalgia of the party days of their youth. They decide to hold one final no hold-bars party in their house and invite their friends and neighbours of old, although some locals, such as the snobby Brinda (Maya Rudolph in her funniest role since Bridesmaids), do not receive an invite. Moreover, Maura requests that it be she who is allowed to release her ‘inner freak’ on the night while Katie looks after the house and guests. The result is an infamous night that progressively gets crazier and will no doubt have its attendees reminiscing for years after.

Sisters takes a little while to take off and a bit too long to wind down following the finale (with a running time of two hours, it is, like many of its contemporaries, a bit indulgently long for a comedy), but for its vast majority, it is delightfully and fervently funny. Even those who aren’t fans of Fey and Poehler will find the characters quickly grow on them. The supporting party guest characters are also brilliantly sketched, with a number of SNL stars (and indeed the writer of the film, Paula Pell, is also best-known for her work on the American sketch series) in the mix. Samantha Bee, Rachel Dratch, Bobby Moynihan, John Leguizamo, Greta Lee and John Cena all give rapturous, mad performances. The sheer hilarity of the film owes a tribute to director Jason Moore, particularly when one considers that this is only his second feature after Pitch Project. Moore could easily become this decade’s Judd Apatow.

Charming, playful and absolutely bonkers, Sisters IS the must-see, feel-good comedy of the season. It should prove great fun for both young (who can laugh at their elders) and old (who can have a good chuckle at themselves).

Deirdre Molumby

15A
117 minutes (See IFCO for details)

Sisters is released 11th December 2015

Sisters – Official Website

 

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Review: Inside Out

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DIR: Pete Docter, Ronaldo Del Carmen • WRI: Pete Docter, Ronaldo Del Carmen • PRO: Jonas Rivera • ED: Kevin Nolting • MUS: Michael Giacchino • DES: Ralph Eggleston • CAST: Kaitlyn Dias, Amy Poehler, Phyllis Smith, Richard Kind, Bill Hader, Lewis Black, Mindy Kaling, Kyle McLachlan, Diane Lane

 

Celebrated animation filmmaker, writer and six-time Oscar nominee Pete Docter has honed his craft for the past twenty years in quirky box office hits such as Toy Story, A Bug’s Life, Monster’s Inc. and Up. The concept for Docter’s latest collaboration with Disney•Pixar came to the director in 2009 when he became aware of clear behavioural and developmental changes in his daughter’s personality as she approached adolescence. Set inside the mind of prepubescent Riley Anderson, Inside Out explores the psychological angst aligned with the transition from childhood into teenhood from the perspective of the emotions that drive such maturity, producing an absorbingly complex and sophisticated narrative that emotively stirs both on a visceral and intellectual level.

 

Hockey-mad Riley is happy with her carefree life in Minnesota. When her parents suddenly decide to move to San Francisco, everything changes for the young girl, provoking her emotions to spiral out of control. Aware of the suffering she endures, Riley’s five dominant emotions become activated in the Headquarters of her conscious mind, where Joy, Anger, Disgust, Fear and Sadness control how she copes with the challenging ventures in a new school and home. When Sadness, who can nullify other emotions by touching Riley’s memories and turning them to sadness, creates a new, sad core memory, Joy’s attempts to destroy it sees her inadvertently releasing Riley’s other core memories and shutting down her personality islands. As chaotic instability in Riley’s mind ensues, Joy and Sadness attempt to rescue the core memories before the other emotions can dominate her fragmented being, consigning Riley to a life of solitude, misery and sadness.

 

Twenty years since Pixar transfigured the animation filmmaking process with trailblazing innovation in Toy Story and after the recent shaky offerings of Cars 2 and Monster’s University failed to reach the dizzy heights Pixar audiences have become accustomed to, the studio’s fifteenth feature produces an abundance of spectacularly detailed CGI effects combined with an intricately ambitious narrative, which sees Pixar not only return to top form but indeed raise the bar further within animation filmmaking itself. Pursuing an existentially complex yet compassionate narrative trajectory, Inside Out is a rousing rollercoaster of tumultuous thrills balanced by nuanced characters whose raw sensitivities execute the growing pains of childhood with depth, poignancy and intuition. Palpably psychological in tone, the film dissects the profound complexities buried deep within the conscious mind through an erudite and witty script, to make visible the internal suffering of a young girl on the brink of great change, while sedating such cerebral intensity with childlike playfulness and jaunty humour as the activated emotions experience their own hilarious inner vicissitudes.

 

Delineating a perceptive insight into the psychology of memories through acute emotional intelligence, Inside Out takes a classic, universal coming-of-age narrative and didactically informs through an excess of high-spirited humour and ingenious visual allure. The systematic means by which emotions and memories are stored, processed and transformed by interpreting the symbiotic relationship between the human psyche and interpersonal relationships, serves to bring the often concealed emotional self within the psychology of a child to the forefront in a creatively original and intriguing manner. The film’s narrative entanglements document a child’s complex mental development as it adapts to change and does so with such emotional charge, it poses profound philosophical questions about the nature of human psychology and the necessity to engage with its more melancholic aspects, to attain emotional equilibrium.

Even Riley’s most potent emotion, Joy, finds her optimism persistently challenged and the omnipresence of Sadness, equips Riley’s other conflicting emotions to deal with her unpredictability, demonstrating the necessity to wholesomely embrace a variety of emotions, in order for the self to gain an understanding of the mind and flourish. The narrative’s deep-rooted themes unfold with such intellectual ferocity and at such an accelerated rate, that the labyrinthine script at times, struggles to keep pace with its own velocity, the execution of sharpness often compromised for its phenomenal visual style, sometimes failing to control its philosophies on a completely satisfactory level. But overall, Inside Out can boast a dazzling and compelling style that meets its challenging substance with bucket loads of fun, if perhaps its mature themes may swamp a younger audience.

Aware of its own unrivalled mastery within animation filmmaking, Inside Out is a highly self-reflexive, daring and thought-provoking feature, which provides a groundbreaking perspective on the narrative evolution within animation itself. The film delineates a coming-of-age trajectory, both narratively and technically, that challenges the nature of how animation films are produced and received. Adults will appreciate its wholly elaborate and painstakingly detailed production, while its sheer visual wondrousness will appeal to those whose narrative complexities may at times, overwhelm. While its depth may bewilder on occasion, its ambitious execution in transcending existing animation parameters will reposition the narrative and technical boundaries within contemporary film animation and cement Pixar Animation as the leading figurehead in animated film production.

 

Dee O’Donoghue

 

G (See IFCO for details)
103 minutes

Inside Out  is released 24th July 2015

Inside Out  – Official Website

 

 

 

 

 

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Cinema Review: Free Birds

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DIR: Jimmy Hayward • WRI: Jimmy Hayward, Scott Mosier • PRO: Scott Mosier • ED: Chris Cartagena •  DES: Mark Whiting •  MUS: Dominic Lewis • CAST: Woody Harrelson, Owen Wilson, Dan Fogler, Amy Poehler

Dear faithful reader – allow me to enlighten you on how work gets divvied up at Film Ireland HQ. If you’re imagining a more bookish version of Avengers Assemble than you’re not far off. Our roguish editor in chief Steven Galvin alerts us to upcoming missions. Usually volunteers are easy to find. You could throw a rock and hit a willing reviewer for the vast majority of films awaiting release. Arms shoot up with the eagerness of an incontinent kid in need of the bathroom. The glamour jobs like Gravity or the latest flick from the Coens cause a stampede towards Steven.

However, there’s a strain of film that causes a stampede in the opposite direction. Within seconds, ‘FI HQ’ is as empty as an echo chamber. Our plucky editor is sounding the klaxon but no one responds. It’s like a 999 call to a garda station that has deliberately left the phone off the hook for days on end. So Steven strides around the moonlit roof of FI HQ like Nick Fury pointing the Batsign in vain at the heavens.

And then a hero comes along with the strength to actually go to a G rated mid-tier non-Pixar animated film. There’s no glory in it but there is bravery. Now I’m a modest and handsome man but where does my bravery rank? Well, I occasionally nip to the shops without raingear. I once bit into a Scotch Bonnet chilli pretty much on purpose. I won’t interrupt a mugging but I will report it to the authorities at my earliest convenience. Going to a film like Free Birds though – that’s Purple Heart behaviour in critical circles.

Every critic going in knows it too. The swollen gallery of casual reviewers, guests and liggers evaporate in these cauldron moments. We are distilled down to the core few. No excess. No excuses. No passengers. Strewn across the vast chasm of seats like defiant pockets of resistance. We’re here to do a job and by god, we’re going to see it through. I know what you’re thinking by now – ‘where’s the bloody’ review? And firstly that’s not cool. This is a kid’s film and parents and children could be reading this expecting a G rated review for a G film. So ease up on the potty mouth people. Secondly, I’m trying out an AA Gill style review where he eventually mentions the food in the last two paragraphs.

So Free Birds is about a pardoned turkey on thanksgiving who travels back in time in order to change the Pilgrim’s choice of celebratory food for the very first all American holiday. Thereby saving future generations of turkeys. It’s not a bad premise at all but similar to a lot of recent animations, the idea is better than the actual script. I kept expecting a genuinely subversive notion like the turkeys trying to convert an entire nation to a vegetarian nut roast being a suitable centre piece for their festivities. As such, genuine wit is in short supply but some of the character design and sequences deliver enough action and humour to divert undemanding minds for the duration. Parents won’t be racing back to it but it’s plenty entertaining for little ones.

OK – let’s stuff in some turkey references. Audiences will flock to it because it’s plucking good fun. This film will be panned. It’s bound to get a critical roasting and be carved apart. It’s just a shame it doesn’t feature music by the Cranberries. And so on….

I’ll be back with a bulletin from the frontline again soon. Stay tuned folks and watch the skies. But not for turkeys. ‘Cos they can’t fly.

James Phelan

G (See IFCO for details)

90  mins

Free Birds is released on 29th November 2013

Free Birds – Official Website

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