Cinema Review: Side Effects

DIR: Steven Soderbergh  WRI: Scott Z. Burns  PRO: Scott Z. Burns, Gregory Jacobs, Lorenzo di Bonaventura  DOP: Steven Soderbergh  ED: Steven Soderbergh   DES: Howard Cummings  CAST: Jude Law, Rooney Mara, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Channing Tatum

It’s a big day for Emily Taylor (Mara). Her young husband Martin (Tatum) is being released from jail after serving four years for insider trading, and it should be a chance for the young couple to start all over all again, and maybe recapture the glamorous lifestyle they had. But then Emily drives her car into a wall – and it doesn’t look like an accident.

At hospital, the on-call psychiatrist Jonathan Banks (Law) believes she’s not suicidal, but she does become his patient – and the search for a drug that will help lift her ‘fog’ of depression begins. Things improve, but then it goes sideways; she begins to sleepwalk, loses her sense of time, and then there’s another possible suicide attempt. Nothing’s working, so after consulting Emily’s former therapist Victoria Sibert (Zeta-Jones), Law cautiously prescribes ablixa, a new ‘wonder’ drug he’s acting as a consultant for.

At this stage, the fim takes one of its many turns and things aren’t all they seem as Soderbergh skilfully lays out his revelatory drama. An incident results in Emily being shipped off for court-ordered psychiatric care, but then a question mark forms over Dr. Banks and his actions. Was what happened a terrible side effect of ablixa, the drug he prescribed? Is someone else to blame here?

Mud sticks though, and now Banks becomes front page news. There’s a medical enquiry, and he quickly begins to lose everything: patients, the consultancy, and then his practice. His psychiatrist his sessions with Emily have to continue though, and he becomes suspicious about her. Some of the things she said don’t add up, and the stock prices for a rival to ablixa have soared in the wake of this scandal; can the two things be related?

Then Banks receives some compromising photographs in the mail, and a story from his past comes back to haunt him. His wife Dee (Vinessa Shaw) leaves him, taking their son, and Banks realizes that he’s being set up, and there’s nothing he can do about it – except work with his patient, Emily, to find out what’s going on…

Apparently Soderbergh’s last movie before his retirement, Side Effects is a low-scale thriller that again marks another tight collaboration between him and writer Scott Z. Burns (they worked on Contagion and The Informant! too). Soderbergh – again working as his own cinematographer and editor under assumed names – keeps the tension up, and though there are some good performances from Rooney and especially Law, there’s a distinct lacks of thrills and danger.

 

Whether there’s the suggestion of a huge medical industry conspiracy or not, you still expect Law to get into some real trouble, be in real danger – but here it’s more garden variety career and family ruination. When you start with a bloody stabbing and get into lies and deception you expect more of a drama spiral, but never the less it’s a solid piece of modern filmmaking. No matter what, make sure you check out the great ablixa ‘website’: www.tryablixa.com

James Bartlett

15A (see IFCO website for details)

105mins
Side Effects is released on 8th March 2013

Side Effects – Official Website

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QGe2ZE0prGg

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Cinema Review: Magic Mike

cheeky

 

DIR: Steven Soderbergh • WRI: Reid Carolin • PRO: Reid Carolin, Gregory Jacobs, Channing Tatum, Nick Wechsler • DOP: Steven Soderbergh • ED: Steven Soderbergh •  Cast: Channing Tatum, Alex Pettyfer, Olivia Munn

By day, Mike (Channing Tatum) is busy at one of his many jobs; construction worker, auto-parts dealer, furniture designer. But by night, he transforms into Magic Mike, the star of Dallas’ (Matthew McConaughey) all-male stripper show in Tampa Bay, where he performs alongside a bevy of muscular studs (Joe Manganiello, Matt Bomer, Kevin Nash and Adam Rodriguez) to a throng of screaming, dollar-throwing females of all ages. One day Mike bumps into The Kid (Alex Pettyfer) and through a string of coincidences, ends up shoving him on stage when one of their crew falls ill, and wouldn’t you know it, The Kid looks good in his underwear.

And so begins an Obi-Wan/Luke relationship, with Mike taking The Kid under his wing to show him the highs (and inevitable lows) of the world of male stripping. Straight off the bat, this is not a male version of Showgirls. Directed by Oscar-winner Steven Soderbergh (Traffic, Ocean’s Eleven) and based in part on Tatum’s own experiences as a stripper, there are two ways to enjoy this movie; (1) As an excuse to enjoy all of the well-toned flesh on stage. There is A LOT of it, and it has to be sad that the dance sequences are pretty impressive. Or (2) An argument could be made that this film is an essay in modern-day male bonding, or in the relatively recent invention of ‘Bromance’, or the reacquisition of male sexuality, or whatever reasons uptight straight males have to give in order to go see a fun movie that just happens to have guys shaking their butts in ass-less chaps.

Tatum brings his usual puppy-dog charm and carries the film well, Pettyfer continues to have one of the most punchable faces in modern cinema, but that serves him well for this particular role, and the rest of the supporting cast are fine, with a standout being McConaughey, who brings the same sleazy sexuality and inherent threat level he presented in Killer Joe, but dialled way down to a less homicidal, but more entertaining level here.

If there are any faults, it’s that considering the movie’s primary fan base will be women, the women in the movie are very poorly represented. There are only two worthy of note; one (Olivia Munn) being a bisexual wingman for Mike, and the other (Cody Horn) is supposed to be Mike’s romantic interest/soul salvation, but is such a constantly moaning harpy that it’s hard to ever warm to her. Also, as inevitable and supposedly necessary as the ‘If you have too much sex, alcohol and drugs, there’s going to be a downside’ arc is, the fallout scenes with hollow sex with strangers, hangovers and overdoses are still a total bummer and drag down the whole fun, frivolous vibe the film had going until that point.

But aside from these gripes, Magic Mike is still an easy to enjoy movie, with Soderbergh bringing some of his distinctive camera work and editing to make what could have been a trashy night out into a visually interesting, well told story about oiled up guys who don’t like wearing clothes.

Rory Cashin

Rated 16 (see IFCO website for details)
110m 10s

Magic Mike is released on 13th July 2012

Magic Mike – Official Website

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Cinema Review: 21 Jump Street

DIR: Phil Lord, Chris Miller • WRI: Michael Bacall • PRO: Stephen J. Cannell, Neal H. Moritz • DOP: Barry Peterson • ED: Mark Livolsi • DES: Peter Wenham • Cast: Jonah Hill, Channing Tatum, Ice Cube, Johnny Depp

21 Jump Street falls neatly into the category of ‘why?’ remakes – an iconic ’80s TV series turned into movie franchise brings to mind a disaster like Miami Vice. However, unlike other attempts to repackage the ’80s as relevant to modern times, 21 Jump Street uses the old series as a jumping-off point to create an original angle on an unoriginal idea. Two policemen going undercover as high-school kids is as hackneyed as they come, but by dint of some genuinely hilarious writing and top-class casting choices, 21 raises its head well above the parapet.

The two leading men, Channing Tatum as Greg and Jonah Hill as Morton, are misfit ex-enemies from high school – one thick but kind, and the other smart but socially inept – who end up best friends whilst training in the police force. Their early policing attempts play for laughs, one hilarious scene boasts them chasing a hardcore biker gang on push-bikes, and they find themselves pegged as immature and childish. Happily, these are the exact attributes required by the covert operations at 21, Jump Street, where Ice Cube’s Captain Dickson rules with foul-mouthed glee. They are assigned high-school detail to search for a new drug, and the sheer idiocy of this is never ignored, as students continuously comment on their obvious age – a comic tactic employed by this tongue-in-cheek movie as it takes itself not one-ounce seriously. Here they meet the super-popular gang – Greg, as ex- high-school jock and all-round cool kid, takes control of the situation, showing Morton the keys to maintaining status. However, in yet another hilarious scene, they are confronted by the fact that the ‘geeks’ now rule the school – led by Dave Franco’s Eric, an environmental champion who heads up the school paper and gets excellent grades.

Jokes abound in the comical mix-up of their identities, with Greg getting sent to the ‘smart’ classes, while Morton is expected to play for the football team, but there are some great action sequences too – culminating in a long-overdue epic explosion. Much has been made of the cameo appearance of the original TV series’ actors, but it is to the credit of those holding down the story up until that point that the appearance of Johnny Depp merely adds another comedic layer to a well-built structure, instead of upstaging them.

Despite the relative inexperience in the directing team of Phil Lord and Chris Miller, the actors involved, (all of whom could at any moment steal the show), are kept in check, providing a seamless impression of teamwork and camaraderie that makes this buddy film. While by no means exceptional, the movie is lifted above the mediocre by its snappy writing, excellent set-ups and by the shockingly brilliant comedic talents of Channing Tatum – who manages to make Jonah Hill seem like the amateur. An escape to teenagehood, this stands as a solid comedic reimagining of a TV series that takes loving jibes at the original, makes fun of itself at all times, and overall delivers laughs a-plenty. An inoffensive undercover romp that guarantees a hefty giggle – just what this awards-heavy season needed!

Sarah Griffin


Rated 15A (see IFCO website for details)
21, Jump Street is released on 16th March 2012

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5k0mo_oJfn4

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Cinema Review: The Vow

get a room

DIR: Michael Sucsy • WRI: Jason Katims, Abby Kohn • PRO: Gary Barber, Roger Birnbaum, Jonathan Glickman, Paul Taublieb • DOP: Rogier Stoffers • ED: Melissa Kent, Nancy Richardson • DES: Kalina Ivanov • Cast: Rachel McAdams, Channing Tatum, Sam Neill, Jessica Lange

The interestingly-named Michael Sucsy’s new romantic drama The Vow is best encapsulated by not so much a single word as a single sound, and that sound is ‘eeuuchh..’. Released to coincide with Valentine’s Day and designed in every aspect to ensnare as many hormonally-charged teenage couples as possible, this is a Hallmark card of a movie, pre-packaged and sanitised to within an inch of its life. The Vow is loosely based on a true story, and concerns young artist Paige (Rachel McAdams), married to recording studio owner Leo (Channing Tatum), who survives a near-fatal car accident only to be left with no recollection of her husband or their marriage. Leo subsequently sets about re-staging the key events of their courtship as he tries to make Paige fall in love with him a second time.

Now I realise that as a mildly grizzled thirty-something male I am probably not the ideal audience for this type of froth, but it seems to me that the least that even the most easily-pleased of audiences should expect is a script that manages to rise above the level of something churned out over a wet weekend by a gaggle of lovestruck 12 year-old girls. There are lines of dialogue in The Vow so hideously clunky that you can practically feel your seat buckle beneath you. The performances are similarly insipid, Rachel McAdams (apparently the go-to actress for those dealing in this type of slush) sleepwalks through an unchallenging role, vainly trying to establish a connection with love interest Channing Tatum. To be fair to McAdams though, this is in large part due to the fact that Tatum, who seems to be some class of talking bicep, is impossible to take seriously in any kind of dramatic role. He’s even harder to buy here as a cool and charming music producer, being possessed of all the charisma of a filing cabinet. His primary task in The Vow seems to be to proudly exhibit his chiseled linebacker physique and predilection for chunky knitwear at every available opportunity, while failing utterly to convince as a love interest to McAdams’ free-spirited artist / sculptor. The idea that anyone would fall in love with this mug not once, but twice, is risible. In terms of the rest of the cast, Sam Neill and Jessica Lange have the good grace to look mildly embarrassed to be involved, with Lange in particular looking suspiciously as if she’s ingested a small wheelbarrow full of Xanax just to get through the experience.

While there’s absolutely nothing wrong with a bit of romantic mush at this time of year, the least one should expect is a modicum of playfulness and wit. The Vow is devoid of these qualities, and plays out its awkward, sickly-sweet melodrama over a soulless, charmless 104 minutes. In fact, I’ve seen Health and Safety instructional videos that inspire more romantic ardour than this foul potpourri of cynical sentiment and putrid cliche. I repeat, eeuuuch….

Martin Cusack

Rated 16 (see IFCO website for details)
The Vow is released on 10th February 2012

The Vow – Official Website

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Cinema Review: Haywire

thems' fightin' words

DIR: Steven Soderbergh  WRI: Lem Dobbs  PRO: Gregory Jacobs, Alan Moloney, Michael Polaire,Tucker Tooley  DOP: Peter Andrews  ED: Peter Andrews  DES: Howard Cummings  Cast: Gina Carano, Michael Fassbender, Ewan Mc Gregor, Channing Tatum, Michael Douglas, Bill Paxton, Michael Angarano, Antonio Banderas

Director Steven Soderbergh has averaged a film a year since his acclaimed 1989 debut Sex, Lies & Videotape, an incredible work rate by modern filmmaking standards especially for one who frequently works within the political vagaries fof the studio system. A slippery stylist, Soderbergh’s films hop from genre to genre with creative restlessness appearing to be his defining characteristic whether filming glossy,  expensive star laden confections such as the Oceans series or experimenting with digital video and unknown actors on low budget conceits such as Bubble or The Girlfriend Experience.

With Haywire – his 23rd full length feature – he takes another stylistic left turn this being an independently financed, relatively low budget B-movie style action film of which a large portion was filmed in Dublin back in 2010. Mixed martial arts star Gina Carano portrays Mallory Kane, a covert operative for hire who performs certain ‘tasks’ for shady global organizations such as rescuing a Chinese journalist held hostage in Barcelona  which is the first instance in the film that we witness Carano’s and Mallory’s athleticism and asskicking skills as she fights her way out of a corner.

After a successful mission, Mallory is then dispatched by her handler Kenneth (Ewan Mc Gregor) to Dublin. Her mission is to assassinate an Iranian ambassador with the help of a suave British operative portrayed by Michael Fassbender but things go awry and she soon finds herself doublecrossed and left for dead. On the run, she flees back to the States where she devises a plan to exact revenge on those who’ve betrayed her.

The  generic plot of Haywire could have been lifted from any ‘international’ action thriller stretching back from 1960’s to the present day. In fact, one could easily imagine Lee Marvin, Charles Bronson or James Coburn or on the lower end of the scale Jean Claude Van Damme or Steven Seagal inhabiting Carano’s role in decades past.

What makes Haywire stand out from the pack? Well probably the only thing for this reviewer were the fight scenes which crackle with realism, vigour and fluidity meaning there is none of the fast editing/shakycam technique that has become the signature style of Hollywood action films since the success of the Bourne franchise. Obviously the fact that Carano is quite a formidable physical presence in her own right  adds to the believability of these expertly choreographed confrontations and we get a sense of the sweat, the struggle and pain of close combat in Soderbergh’s long takes.

The film makes light use of  a fairly heavyweight cast: Michael Douglas and Antonio Banderas  in particular come and go, act in a couple fo scenes and then leave without making much of an impression. Of course, Carano is the star here and Soderbergh is subverting a male dominated genre so maybe the point is to make these iconic actors subservient so that their mere presence doesnt detract or overwhelm the female lead. Fassbender makes the strongest impression but then he does get to take on Carano in a violent hotel room one on one.

So as a showcase for Carano’s natural abilities, sultry good looks and relaxed screen presence, the film is enjoyable but outside of the action, the film feels rather lethargic, which is only exacerbated by the rather flat dialogue and understated David Holmes score. It feels like a detached exercise rather than a project which the director was passionate about, a chance for him to develop his skillset in another genre and while there is certainly nothing wrong with a stripped down action film too often Haywire feels diffuse and perfunctory.

Derek Mc Donnell

Rated 15A (see IFCO website for details)
Haywire is released on 20th January 2012

Haywire – Official Website

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lU_v6Wl3tBw

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