Seventh Son

Jeff-Bridges-and-Ben-Barnes-in-The-Seventh-Son

DIR: Sergey Bodrov • WRI: Charles Leavitt, Steven Knight •  PRO: Basil Iwanyk, Thomas Tull, Lionel Wigram • DOP: Newton Thomas Sigel • ED: Jim Page, Paul Rubell • MUS: Marco Beltrami • DES: Dante Ferretti • CAST: Ben Barnes, Julianne Moore, Jeff Bridges

“What goes around, comes around” is one of those vague truisms that only truly applies in two contexts: pass-the-parcel and pop culture. The past decade alone has proven true for the latter, with the superhero genre having completed a full cycle from matinee fluff to box-office heavyweight – a certain be-cowled billionaire proving particularly symbolic of a shift from camp four-colour fun towards the grounded and gritty.

Even now, however, there is evidence of a return to nostalgia – just as Marvel’s ever-expanding cinematic universe begins to court the more colourful aspects of its comic-book ancestry, Matthew Vaughn was all-too-happy to provide a similar tonic to a spy genre replete with Bournes and Bonds in the form of last month’s Kingsmen: The Secret Service.

So with Game of Thrones as the undisputed and unrelenting lord of television and most big-screen releases little more than copycats coasting in the wake of LOTR’s box-office success (its own sequel trilogy the greatest offender among them), the fantasy genre is set for a director to come along and breathe new life with a (semi-) original property that drags traditional fantasy kicking and screaming into the internet age.

And traditional Seventh Son certainly is.

John Ward (Ben Barnes) is the seventh son of a seventh son, and thus born to fight the forces of darkness besieging a medieval world where dragons, witches and shapeshifters are very much more than stories. With an old evil newly-awakened, he is sought out by Master Gregory (Jeff Bridges), last of the Seventh Sons and in the market for a new apprentice after his last protégé fell to head witch Mother Malkin (Julianne Moore).

The fun brand of fantasy here owes less to Tolkien than it does to Dungeons & Dragons, where monsters are ranked by classes and the apple-pie American accent is standard, the British lilt reserved only for those of sinister intent. The other trappings, however, are pure fantasy – McGuffins masquerading as jewellery abound, and the quest aspect is but another iteration of the original conservative allegory of eliminating any outside forces which might attempt to change the world we live in – there would genuinely be more pathos in watching an order of Seventh Sons passively resist their doom in the form of increasing urbanization and smaller family sizes it fosters.

An engaging story can win out above all, but when the imagination is so starved in that regard the mind turns itself towards picking flaws that might have otherwise gone happily unnoticed. It’s hard to escape the idea that Seventh Sons would have been better off evoking the trappings of traditional fantasy without chaining itself to the most restrictive of them; each enemy is just another jingoistic stand-in for a sinister ethnic other, so that the plot essentially boils to white men whacking minorities with sticks. Watching the news is free, thanks.

As for the cast, no amount of gravitas can override this much unintentional ham. Julianne Moore channels a brand of camp better suited to a Hocus Pocus sequel and though Jeff Bridges fares better by going with the flow and opting for an accent somewhere between Bane and bronchitis, I’d have much preferred to see the film he thought he was making.

Ruairí Moore

 

12A (See IFCO for details)
102 minutes

Seventh Son is released 27th March 2015

Seventh Son – Official Website

 

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'Killing Bono' director & author: Nick & Neil

Killing Bono

Gemma Creagh chats with Killing Bono director Nick Hamm and Neil McCormick, author of novel Killing Bono: I was Bono’s Doppelganger.

How did you come to direct Killing Bono?

Nick: I heard Neil being interviewed on the radio in London and I thought there was an interesting story there about rock n’ roll failure. I thought that failure would make a good journey for a movie rather than rock and roll success, which is what most movies are.

Were you happy with the portrayal of yourself in the film?

Neil: You know it’s really complicated to see yourself portrayed by anybody, anybody else’s idea of you… I’m much better looking in the film than in real life so I should be happy about that, but of course my dance moves are way better.

Nick: He’s very lucky that Ben Barnes is playing him!

Neil: It makes my head explode. The difference is, when you write the book you tell these stories of your own failures with the ironic voice of someone who’s including themselves in the joke. I’m saying: ‘I did this really stupid thing isn’t that funny?’ but when someone else tells it, they’re just saying ‘he did this really stupid thing’.

What was the most difficult part of shooting it?

Nick: The most difficult part was to get two main elements. One was to make accurate the moments of rock history that I needed to get right. In other words: the early days of U2, the audition scenes and the music scenes in the clubs. Those for me, were important. I wanted to make sure they were historically correct and had the right energy and vibe at the time. The other thing was making the main character, because if you’ve got an antihero character that essentially irritates the audience all the time through ineptitude or hubristic decision making then you need to make that character as likable as you can. Neil’s fictional journey –the story of how bad he should be at any moment and how terrible he actually was – the plotting of that is quite difficult.

Has Bono seen it?

Nick: Yeah.

Neil: Bono has seen it. U2 have all seen it, they thought it was very funny at the screening. They’ve been supportive of the process because Bono loved the book in the first place. He felt it was the first time he’s recognised himself in print. He should know, because I knew him before he became Bono. I knew him as a boy and now I’ve seen this inflated image – this iconic rock god everyone has, this cartoon of an idea of Bono – that has taken over. I know the human being and he’s a really great guy, that is there in the book and it is there in the film. He should be delighted with that. No actor could have done better than Martin McCann as Bono. He IS Bono. He’s more like Bono than Bono is. If Bono wanted to retire and let someone else do the singing, he has a ready-made replacement.

Did you both collaborate when creating the characters? Because there are some pretty mental characters in there.

Nick: There are some mental characters in there! Without getting into litigious areas, Neil wrote about some real people in the book and we thought that probably wasn’t the best way to go. There were enough real characters in the story, so we conflated certain characters together that he met on his musical journey in the ’80s, and made them into one, cementing them. So therefore you get over the problem that they are ‘this’ person, and also create something that the audience can relate to. They go on that journey, because you can’t just have hundreds of different people coming in. The book is a kind of kaleidoscope of events that happened, whereas a movie has to be more focused.

How much of it actually happened?

Neil: It’s close to the truth of the idea of the book. The stuff that happened is on record with U2, the other thing is that Ivan and myself formed a band at the same time as U2 in school and U2 went to the top of the music business and we didn’t. The actual incidents of how that occurred have been dramatised and made more tangible for the film, but the essence of the film is a true story of almost cosmic levels of failure.

Nick: There are certain elements of the movie that are factually correct: They did audition in Larry’s mum’s kitchen, they did put a notice on the noticeboard at Mount temple school and they did play in that tiny little hall. We fictionalised other factual events and factualised a lot of fiction. In the end what you want to say to the audience is ‘yeah there are of elements in this that are true but it’s authentic to what happened.’

Does Ivan like it?

Nick: Ivan thinks it’s the truth. He thinks it’s funny that his brother stopped him in U2 and that now I’ve managed to get that message out to the world.

Neil: If you’re in an unsuccessful rock band, mostly your story never gets told and Ivan is a really talented musician who’s still a musician but he’s working on a different part of the circuit now. He’s available for weddings and parties. This is a way that he gets his story told to the world. I’ve been able to tell my story because I’ve written a book and I’ve been able to write and express myself in different ways, so this is a gift to Ivan – plus he gets played by Robbie.

Nick: He gets played by a very attractive actor, Robert Sheehan!

Killing Bono is released in cinemas today.

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Ben Barnes on 'Killing Bono'

Ben Barnes

Gemma Creagh chats with Killing Bono and The Chronicles of Narnia star, Ben Barnes.

You have a great accent in the film; how did you manage your Irish accent?

Well I had about two hours with a dialect coach before I came over to Ireland because we didn’t have the budget to have him for longer – and I just decided I would stay in the accent the whole time that I was in Ireland. So for about 10 weeks, whether I was in the pub or on the phone to my mum, everything I said was in the accent. I was listening to Robbie Sheehan speaking. I know he’s not from Dublin, but Laois is close enough! So I was just listening, basically because with a comedy you’re going to improvise little lines here and there, and if you learn only to say what’s in the script you’ll come unstuck very quickly. I just loved that accent, I’ve done loads of accents in my career so far, lots of different weird accents, but this was a really fun one. I’d do it again. I’m looking for other Irish projects.

What attracted you to the role of the troubled musician?

I was aching for the script to be funny when I knew that it was by the guys who wrote The Commitments, because I knew what sort of feel it would have. It was hilarious because this guy was such a moron, he couldn’t really get out of his own way, and I could relate to the passion and the frustration of not really getting there as soon as you hope you can. I was looking for something to do that was a different, a little bit less… earnest. I didn’t want to play a heroic character. I wanted to play someone who took the piss out of himself – and this was he if ever there was someone. But because he’s not famous I had the freedom to play him however I wanted, and turn him into who I want and now everyone will think that he’s like he is in the film, when he’s not. It was an interesting challenge, I wanted to make him good-natured and good hearted but a plonker as well.

Are you a U2 fan in real life?

Yeah, I’m more so now. I didn’t really grow up with their music but I always liked particular songs of theirs. I have a newfound respect for Bono as a frontman, you can see the energy of that raspy high voice! I think they’re a great band and I’d love to go and see them.

What’s the difference between Killing Bono compared to a big role like The Chronicles of Narnia.

I think time is a big thing. On those big movies you have a lot more time. You’re filming for five, six or seven months so you’re concentrating on little tiny moments – but on a film like this, it’s like a firework every day. You need a big sweary director like Nick Hamm to get it going every morning and be like: ‘be funny. Go. Immediately.’ Its about rushing, and that’s the major difference. You can definitely have a lot more fun on things like this also.

Did you get any pointers from the real Neil before you played the role?

No, I wasn’t allowed. The director wouldn’t let me meet him. He said, ‘if you meet him you’ll be wanting to take little bits of his character and put them in and I don’t want you to do that because he’s so irritating. I’ve met him, he’s so annoying and if you play him like that nobody will be able to watch the film from start to finish.’ So I had free reign to go back to the book. I did watch In Bruges, I wanted to take some of that crazy enthusiasm that Colin Farrell has in that movie and put it in this – Withnail & I as well. They structured the relationship between Neil and Ivan on that relationship and infused it into the real story of what happened. So I looked at Withnail, Richard E. Grant’s character. I mixed them all together and read the book over and over again, to be able to think the way Neil thinks – which is in a very abstract, strange way.

You finished a play recently in the West End?

I did yeah, I just finished six months in a World War One play, called Birdsong.

Which do you prefer, film or the theatre?

They both have their challenges really. There’s nothing quite matches up to the feeling of telling a whole story to an audience on one night, and getting through to the end of it, feeling like you’ve told that story successfully. You take that audience on that journey with you. You have a lot more control and power as a stage actor because you can change and manipulate things to suit the audience and suit that particular night. On film there’s so many more people involved in crafting those moments. All you can do as a film actor is give those moments of amusement or whatever is and hope and prey that the director and editor will put it together in an arc that makes sense. The responsibility is not yours anymore. Performance in film is very collaborate and performance on stage is very much your own. The weird thing about theatre is when you finish it feels like it never happened, especially if you don’t talk about it. You tend not to – and then when the theatre is stripped and it has other posters on there… it’s just bizarre, it feels like a weird dream.

Did you get on with Robert Sheehan when shooting?

Yeah, absolutely. And straight away as well. I didn’t know who he was in the beginning and he gave me the DVDs of Misfits to educate me. I came in the next day completely in awe of him, going ‘You’re amazing. You’re a comic genius!’ He is so talented, one of the most naturally talented young actors. He can just switch between serious and crazy, frustrated and angry and stupid comedy in two seconds – he doesn’t even have to try. I’m proud of him in the way that an older brother is. I’ve got a little brother and you love them and you’re very proud of them and they annoy you – it clicked very quickly between us.

Killing Bono is released in cinemas on 1st April 2011.

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The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader

The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader

DIR: Michael Apted • WRI: Christopher Markus, Stephen McFeely, Michael Petroni • PRO: Andrew Adamson, Mark Johnson, Philip Steuer • DOP: Dante Spinotti • ED: Rick Shaine • DES: Barry Robison • CAST: Ben Barnes, Skandar Keynes, Georgie Henley

When we meet the Pevensie children again, many changes have occurred in their lives. Older siblings Peter and Susan are evidently enjoying adulthood and are living the high life. Meanwhile, younger siblings Edmund and Lucy are caught up in the midst of war. They are forced to spend months in the company of their insufferable cousin Eustace, who dreams of pinning his cousins to the wall like insects. Edmund and Lucy are, of course, infuriated by this turn of events, they have lived adult lives in another world, and the world they are trapped in seems to give them nothing but trouble. What they need is, you guessed it, a trip to Narnia!

This instalment of the series is immediately darker than the previous. As their entry into Narnia is slightly more violent than they are used to, with water beginning to fill up the bedroom, they frantically swim to find the surface, which happens to be in Narnia. Unfortunately cousin Eustace is in the wrong place,, at the wrong time, and is also brought to Narnia, much to his dismay. They climb aboard the Dawn Treader, and so begins the movie.

Ben Barnes resumes his place as Prince Caspian, a character who has undergone a transformation and is no longer the bore he was in the previous film. Caspian has lost his accent, and with it gained a beard, a personality, and some sex appeal, the Narnia films have been sorely lacking in a heartthrob and it is nice to see this situation rectified. At the other end of the scale is Will Poulter, playing irritating and irritated Eustace. A difficult character to play as he must be both unlikeable and empathetic at once. For a young man, Poulter pulls the character off perfectly and creates a new hero for the series. A hero who, I would argue, has more personality than all of the Pevensies combined.

Newcomer to the series Simon Pegg glides effortlessly into the vocal chords of Reepicheep. Reepicheep is a firm family favourite and whilst Pegg had large heels to fill to match the character Eddie Izzard had created, the change goes almost unnoticed. This instalment sees Reepicheep come into his own and Pegg masterfully adds a caring and compassionate aspect to a tough-as-nails character.

The Chronicles of Narnia are an example of money well spent on family entertainment. The Voyage of the Dawn Treader takes a darker turn, but stops short of frightening its loyal following. With special effects to rival some of the bigger adult blockbusters, and 3D which evades the gimmicky pitfalls of its peers, it is a rare feat for a family film.

There are, of course, some things which fall just short of excellence. Youngest sibling Lucy, played by Georgie Henley, is somewhat superfluous in many scenes. In scenes where she features heavily, it becomes evident that she suffers from a very short attention span as she continues to gaze around in amazed wonder at a world she has grown up in and visited twice. It’s very easy to see why she isn’t sent on any major missions; she would be likely to wander off. There is also the addition of another little girl, Gael, whose lines we can count on one hand. Her only purpose is to remind the viewer that ‘Oh look! Lucy has grown-up, look how big and mature she is in comparison!’

As always, there just isn’t enough Liam Neeson as Aslan to go round. His odd appearance towards the end of the movie was a little preachy for my tastes, but the sight of his glorious mane always elicits some happy gasps from the younger ones in the audience. It all succeeds greatly in reminding us that, whilst politicians continue to complain, we should take a leaf out of a children’s book and take some joy in the simple things.

Ciara O’Brien


Rated PG (see IFCO website for details)

The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader is released on 9th December 2010

The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader– Official Website

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Dorian Gray

Dorian Gray

DIR: Oliver Parker • WRI: Toby Finlay • PRO: Barnaby Thompson • DOP: Roger Pratt • ED: Guy Bensley • DES: John Beard • CAST: Ben Barnes, Colin Firth, Ben Chaplin, Rebecca Hall

Yet another adaptation of Oscar Wilde’s classic tale of supernatural narcissism, Dorian Gray tells the story of an extraordinarily handsome young man who inherits his grandfather’s valuable estate and finds freedom in a decadent society that craves to exploit his innocence. Upon arriving in London he soon becomes the subject of a portrait by artist Basil Hallward (Ben Chaplin) and makes the acquaintance of the witty Lord Henry (Colin Firth), who consistently and eloquently encourages Dorian to pursue a life of thoughtless indifference and reckless pleasure. After the success of the portrait, Dorian weds a young actress – yet quickly betrays her, with consequences most dire, which he has somehow learned to disregard. Indeed, any possible repercussions for his increasingly heinous deeds are not felt by our leading man – as he develops a lust for attention, pathologically exploiting the desires of those around him while inexplicably never losing his youthful looks. However, with every reckless act of debauchery committed, the portrait on the wall becomes ever-so-slightly more disfigured – until years later as Dorian retains his youthful looks it resembles a man so hideous as to mirror the depraved state of his soul… or something like that.

Director Oliver Parker drenches this piece in lavish yet heavy-handed Gothic atmosphere, indulging occasionally in electro-synth and blatant CGI that does not inspire confidence in his vision of the story – which is one that lacks any deliberate flourishes whatsoever. The initial promise of the first act descends into a series of absurd situations strewn together by truly shoddy editing, providing little incentive for audiences to care about this preening egomaniac. Ben Barnes is suitably vacuous in the leading role, playing the hedonistic pretty-boy without a hint of irony – as an exercise in calculated charisma he excels, but without any extra layer of genuine emotion the performance doesn’t hold much merit. Elsewhere Firth and Chaplin are well-cast and amusing in their roles but are left hanging by a weak screenplay. The supporting players also feature the dependable Fiona Shaw as Lord Henry’s jovial aunt while rising star Rebecca Hall is relegated to an afterthought of a love interest. Unfortunately, on the whole, this film does not deliver. Even as the somewhat trashy middle-brow version for contemporary teens it pertains to be, as it plods to a weak finale that barely makes an impact, partly due to the less than stellar production values, but mostly due to the failure of the screenplay to adequately raise the stakes. So, hardly worth catching on the gimmicky release date, but perhaps a camp guilty pleasure to catch on the box some Halloween.

Eoghan McQuinn
(See biog here)

Rated 16 (See IFCO website for details)
Dorian Gray is released on 11th September 2009

Dorian Gray – Official Website

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