Review: Dad’s Army

How_similar_are_the_new_Dad_s_Army_cast_to_the_TV_originals_

DIR: Oliver Parker • WRI:Hamish McColl • PRO: Damian Jones • DOP: Christopher Ross • ED: Guy Bensley • DES: Simon Bowles • MUS: Charlie Mole • CAST: Toby Jones, Michael Gambon, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Bill Nighy, Mark Gatiss

Dad’s Army is a light-hearted comedy based on the sitcom of the same name from the 60s and 70s, and features an all-star cast, including Catherine Zeta-Jones, Bill Nighy, Toby Jones, Michael Gambon, and Blake Harrison, all of whom have proven time and time again that they can easily handle comedic acting. It’s just unfortunate that their considerable talents can’t make up for the weak, toothless, and above all unfunny script provided by Hamish McColl.

Gone is the subtlety, the nuance, the class-warfare jokes, the wit of the original show, instead replaced by pointless innuendos and a plot that demands every single character act like a fool in order for it to make sense.

To the plot. It’s 1944. The Nazis are looking for information on Britain’s upcoming invasion plans, so they’ve sent in agent Cobra (Catherine-Zeta Jones, who tells them her name is Rose Winters) to uncover the plans, or something. I’m not really sure why she was sent there, but then again neither is the film, so it all balances out. Later on, characters try to credibly state that if the information she has manages to find its way to the Nazis, they could lose the war.

Now the original show had its fair share of slapstick comedy, as well, as wit and charm, and while those last two can be quite difficult to capture properly, slapstick is usually easy enough to make funny. It’s just too bad that the slapstick here is completely uninspired, often falling into the cliché territories of characters hitting their heads or falling out of windows, or flashing their genitalia at German soldiers. O.K. that last one isn’t cliché, but believe me when I say, this film executes it pretty poorly, so it still isn’t able to make you laugh, which is a pretty big failing in a comedy.

Now, that isn’t to say this film is completely terrible. The cast all do well, Gambon, Nighy, Jones, and Harrison all do their best with the sub-standard script, and did make me chuckle begrudgingly a few times, and Zeta-Jones does extremely well as the wily femme fatale, using her good looks and charm to get the information she needs from the oafish men of the town.

Also, on the plus side the cinematography is done well, and D.O.P. Christopher Ross deserves a lot of credit for how good this film looks, with its bright colours, brilliant shot composition, and breath-taking use of the English Countryside in order to immerse us more in this small seaside town.

But really, though, these positive aspects are in a small minority when you examine this film as a whole. As well as the problems mentioned above, the whole plot feels completely inconsequential, there are no real character arcs, and you never get the feeling that anything’s really at stake.

Ultimately Dad’s Army is a “comedy” which fails so spectacularly to amuse that it would embarrass even Adam Sandler.

Darren Beattie

PG
99 minutes (See IFCO for details)

Dad’s Army is released 5th February 2016

Dad’s Army – Official Website

 

 

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The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel

exo15

DIR:  John Madden  • WRI: Ol Parker • PRO: Graham Broadbent, Peter Czernin • DOP: Ben Smithard • MUS: Thomas Newman • DES: Martin Childs • CAST: Bill Nighy, Maggie Smith, Richard Gere, Judi Dench

Four years on from the first instalment, the golden-years residents of the Best Exotic Marigold Hotel for the Elderly and the Beautiful have acclimatised to life in Jaipur, India. We check in on new couple Evelyn (Judi Dench) and Douglas (Bill Nighy), as they manoeuvre the difficult world of dating after decades of marriage to other people. Muriel (Maggie Smith) is keeping pace as the acerbic right-hand woman keeping the hotel management in check. Norman (Ronald Pickup) and Carol (Diana Hardcastle) are finding out that leaving behind the Lothario lifestyle isn’t as easy as you might think, and Madge (Celia Imrie) is trying to choose between two suitors in her own particular Blanche DuBois way. Meanwhile, the exuberant owner of the hotel, Sonny (Dev Patel), dreams of expansion as he simultaneously plans his wedding to the woman of his dreams Sunaina (Tina Desai), but a proposed partnership with a big hotel chain brings undercover hotel inspectors who might derail everything. New arrivals Guy (Richard Gere) and Lavinia (Tamsin Greig) shake things up for the residents, as complications occur in everyone’s dream of the simple life in India.

 

There is plenty to like about The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel – the cast might as well be old friends, so comfortable are they (and us) with their position onscreen; the colours and sounds of Jaipur are simply gorgeous; the script manages a few laughs here and there; and there’s even a new love story to keep us involved. But somehow it falls a little flat – perhaps behind all the colour there’s just too much awareness of how much this resembles an escapist, post-colonial dream of a passive India. There is even a Bollywood dance number – which Patel and Desai perform with gusto, and what looks like genuine enjoyment, but it still has an undercurrent of performative traditionalism, especially since the guests of honour at a family wedding are unaccountably a group of English and American old folks. Fans of the original might enjoy reacquainting themselves with the characters, checking in on how they have conquered Jaipur and all of its vagaries, but there isn’t a lot here to pull in converts. The ending of the first film left suggestions of happiness to come, whether through Sonny’s marriage, Evelyn and Douglas’s fledgling romance, or Muriel’s shedding of her racist beginnings and embracing of Indian culture. This sequel, then, has an air of wish-fulfilment – giving the audience an answer to all of those lovely hints of happy endings…but giving an audience what they want is rarely a recipe for a great movie, and the film stumbles along wearily trying to tell sub-plot after sub-plot while never really finding an actual narrative arc.

 

While generally harmless, and at times enjoyable enough in terms of the acting, this sequel was a bit unnecessary and just raises more questions about the achievable life of enlightenment it purports to depict. While it’s never exactly a chore to spend a couple of hours in the company of some of the finest actors to ever grace the silver screen, the film lacks the verve of the original in a way that’s quite hard to get on board with. Perhaps it’s time to leave these characters to their golden years without disturbance.

 

Sarah Griffin

PG (See IFCO for details)
122 minutes

The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel is released 27th February 2015

 

The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel  – Official Website

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Cinema Review: About Time

About Time trailer - video

DIR: Richard Curtis WRI: Richard Curtis, PRO: Tim Bevan, Eric Fellner. DOP: John Guleserian. ED: Mark Day. DES: John Paul Kelly. CAST: Domhnall Gleeson, Bill Nighy, Rachel McAdams

Tim Lake (Domhnall Gleeson) is a sensitive man. He adores his sister, worships his father and is desperate to find love. However, Tim has a secret weapon when it comes to romance, time travel. He can fix problematic interactions, re-experience fantastic moments and generally find the woman of his dreams. But, as his father (Bill Nighy) who shares his son’s unusual gift explains, there’s a catch, Tim can only travel back through his own lifetime and not past certain life altering incidents. Nonetheless Tim excitedly tries out his new talent only to be met with unrequited love and general disappointment. That is until he meets the beautiful shy American Mary (Rachel McAdams) his perfect woman who just happens to reciprocate his romantic feelings. However, his relationship with Mary doesn’t run smoothly as an intervention in the life of a friend leads him to lose her number forcing him to travel back in time in order to re-meet her. Tim is then continually motivated by his love for Mary to perfect every moment of their relationship so that they can have a wonderful, regret free life. But as time passes and various events arise Tim realises he can’t change everything, nor protect his loved ones.

About Time marks Curtis’ third outing as a director and in many ways it is his most successful. The usual criticism of Curtis’ work is that it is far too syrupy and sentimental. This film is very sweet, however, the inclusion of time travel manages to some what dilute the saccharine elements and inject life and interest into the story. Nevertheless this is still very much a Curtis fairytale with beautiful shots of Cornwall and London forming the backdrop to Tim and Mary’s romance, which is filled with bumbling interactions and heartfelt declarations. But, it is Tim’s relationship with his father that is the true heart of the film. Nighy and Gleeson have excellent chemistry creating a believable father and son relationship which forms the backbone of the story. Gleeson offers a natural, endearing performance although he occasionally veers into Hugh Grant territory, particularly throughout the voiceover.

However, he has excellent comic timing and can deliver humorous lines with more conviction than other leading men who have appeared in Curtis’ films. Indeed the casting of Gleeson was a wise move as his presence acts as another way to infuse some freshness into the film, which for the most part is populated by Curtis’ usual collaborators, like Bill Nighy, whose performance is highly watchable, if not particularly new or taxing. The rest of the cast represent many of the traditional stereotypes used in romantic comedies particularly British romantic comedies, the sarcastic drunk, the lovable innocent and the trampy best friend. Fortunately these stereotypes are toned down enabling them to actually contribute to the comedic moments. Therefore Curtis has managed to include some devises which mitigate the nostalgic sentimentality and the cheesy characterisation and make a film about time travel that’s more believable than previous work.

However, the film is too long and drawn out repetitively making the same point, that we should remember every moment, however small or mundane. This point was reinforced by saccharine dialogue and a cringe inducing montage of normal people enjoying simple pleasures, which was unnecessary. The time travel theme can only do so much to temper the inclusion of such soppy elements which in the end do make the film overly sweet. These aspects of the film also lead to the plot becoming messy and unwieldy particularly during the films conclusion. About Time would certainly have benefited from a more concise ending.

Nonetheless, Richard Curtis’ film is enjoyable, funny and at times moving. The time altering element and Gleeson’s performance help to curtail the sentimentality but the film is let down by a messy conclusion that allows for too much indulgent sentimentality. Regardless of its flaws romantic comedy fans will still be entertained by this gentle comedy.

Ruth Hurl

Rated 12A (see IFCO website for details) 

123 mins
About Time is released on 4th September 2013

About Time  – Official Website

 

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Cinema Review: Wrath of the Titans

Oh My Zeus

DIR: Jonathan Liebesman • WRI: Dan Mazeau, David Johnson • PRO: Basil Iwanyk, Polly Johnsen • DOP: Ben Davis • ED: Martin Walsh • DES: Charles Wood • Cast: Sam Worthington, Bill Nighy, Danny Huston, Liam Neeson

Hang on to your undergarments: Wrath of the Titans is actually kind of good.

Doubtless, those of you who suffered through Louis Letterier’s 2010 Clash of the Titans will have long considered this a mathematical impossibility. Olympian Gods know I did.

But while it retains many of the flaws which so marred Clash, most notably Sam Worthington, Wrath is armed with vastly improved action and wisely slaps on some levity.

Because, let’s be honest, this mythical mash-up aint hardly Shakespeare!

Yes, the narrative is still meandering and unfocused. True, too much of the dialogue concerns solemn exposition of what is, by any normal standards, a wholly bonkers state-of-affairs. And, frustratingly, most action sequences fall victim to this plague of choppy editing which seems to have permanently bonded with Hollywood DNA.

So in this regard, by Zeus’ great, bushy beard, Wrath is still a pile of codswallop!

But what pretty codswallop it is.

The teams responsible for creature design deserve titanic praise. From six-armed, two-headed soldiers to mountains of anthropomorphic magma, Wrath boasts a selection of gruesome beasties and pretty costumes to keep the eyeballs amused.

Though still too sombre for my liking, newcomers Tony Kebbell and Bil Nighy’s respective quips and lunacy steal them every scene they’re in. And considering Wrath is at its worst when Worthington’s Perseus isn’t having his face rammed through a stone pillar or something, this newfound humour, however sparse, softens the blow.

And while the aforementioned action editing frustrates, new direction from Jonathan Liebesman has proved that bigger is assuredly better when it comes to films about fire-breathing nasties and demi-gods with flying horses.

For a film concerned with a titanic clash, Wrath’s predecessor was shamefully skimpy on the set pieces. Liebesman’s latest makes no such missteps, as audiences are never more than three minutes from a new monster, some CG assisted stuntwork or a set-demolishing duke-out.

The fact that its finale is agreeably meaty, features a divinely destructive duel, an expansive, magma spewing pitched battle and the sight of Wolf-Puncher* and Voldemort** staggering about, trouncing foes like a couple of dishevelled wizards, speaks of Liebesman’s ability to connect the dots appropriately.

Liam Neeson’s Zeus*

Ralph Fiennes’ Hades**

Taken out of context, Wrath of the Titans is merely fine, offering some colourful sequences and tremendously hideous beasties (that Chimera is a thing of grotesque beauty) but offering nothing in the way of arresting drama, tense romance or distracting belly laughs.

Most interested in Wrath however, will be looking to wash the bitter taste of Clash from their mouths. Rest assured, this is the sorbet you crave!

As a sequel, it shines, a beacon assuring flagging audiences that directors do listen, can improve on past mistakes and even eventually deliver on at least some of the promise of a title like Wrath of the Titans.

i.e. There are Titans. There is Wrath.

Jack McGlynn

Rated 12A (see IFCO website for details)
Wrath of the Titans is released on 30th March 2012

Wrath of the Titans – Official Website

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Cinema Review: The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel

Indiha

 

DIR: John Madden • WRI: Ol Parker • PRO: Graham Broadbent, Peter Czernin • DOP: Ben Davis • ED: Chris Gill • DES: Alan MacDonald • Cast: Judi Dench, Bill Nighy, Maggie Smith, Tom Wilkinson

Over the past 20 years British filmmakers have shown a remarkable knack for producing solid, if not exceptionable, entertainment for older filmgoers. Films such as Calendar Girls and Mrs Henderson Presents have brought in the viewers, often in their senior years, while also being satisfying enough to keep the critics from giving them the mauling their American equivalents receive (c.f. It’s Complicated).

The latest of these goldies for oldies is The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, a coming of old-age comedy drama about finding yourself, even if it’s only in the autumn years.

The film follows seven seniors (played by actors ranging from their late 50s to their mid 70s) who find themselves travelling together to a paradisiacal retirement home in Jaipur, India. Douglas and Jean (Bill Nighy and Penelope Wilton) are escaping a future in an old folks’ home. Widow Evelyn (Judi Dench) needs to get away from the memory of her husband. Wheelchair-bound Muriel (Maggie Smith) needs a new hip, and will get it sooner in India. Graham (Tom Wilkinson) quits his role as a top judge to seek out an old friend in the city where he grew up. Norman (Ronald Pickup) is just there to get his geriatric jiggy on, while Madge (Celia Imrie) is after her umpteenth husband.

Of course the hotel is not what its Photoshop-blitzed website advertised, and the seniors find themselves at the mercy of Dev Patel’s hotel manager – a kind-hearted but cheesy salesman type, determined he can “outsource” Britain’s elderly. As repairs to the crumbling hotel go on around them, the British guests find themselves, for the most part, being slowly seduced by India’s blatant and hidden beauties.

There’s no denying the first 30 minutes of Best Exotic Marigold Hotel feel familiar. They follow the same trajectory as every holiday from hell comedy you’ve ever seen. But after that something shifts, and this late-life crisis movie becomes something altogether different, more honest and much, much sweeter than expected.

While this is partially down to the restrained direction of John Madden (Shakespeare in Love) and an unexpectedly original script, the real saviour of this film is the performances. While Dench is a little on auto-pilot, she manages to pull off some magic here, especially when opposite Bill Nighy. Maggie Smith goes completely against type to play a working-class woman who spouts the sort of racist comments that would cost a highly rated American comedian his career. Penelope Wilton, best known to half the audience as Shaun’s mum in Shaun of the Dead (where she was also married to Nighy, curiously) and to the other half as Cousin Isobel in Downton Abbey, also rejects the usual sweetness she is typecast with and here plays the uptight bitch.

However, it is Tom Wilkinson, playing an Englishman again for the first time in what feels like forever, who steals the film, with his best performance since Michael Clayton in 2007. He delivers many of the film’s best lines with an honest intensity beyond what the film calls for, and his story would only fail to touch the stoniest-hearted of viewers.

With little sense of mysticism or magic and none of the ‘white people solve foreigners’ problems’ one might expect of a similar Hollywood production, this is honest, well-meaning fun, and won’t just appeal to filmgoers over 60. Patel’s performance may hover on the border between stereotype and racist, but the overall image of India presented is a positive one. Though, much like some of the film’s characters, it won’t be to everyone’s taste.

A final word of warning; the film suffers from a violent case of ‘best lines in the trailer’-osis. If you’ve already decided to give the film a look, I recommend avoiding the trailer at all costs.

David Neary

Rated 12A (see IFCO website for details)

The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel is released on 24th February 2012

The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel  – Official Website

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dDY89LYxK0w

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Cinema Review: Arthur Christmas

 

have you been good?

DIR: Sarah Smith • WRI: Sarah Smith, Peter Baynham • PRO: Steve Pegram • DOP: Jericca Cleland • ED: John Carnochan, James Cooper • DES: Evgeni Tomov • CAST: James McAvoy, Jim Broadbent, Bill Nighy

Arthur (James McAvoy) is the son of Santa ‘Malcolm’ Claus (Jim Broadbent), who is nearing the end of his 70 year shift as festive gift-giver. But Santa is merely the public figurehead, with the entire operation run with military precision by next-Santa-in-line, Arthur’s older brother Steve (Hugh Laurie). But Arthur is the only one in the family who still brims over with the absolute joy that the season brings, and when a technical oversight sees one child left present-less, Arthur takes it upon himself to ensure that the child’s Christmas isn’t ruined, with the help of his Grand-Santa (Bill Nighy) and a ninja-level wrapping elf (Ashley Jensen).

The entire film takes place on one night, so there is a nice against-the-clock backdrop that keeps up the pace, even as the film flits from the North Pole to Toronto to the Pacific Ocean to Africa and, finally, to England. Aardman Studios keep their trademark look, even as they venture further into solely CGI creations, and while they’re not quite up to Pixar levels in terms of finesse, they surpass in terms of details, with almost every scene having something amusing going on in the background.

The voice cast are great, and the whole ‘Christmas is a time for family coming together’ message is nicely played out without being too cloying. And while the script is peppered with jokes for both adults and kids, there are very few moments of absolute hilarity, more just an overall sense of fun. And once again, the 3D was severely underused and just a way to make more money (which could be a sly joke about the Christmas season itself, come to think of it.) But these are just nit-picks, as chances are young ‘uns will be watching this every Christmas for years to come, wanting to get another behind-the-scenes look at their favourite jolly fat guy.

Rory Cashin

Rated G (see IFCO website for details)
Arthur Christmas is released on 11th November 2011

Arthur Christmas – Official Website

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

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Astro Boy

Astro Boy
DIR: David Bowers • WRI: Timothy Harris • PRO: Maryann Garger • DOP: Pepe Valencia • ED: Robert Anich Cole • DES: Phillip Barker • CAST: Nicolas Cage, Kristen Bell, Bill Nighy, Freddie Highmore

Astro Boy was originally a Japanese comic from the 1950s and was developed into a cult animated TV series in the 1960s. Now, in 2009 it has been translated to the big screen as a computer-animated feature by David Bowers of Flushed Away (2006) fame. The opening of Astro Boy is narrated by Charlize Theron, who explains that in the future, the human population will depend on robots as a workforce and to serve them in their every need.

Toby Tenma (voiced by Freddie Highmore) is a thirteen-year-old boy, who does well in school. Toby is interested in his father’s work. His father, Dr. Tenma (voiced by Nicolas Cage), is the head of the Ministry of Science in the fictional town of Metro City. The devilish President Stone (voiced by Donald Sutherland) wants the ministry’s latest discovery of positive and negative energy to activate and control the ‘Peacekeeper’ military robot to get him re-elected as president. Toby dies in a freak accident at the ministry when the ‘Peacekeeper’ is being tested with negative energy.

Dr. Tenma is devastated and decides to revive Toby with positive energy and makes him a robot, with the same memories and feelings as Toby. Toby soon discovers his identity and that he has super powers. He goes to another city and encounters some new friends among them Cora (voiced by Kristen Bell). She and her friends take an interest in Toby who keeps the fact that he is a robot a secret. Toby also encounters the ‘Robot Revolutionary Front’, three old English robots who are against the treatment of robots by Hamegg (voiced by Nathan Lane) who just so happens to be the father figure of Toby’s new friends.

Donald Sutherland’s character has an extraordinary animated likeness to himself in appearance. President Stone’s scheming to retain the positive energy at any length becomes tiresome and through the action scenes the script runs out of steam because these characters are not interesting. Astro Boy has its moments of cheesy one-liners and loud special effects. But the journey that Astro Boy takes is dense and predictable. The blaring over-use of John Ottman’s music and the level of sentimentality wound the film severely. It becomes manipulative and forced. However, the ‘Robot Revolutionary Front’ will keep you amused with some decent one-liners.

Peter Larkin
(See biog here)

Rated PG (see IFCO website for details)
Astro Boy is released 5th Feb 2010

Astro Boy – Official Website

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