Review: Zoolander 2

Zoolander-2-Ben-Stiller-Owen-Wilson-Penelope-Cruz-700x300

DIR: Tim Miller • WRI: Justin Theroux, Ben Stiller, Nicholas Stoller, John Hamburg • PRO: Stuart Cornfeld, Scott Rudin, Ben Stiller, Clayton Townsend • DOP: Daniel Mindel • ED: Greg Hayden • DES: Jeff Mann • MUS: Theodore Shapiro • CAST: Ben Stiller, Owen Wilson, Will Ferrell, Penélope Cruz

Zoolander for me has been everything I love in a comedy. It’s hilarious, well-written, re-watchable, quotable, and sometimes downright ridiculous but also bitingly satirical. I never saw the film in the cinema but was introduced to it by friends who had rented it out (After flopping at the box office, it was through movie rentals that the film developed a cult following). They were quoting catchphrases from Brint, Meekus, Mugatu and others to the point of irritability. Thus, I had to find out who Derek Zoolander was. Re-watching the film earlier this week, I found myself charmed and in stitches laughing just like the first time I saw the film. As I sat down to watch the sequel on the big screen a couple of days ago, I was filled with anticipation. Unfortunately, as I left the cinema, I found myself filled with bitter disappointment.

Zoolander 2 kicks off a decade and a half after its predecessor. Once the world’s top fashion model, Derek (Ben Stiller) is now living in isolation, a ‘hermit crab’ far away from society after a family tragedy and subsequent media disgrace. Hansel (Owen Wilson), Derek’s once main competition and later best friend, has also chosen a sedentary lifestyle after an accident caused by Derek led to a horrible face disfigurement. Both are invited to model in an elite fashion show in Rome run by the world famous designer Alexanya Atoz (Kristen Wiig) but soon become involved, much like the first film, in a far greater conspiracy than either of their sweet-natured but simple minds can handle. Derek is also determined to reunite with his son, Derek Junior (Cyrus Arnold), who has been placed in an orphanage which is, by strange coincidence, in Rome too.

Zoolander 2 delivers everything you loved from the first one. Therein lies its main problem: it is essentially a copy of the first film (and I don’t know if anyone else thought this, but I found that seriously frustrating about Star Wars: The Force Awakens as well…). The jokes are repeated and the storylines are rehashed, and not in a witty, self-referential way as say Mike Myers did with the Austin Powers franchise. Here it feels like Stiller (who directed and co-wrote both films) is simply being lazy and cashing in by reusing the same material that proved successful before.

And that’s not all – a great deal of the charm from the first film is gone. In trying to mature Derek and Hansel as characters, what the writers give us are cliché struggling father figures who occasionally deliver a line that remind us that they’ve still got their dim-witted ‘charisma’… Will Ferrell’s Mugatu makes a welcome appearance but he is severely underused and is only given the chance to shine near the very end of the film. Wiig hasn’t anything amusing or interesting to do with her character; an opportunity to update the first film’s satire of the fashion industry feels sorely missed here. The better roles can be found in Interpol global fashion division agent Valentina, which sees a smart and surprisingly funny turn from Penelope Cruz, while Cyrus Arnold is a delight as Derek Junior. This kid could have a serious career in comedy.

Finally, there are the cameos. Just as the first Zoolander featured some great celeb appearances from names like Billy Zane, Paris Hilton, Natalie Portman, Gwen Stefani, and the brilliant David Bowie, Zoolander 2 continues the tradition and boasts an even longer list of  musicians and film stars playing themselves. In fairness, these cameos are pretty hilarious but, again, one gets the sense that there is an over-reliance on them.

Fans of the first Zoolander will enjoy Zoolander 2 as there are a number of laugh-out-loud moments. But it will also surely rise to the top of the pile of those films disregarded and discarded where the original was infinitely better…

Deirdre Molumby

12A (See IFCO for details)

 101 minutes

Zoolander 2 is released 12th February 2016

Zoolander 2 – Official Website

 

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While We’re Young

DIR/WRI: Noah Baumbach •  PRO: Noah Baumbach, Eli Bush, Scott Rudin, Lila Yacoub • DOP: Sam Levy • ED: Jennifer Lame • MUS: James Murphy • DES: Adam Stockhausen • CAST: Amanda Seyfried, Naomi Watts, Ben Stiller

 

Noah Baumbach adapts to the human condition vision that has been demonstrated by filmmakers such as Woody Allen, Paul Mazurzky and Jean Luc Godard, but his work still has a sense of emergence and contemporary relevance that feels fresh.

 

A recurring theme within Baumbach’s last two films (Greenberg/Frances, Ha) was anxiety and a sense of identity crisis. Greenberg dealt with a middle-aged identity crisis, Frances, Ha a quarter-aged, with his latest, While We’re Young, he is dissecting both with sharp comedic commentary.

 

Stagnated in their mundane marriage, Josh (Stiller) and Cornelia (Watts) suffer from denial and bombarding pressure from their friends, who insist they must have children in order to drive their marriage forward. Josh, a documentarian, has spent ten years working on his never-ending and self-indulgent film that is so convoluted he can’t even describe it, in a sense of defeat he usually quips, “it’s really about America”. He’s too stubborn to get support from his father-in-law Leslie (Charles Grodin), who is a profound maverick within the documentary film world. The college where he lectures is his bank.

 

He meets Jamie (Adam Driver) and Darby (Amanda Seyfried) after one of his lectures and immediately succumbs to their youthful charm and spontaneity. He soon figures that these two young hipsters (an aspiring documentarian and an organic ice cream entrepreneur) are the revelation him and his wife need to rejuvenate their lives.

 

The early stages of this ageless foursome are the film’s strongest comic observations. Baumbach portrays the contrasts of young and old in contemporary society. While Jamie and Darby adhere to the retro lifestyle of listening to vinyl, watching VHS and abstaining from Facebook, our elders, Josh and Cornelia, are constantly logged in and using the latest technology today has to offer. It’s an interesting examination of a generational culture reversal.

 

Josh and Cornelia stray from their mature friends and adapt to Jamie and Darby’s lifestyle, whether it’s hip-hop dance classes, hipster barbeques or Ayahuasca awakenings. After exhilarating highs come tremendous lows and paranoia. The fear of youth begins to possess Josh, as he grows more and more suspicious of Jamie’s intentions and authenticity as a documentarian.

 

A few lines from Henrik Ibsen’s The Master Builder that are shown to us at the beginning of the movie grow more intensely as Josh retreats from the fountain of youth when he sees Jamie for who he really is and the power he has. The anxiety of ageing creeps back into his consciousness.

 

However, Baumbach’s movie isn’t about people’s fear of the youth, but more about people’s anxiety about their personal identity and existence. Darby delivers the message of the movie by explaining to Josh that her and Jamie will grow old like everybody else, suggesting that all the generational pop culture iconography can’t prevent the inevitable. We all grow old we all die.

 

Undoubtedly, Woody Allen’s observational comedy rings throughout the movie. The climax between Josh and Jamie is reminiscent of Murders and Misdemeanors, but in the wider scope of things I was reminded of Midnight in Paris and its resolution. In this instance, Baumbach is focusing on age anxiety rather than Woody’s era anxiety, but the message is the same: we all fantasize about living in a different time, place or shoes, but at the end of the day we must adapt to our own lives and prosper.

 

Even though I’m whipping out big bad words such as anxiety, fear and death, don’t tie the noose quite yet. This movie is not a solemn glimpse into the abyss, but a perfectly, tightly knit comedy with a vibrant soundtrack that should reflect upon any audience, regardless of age.

 

Cormac O’Meara

 

 

12A (See IFCO for details)
96 minutes

While We’re Young is released 3rd April 2015

While We’re Young – Official Website

 

 

 

 

 

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Cinema Review: The Secret Life of Walter Mitty

Ben Stiller in a still from The Secret Life of Walter Mitty

DIR: Ben Stiller WRI:Steve Conrad   PRO: Stuart Cornfeld, Samuel Goldwyn Jr., John Goldwyn, Ben Stiller   DOP: Stuart Dryburgh   ED: Greg Hayden   MUS: Theodore Shapiro • DES: Jeff Mann  Cast: Ben Stiller, Kristen Wiig, Adam Scott, Patton Oswalt

 

The Secret Life of Walter Mitty marks the return of Ben Stiller as director and proves to be his most ambitious fare yet in terms of both scale and content. The film is embellished in a charmingly wry style, with a lilting melodic wonder telling a bona fide fable of a working man’s plight.

It  follows the surreal exploits Walter Mitty (Ben Stiller), a lonely middle aged man who works as a negative assets manager for LIFE magazine (aka he’s in charge of photos). He’s a habitual day dreamer who has little to no life experience. He zones out into exaggerated fantasies of the actions he cant bring himself to achieve in reality, like his romantic aspirations for Cheryl Melhoff (Kristen Wiig).

When LIFE magazine has been acquired by an outside firm and have decided to only release one more print issue and downsize the firm  Walters future is placed in jeopardy, Walter is made responsible for bringing Ted Hendricks (Adam Scott), the manager who’s overseeing the takeover, a mysterious negative for the cover which Walter’s been entrusted from a veteran photographer Sean O’Connell, who claims it’s his most profound work.

This, however, presents a problem for Walter as the negative department never received the negative on the roll. Placing his job under immediate threat, Walter begins to try to contact Sean. But his efforts are in vain –  Sean doesn’t have a phone or any know contact details. Walter now has to ask Cheryl Melhoff (Kristen Wiig) who works in the photography department. She aids Walter in attempting to locate Sean, while more pressure is put on Walter by Ted Hendricks to bring the negative.

By tracing Sean’s bills Walter and Cheryl establish that Sean’s in Greenland, Walter sets off on a desperate quest to locate Sean and save his career. Walter goes out into the wilds of the world and tallies up a rich tab of exciting life experiences which develops him from the boring white collar workaholic he used to be and into an exciting globe-trotting adventurer.

This is a film utilizing  cinema to its fullest, the staging is perfect, the art direction and cinematography are impeccable.  The story is paper thin but none the less its charming and executed to great effect. The perfomrnce are subtle and diligently directed.

My only gripe really was some of the superhero dreams sequences at the beginning of the film were perhaps more in keeping with the type of  slapstick airhead humour Stiller exercised in Zoolander and was perhaps a little ill fitting for Walter Mitty.

Overall though it has to be said that The Secret Life of Walter Mitty is spellbinding and joyous, a merry merry go round.

Michael Lee

PG (See IFCO for details)

114  mins

The Secret Life of Walter Mitty is released on 27th December 2013

The Secret Life of Walter Mitty – Official Website

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Cinema Review: Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted

DIR: Eric Darnell, Tom McGrath, Conrad Vernon WRI: Eric Darnell, Noah Baumbach • PRO: Mireille Soria, Mark Swift • ED: Nick Fletcher • DES: Kendal Cronkhite • CAST:  Ben Stiller, Jada Pinkett Smith, Chris Rock, David Schwimmer, Sacha Baron Cohen

Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted reunites the menagerie of loveable critters for a third time as we join them on their Wizard of Oz quest to return home.

There’s Alex the willful lion (Ben Stiller), Marty, the eternally enthusiastic zebra (Chris Rock), Melman, the dizzy giraffe (David Schwimmer), Gloria, the big sister hippo (Jada Pinkett Smith) and King Julien, the bear- infatuated lemur (Sacha Baron Cohen).

The film kicks off with a spectacular chase through Monte Carlo as the gang evades the deliciously boo-guaranteed police chief Capitaine Chantel DuBois (Frances McDormand), who also happens to be a big-game hunter  and there’s some empty space on her walls that need to be filled with animal heads. Arghhh.

From here the animals hook up with a circus and make their way across Europe in order to to impress a big promoter in Rome and earn themselves a booking in New York thereby returning to Central Park Zoo.

The film whizzes along at a tremendous pace fuelled with a fizzy-pop-drinking-child’s energy ripping through its riotous shenanigans and comedy capers with the right balance of set-ups, gags,one-liners and slapstick to keep things rollicking along

Th 3D is used to great effect throughout, particularly with the circus giving us a wop-bop-pow eye-popping sequence and should have most children singing ‘Circus afro, circus afro’ for the rest of the day. DreamWorks have recovered from their disappointing sequel and have nailed it with a big plastic hammer on this instalment.

In the words of the much maligned and missed New Kids on the Block ‘This One’s for the Children‘.

One thing’s for sure – there’s no fear of any bored kids in the cinema with the posse from Magdagascar 3 in front of them, which means Daddy can nip out for a beer.

Please note: Film Ireland do not condone nipping out for beers while leaving your children in the cinema.

Steven Galvin

Rated G (see IFCO website for details)
93 mins

Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted  is released on 19th October 2012

Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted  –  Official Website

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Cinema Review: The Watch

 

DIR: Akiva Schaffer • WRI: Jared Stern, Seth Rogen, Evan Goldberg • PRO: Shawn Levy, Tom McNulty • DOP: Barry Peterson • ED: Dean Zimmerman • DES: Doug J. Meerdink • CAST: Ben Stiller, Vince Vaughn, Jonah Hill, Richard Ayoade

 

Evan Trautwig (Stiller) loves his life as a self-appointed community leader and the devoted manager of a Costco in Glenview, Ohio. His saccharinely positive existence is drastically changed forever when a mysterious creature rips apart the security guard and his store.

 

Determined to find the murderer, Evan decides to form yet another club, a Neighbourhood Watch, but he’s left disappointed when the only volunteers are a bunch of slackers. Jamarcus (Ayoade), Franklin (Hill) and Bob (Vaughn) just want to blow off steam and spend their time on the job hanging out, drinking beers and generally irking the local po-po. However when they stumble across some otherworldly technology, they soon realise what they’re dealing with is less of a serial killer and more like ET on Steroids.

 

Re-penned by the duo behind Superbad (Seth Rogan and Evan Goldberg); directed by Lonely Island’s Akiva Schaffer; and featuring the comedic juggernauts Ben Stiller, Vince Vaughn, Jonah Hill plus the fantastic UK export Richard Ayoade – The Watch is a current who’s who in comedy. Although filled to the absolute brim with talent, The Watch does not gel well as a film.

 

Admittedly it’s dappled with hilarious jokes and shrewd humour – but there’s a tone of uncertainty throughout, which means most of it falls quite flat. The genre teeters awkwardly between spoof-comedy and B-movie; the characters are written as bizarre, bland or just stereotypes; and there are an awful lot of smoking guns left unexplained or just abandoned.

 

Don’t get me wrong The Watch is in no way an awful film, just not the iconic one it could have been.

 

Gemma Creagh

 

Rated 15A (see IFCO website for details)

102 mins

The Watch is released on 24th August 2012

 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9G8rzHJsWpM

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Cinema Review: Tower Heist

Eddie-Murphy and Atisone Kenneth Seiuli share a ride

DIR: Brett Ratner • WRI: Ted Griffin, Jeff Nathanson • PRO: Brian Grazer, Eddie Murphy • DOP: Dante Spinotti • ED: Mark Helfrich • DES: Kristi Zea • CAST: Eddie Murphy, Ben Stiller, Casey Affleck, Matthew Broderick

Eddie Murphy hasn’t really done a ‘grown-up’ comedy since 2002’s flop I Spy, so in the almost-decade of dregs such as Norbit, Daddy Day Care and Meet Dave, Tower Heist is being touted as something of a comeback for the once King Of Comedy. The good news is Murphy is by far the best thing in the movie. The bad news is considering his company, that’s not necessarily good news.

Murphy is the career criminal who is enlisted by Ben Stiller to help him rob an embezzler (an impeccably evil Alan Alda) who owns the penthouse of a Central Park apartment tower. Stiller used to the manager of said tower, but after losing all his employee’s pension money to the embezzler, he and some fellow employees (Casey Affleck, Michael Pena, Matthew Broderick) join forces to get the money they believe he’s hiding in his penthouse and take down the bad guy.

There are some great one-liners, and one or two random scenes of out-right comedy, but all in all there are very few laugh-out-loud moments. Also, considering the script is from the writer of Oceans Eleven and Matchstick Men, the actual heist itself is entirely lacking in any kind of real surprises. There’s no doubt this movie will make a lot of money, primarily due to its inoffensive nature, but for Murphy’s big comeback, you’d kind of wish they’d pushed their boundaries even a little bit.

Rory Cashin

Rated 12A (see IFCO website for details)
Tower Heist is released on 4th November 2011

Tower Heist – Official Website

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Little Fockers

Little Fockers

DIR: Paul Weitz • WRI: John Hamburg, Larry Stuckey • PRO: Robert De Niro, John Hamburg, Jay Roach, Jane Rosenthal • DOP: Remi Adefarasin • ED: Greg Hayden, Leslie Jones, Myron I. Kerstein • DES: William Arnold • CAST: Ben Stiller, Teri Polo, Robert De Niro

The first thing that caught my attention upon sitting down to Little Fockers was, naturally, the IFCO certificate. Instead of the customary 12A or even PG I was greeted by a suspicious 15A. Jay Roach directed the first two entertaining installments of this series while Paul Weitz takes the reins here. That Little Fockers is reminiscent of the toilet humour in films such as American Pie suddenly makes perfect sense considering that was Weitz’s directorial debut.

As with the previous two Focker films, the story follows the unending trials and tribulations of Gaylord Focker (Ben Stiller) as he suffers under the relentless gaze of his father-in-law Paul Byrnes (Robert De Niro). Focker is once again burdened with the arrival of his in-laws in anticipation of his twins’ birthday party and, following a health scare, Byrnes is eager to see that Focker will be able to fill his lofty shoes to become the, ahem, God-Focker.

The most irritating feature of Little Fockers is the lack of progress its characters have made in the decade since Meet the Parents. De Niro is still riding Stiller over not being worthy of his daughter whilst meeting any attempt at humour with a frown and spying on him in the rare instances when he isn’t staring him down. The best feature of the first sequel, Meet the Fockers, was the addition of Gaylord’s parents played with gusto by Dustin Hoffman and Barbra Streisand. That the senior Fockers are absent for much of the film is highly disappointing and the film suffers for their loss. That their playful humour has been replaced by an escalation of the previously mild gross-out comedy is more evidence of an undercooked script and an erroneous choice of director.

The filming of Little Fockers was rumoured to be in disarray with Universal considering replacing Weitz with writer/producer John Hamburg mid-shoot. That Hoffman initially declined because he wasn’t happy with the script and was brought in for re-shoots to add some much needed laughs is entirely plausible as his brief scenes feature the majority of the films humour. Despite the name, Little Fockers is only suitable for an older and less mature audience than the family-friendly older Fockers.

Pete

Peter White

Rated 15A (see IFCO website for details)

Little Fockers is released 22nd Dec 2010

Little Fockers – Official Website

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Greenberg

Greenberg

DIR: Noah Baumbach • WRI: Noah Baumbach, Jennifer Jason Leigh • PRO: Jennifer Jason Leigh, Scott Rudin • DOP: Harris Savides • ED: Tim Streeto • DES: Ford Wheeler • CAST: Ben Stiller, Greta Gerwig, Rhys Ifans, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Chris Messina, Brie Larson, Juno Temple

After the incisive The Squid and the Whale and the less warmly received but equally brilliant Margot at the Wedding, it seemed that Noah Baumbach was on something of a roll this past decade. Unfortunately Greenberg grinds him to a complete halt – it’s a film as low-key and lifeless as its central character – a failed musician and middle-aged slacker, recently discharged from a psychiatric ward, whose sole purpose in life now is to do nothing – hardly the stuff of cinematic gold.

Roger Greenberg, played by an almost inanimate Ben Stiller, is house-sitting for his brother for six weeks in LA, spending his days building a house for their dog and writing letters of complaint to big corporations. During this time he catches up with old friends and also meets his brother’s eager personal assistant – a young woman named Florence, played by fresh-faced Greta Gerwig in a wonderfully natural turn. She counters all of Greenberg’s jaded cynicism with ditzy charm and a slight lack of self-esteem evidenced by how easily she falls for him. Why a young woman as attractive and seemingly intelligent as Florence would be drawn to this loser is a mystery never questioned in the film – the audience is expected to watch this queasy sort of reluctant romance unfold, very slowly and without much consequence.

The film’s story was devised by Baumbach and his wife, Jennifer Jason Leigh, who also plays a brief role as Greenberg’s ex-girlfriend in the film. Unfortunately, there’s not much to it – nothing to really to drive the film forward – neither the inexplicable central relationship nor the irrelevant illness of Greenberg’s brother’s dog. Perhaps this is intentional, to underline Greenberg’s inertia; the majority of the shots in the film are static and observational – but without much action to observe it starts to feel very lethargic.

There are some highlights. In a droll exchange with his former bandmate Ivan Schrank, played by Rhys Ifans, Schrank recalls the old adage ‘Youth is wasted on the young’, to which Greenberg replies, ‘I’d go further, I’d go life is wasted on…people’ – one of the few really funny lines in the film, basically summing up the message of the movie. When Greenberg’s niece returns home and throws a house party, it lands Greenberg in a room full of 20-something scenesters – he clashes with the modern generation of youth, cementing his belief that he’s completely out of touch with the world.

Ultimately this is a film about the disappointments in life, the regrets this rather reprehensible character has. There’s not much offered in terms of a resolution, or even a series of events leading up to one. Full of bitter exchanges and misunderstandings, it ultimately feels like a waste of time – Gerwig’s performance being one of the few bright spots. Perhaps it’s a cautionary tale to anyone whose life is lacking in direction, but hardly a satisfying way to kill two hours in the cinema.

Eoghan McQuinn

Rated 16 (see IFCO website for details)
Greenberg
is released on 11th June 2010

Greenberg Official Website

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