Review: Truth

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DIR/WRI: James Vanderbilt • PRO: Brad Fischer, Brett Ratner, William Sherak, Andrew Spaulding, James Vanderbilt • DOP: Mandy Walker • ED: Richard Francis-Bruce • MUS: Brian Tyler • DES: Fiona Crombie • CAST: Cate Blanchett, Robert Redford, Dennis Quaid

 

While Cate Blanchett is currently riding high on the success of her Oscar-nominated performance in Todd Haynes’s female/lesbian-centric film Carol, unfortunate scheduling has pulled focus away from yet another outstandingly rich Blanchett performance in Truth, the directorial debut from screenwriter James Vanderbilt. Released just three weeks in the US before the diversity-friendly, melancholic melodrama Carol and almost simultaneously with Tom McCarthy’s gripping newsroom thriller Spotlight, the onus is on the celebrated screenwriter’s debut to amplify the narrative of investigation into the darker aspects of American culture and its power structure, forcefully probed by such critically acclaimed heavyweights through sobering and absorbing critiques.

 

Based on CBS news producer Mary Mapes’ 2005 memoir, Truth and Duty: The Press, The President, and the Privilege of Power, Blanchett plays the non-conforming journalist, who produced a report for the 60 Minutes II programme in 2004, which challenged Bush’s service record with the Texas Air National Guard during the Vietnam era. Revelling in the glory of exposing the Abu Ghraib prisoner abuse story (giving Bush a further axe to grind), Mapes and long-time news anchor, Dan Rather (Robert Redford) attempt to prove the president’s attendance record was more than shaky, owing to his family connections. Basing their investigations on leaked documents by an unreliable source, Mapes, Rather and a mutinous production team find themselves on the receiving end of political and corporate power, compromising their journalistic integrity as the authenticity of the documents comes under scrutiny.

 

While Haynes interrogates sexual diversity and challenges to the stability of the family by emotionally investing in a tangible love story between the two female characters and McCarthy exposes the Catholic Church’s large-scale culture of abuse with ethical humility by giving prominence to the victims rather than the crusading journalists, Vanderbilt’s Truth fails to grill the hegemonic construction of political, corporate and media corruption with any stinging, impactful conviction. Vanderbilt, rather, speeds through the chain of events that almost led to a presidential downfall and changed the face of modern journalism without the emotional or moral punch that reinforces Carol and Spotlight, devaluing the scale the CBS report had on the construction of the media and the manipulation of its integrity and values.

 

While Hayne’s exquisite craftsmanship is stamped all over Carol and his customary ironic overtones intensify his dismantling of 1950s socio-cultural structures, Vanderbilt’s impulsive, disjointed style, not only prevents an identification with characters and connection to events but draws attention to the director’s inexperience, whose failure to tease the hot subject matter into a carefully considered narrative, loses much of the moral and political significance of the story. Unlike Spotlight, the considerable repercussions of the story are sidelined to accentuate the journalists’ campaign without digging into the culture of corruption that led to the crusade and rather than merging both cause and effect into a sophisticated and damning cinematic critique of modern journalism and conservative power, Truth is hesitant and hurried, becoming more akin to a nondescript television movie. Vanderbilt’s style is at such odds with the narrative objective, that his investigations becoming more alienating than immersive and the zipping fashion with which the story unfolds creates an indifference to rather than engagement with events, making the overall story appear less significant than it was in actuality.

 

Supported solidly by Redford, Truth is rescued by another engrossing performance by Blanchett, who plays the lobbying producer with such compelling nuance, it is unfortunate the overall narrative and style cannot equal her efforts. Although the film is based on her book, Vanderbilt appears determined not to exploit Mapes’ position as an identifiable, female protagonist, in favour of a more rounded overview of all players involved. As such, when the crusaders mightily fall and Blanchett is put on the spotlight and breathtakingly shines, it is clear Vanderbilt missed a great opportunity by not intensifying Mapes’ perspective, which would have given the film that much needed subjective, emotional and feminist edge. Although most of the journalists involved ended their CBS careers in the aftermath, it was Mapes who was fired from the corporation, so such feminist overtones could have bolstered identification with Mapes’ position as a woman against unscrupulous corporate hegemony, but Vanderbilt seems at pains to avoid such political engagement.

 

Although the film shares a similar agenda to Carol and Spotlight in attempting to demolish the ideological agendas of conservative, hegemonic institutions, Vanderbilt’s attempts at interrogation simply do not get under the skin and fail to penetrate the cynical cycle of corruption and cover-ups, so palpably executed in Spotlight. While Rathers became the public scapegoat and thus a symbol of modern journalistic rectitude, it was Mapes who felt the full force of the corporate and political axe and Blanchett’s stunning performance was the unexploited golden ticket in Truth. The film has evidently suffered from a tentative, inexperienced director whose cautious probing of the seedier side of a culture of corporate corruption, leaves a feeling of being outside events rather than being complicit in the crusade. Despite some fantastic separate elements, such as performances and production values, when all pulled together, the film fails to add up to a thrilling, critical exposé on the whole and Cate Blanchett will possibly not get the appreciation for her performance that she deserves.

                                                                                                 

 

 Dee  O’Donoghue

15A (See IFCO for details)

125 minutes

Truth is released 4th March 2016

Truth – Official Website

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Cinema Review: What to Expect When You’re Expecting


DIR: Kirk Jones • WRI: Shauna Cross, Heather Hach, • PRO: Mike Medavoy, Arnold Messer, David Thwaites • DOP: Xavier Pérez Grobet • ED: Michael Berenbaum • DES: Andrew Laws • Cast: Cameron Diaz, Matthew Morrison, Dennis Quaid, Rodrigo Santoro

First things first, the tagline for this movie: ‘It’s Too Late To Pull Out Now; while it would’ve been funny and suitable for Knocked Up 2, is far and away the most risqué thing about What to Expect When You’re Expecting. Following on from the ‘hit’ adaptation of self-help book He’s Just Not That Into You, comes this big screen version of a book aimed at the pregnant every-woman. But even these two criteria, ‘pregnant’ and ‘every-woman’, aren’t met by this sub-par rom-com, with one couple adopting a baby from Africa, another couple dealing with the aftermath of NOT having a child together, and as for the ‘every-woman’ part…

Jennifer Lopez is a marine photographer, Cameron Diaz is a fitness show host, Brooklyn Decker is the trophy wife of a race-car driving champion, Elizabeth Banks is a baby-book author/baby-store owner and Anna Kendrick is embroiled in a fast-food van turf war. Every one of these women are superstar beautiful, each paired with a perfect husband/boyfriend (Rodrigo Santoro, Matthew Morrison, Dennis Quaid, Ben Falcone and Chace Crawford, all uniformly underwritten), with not a single single-mother to be found, and not a single cliché about new-fathers left untapped.

But this movie really was always going to be about and for the women, and that would be fine too, if they hadn’t left the movie almost devoid of laughs. There are one or two good lines from Chris Rock and co. as the Father’s Club (‘It’s like Fight Club, but with strollers.’ That wasn’t one of the good lines), and Elizabeth Banks has some fun with her character’s bi-polar mania, although after playing pretty much the exact same role in Scrubs and 30 Rock, she should check she’s not being pregnant pigeonholed.

If you want a funny film about pregnancy, go watch Knocked Up again, whereas WTEWYE is bland, safe and completely inoffensive. And who in this world thinks pregnancy is any of those things?

Rory Cashin

Rated 12A (see IFCO website for details)
What to Expect When You’re Expecting is released on 25th May 2012

What to Expect When You’re Expecting – Official Website

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

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Cinema Review: Footloose

this loose foot has visions of Bishop Brennan

DIR: Craig Brewer • WRI: Dean Pitchford, Craig Brewer • PRO: Patrick Rofoli, Dylan Sellers, Brad Weston, Craig Zadan, Gary Barber, Roger Birnbaum, Timothy M. Bourne, Neil Meron • ED: Billy Fox • DOP: Amy Vincent • DES: Jon Gary Steele • CAST: Kenny Wormald, Julianne Hough, Dennis Quaid

Craig Brewer was a perfect choice for the remake of this 1984 classic what with his previous film, the soulful Black Snake Moan, tackling all the same themes as the original – exclusion, social change, the small town mentality and royidin! Unfortunately Brewer decided not to go down that route, and instead turned what should have been an innovative modern interpretation into washy teenage drivel. Footloose would have been more aptly titled: ‘Bring it On: Save the last Step Up’.

Plot-wise, little has changed since the original, Ren McCormack is still a rebellious out-of-towner, this time he was from Boston instead of Chicago. After his move to the small, conservative country town of Bomont, Ren quickly makes enemies because of his… don, don, DON: Loud music (pause for gasps). After befriending native goofball, Willard, Ren discovers that all dancing has been banned because some local teenagers died in a car accident. Naturally. So now this badboy-with-a-conscious must take on the town council so that his fellow high-schoolers can once again bust-a-move – all the while ‘doing a line’ with the preacher’s wild daughter.

The acting in this film makes the cast of The Room look like Oscar-bait. Between this and his performance in Soul Surfer, Dennis Quaid has earned himself a top spot on my enemies list – yet still remains the best thing about the cast. The ghastly Kenny Wormald (Ren) should have stuck to dancing, as apparently he can only manage two faces: grinning creepily and not grinning. Creepily. There is absolutely no chemistry between him and his co-star, the equally woeful Julianne Hough. In fact there is little prelude to their relationship whatsoever other than some sarcastic banter.

The pretext is ridiculous; in this day and age would anywhere in the Western World really ban dancing? Really? The original movie was set in a different time, echoing civil disturbance and bringing humanity to both sides of the argument with powerhouse performances. All Footloose 2011 appears to do is lamely redeliver dialogue and dip in-and-out of hill-billy stereotypes.

MTV would have been better off putting the 25 million towards Jersey Shore: The Movie. It would have had more class than this.

Gemma Creagh

Rated 12A (see IFCO website for details)
Footloose is released on 14th October 2011

Footloose – Official Website

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Cinema Review: Soul Surfer

surf me a river

DIR: Sean McNamara • WRI: Sean McNamara, Deborah Schwartz, Douglas Schwartz, Michael Berk, Matt Allen, Caleb Wilson, Brad Gann, Bethany Hamilton, Sheryl Berk, Rick Bundschuh • PRO: Ronald Bass, David Brookwell, Rob Deege, Becky Hamilton, Noah Hamilton, Dutch Hofstetter, Tiffany Hofstetter, Joey Paul Jensen, Laurie Koris, Christina Lambert, Sean McNamara, Corey Schwartz, Douglas Schwartz, Susie Singer Carter, Jennifer Smolka, Shelley Trotter, David Zelon • DOP: John R. Leonetti • ED: Jeff Canavan • DES: Rusty Smith • CAST: AnnaSophia Robb, Dennis Quaid, Helen Hunt, Lorraine Nicholson, Kevin Sorbo

Soul Surfer is the dramatised true story of Bethany Hamilton, a promising Hawaiian teenage surfer who, at the age of 13, had her arm bitten off in a shark attack. Let me preface this review by stating how much personal admiration I have for the real Bethany; she really has such strength and courage.

Now the film however, is a much less inspiring affair. Soul Surfer has the sickly sweet pungent aroma of a made-for-TV movie, not to mention the slight waft of American Bible-belt propaganda.

The film begins with awkwardly-narrated surfing competition, in which Bethany and her B.F.F. Alana place first and third respectively, with the evil, bully brunette, Malina coming second. To their utmost joy, Bethany and Alana are both offered sponsorship by Rip Curl. This new responsibility means that Bethany is now unable to go with her religious, older lookalike, on a mission to help children in Mexico. Sick Children.

The two buddies stay in Hawaii and begin training with Alana’s father, Holt (who’s played by Hercules from popular nineties TV drama, Hercules.) On one such outing Bethany’s life is changed forever, as her arm is completely bitten off by a shark. So after a remarkably short recovery period, Bethany is forced to reevaluate her life choices, re-learn how to do everyday tasks and rediscover her love for surfing ¬– all with the support of her family.

As can be guessed from the title, this film deals in depth with the world of surfing; to the point where it can get quite difficult to identify with. The main choice of actors, I suspect, were cast for their board-yielding abilities rather than their acting talent, as this film sports some truly horrendous acting attempts. In fact close-ups of characters ‘crying’ but not yielding any actual tears is quite a common occurrence. Even talented veterans Helen Hunt and Dennis Quaid came in below par – making them the best of a very bad bunch.

For a film based on such a remarkable true story, there is little actual drama or conflict in the script. Bethany seems to just get on with it – thus being a very brave individual, but quite a boring protagonist. Also the people who devised the CG ‘Stump’ should be barred from the film industry forever; it was distracting and ridiculous. The only high point of the film was the final credit sequence because it showed clips of the real-life Bethany. Also because it meant the film was over.

Gemma Creagh

Rated 12A (see IFCO website for details)
Soul Surfer is released on 23rd September 2011
Soul Surfer – Official Website

 


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Pandorum

Pandorum

DIR: Christian Alvart • WRI: Travis Milloy • PRO: Paul W.S. Anderson, Jeremy Bolt, Robert Kulzer, Martin Moszkowicz • DOP: Wedigo von Schultzendorff • ED: Philipp Stahl, Yvonne Valdez • DES: Richard Bridgland • CAST: Dennis Quaid, Ben Foster, Cam Gigandet, Antje Traue

Pandorum is a pleasantly unexpected surprise. Horror films may not typically inspire confidence; however, if you are willing to give Pandorum the benefit of the doubt, this exciting film should give your heart a workout.

Director Christian Alvart has chosen the science fiction genre as a base for his tale, which is a bold move considering how quickly sci-fi can descend into ill-considered tripe if not handled thoughtfully. Refreshingly, Pandorum has been meticulously designed and planned. Everything from the sets, costumes, props and models are entirely convincing and well realised, which immediately supports the films authenticity as a sci-fi and is more accessible to the viewer.

Ben Foster and Dennis Quaid, initially being the only two characters, carry the first act with conviction. Predominantly, Ben Foster’s claustrophobic panic-stricken vulnerability affects the viewer. This becomes acutely engaging as this vulnerability ebbs and the character develops. Additionally, credible supporting roles layer the intrigue on thick, notably Cam Gigandet providing a foil for Quaid.

Although constantly at risk, Pandorum’s protagonists are by no means the typical slasher film victims. On the contrary, they are likeably tenacious and their growing ingenuity and confidence help them to develop into rounded, human characters.

The narrative itself is intriguing, which can typically be remiss in the horror franchise. The back-story is revealed organically, via revelations and memories, rather than in typical linear fashion: the result of which is a keenly interested audience throughout, mirroring the characters’ own growing comprehension. This empathy compounds the relationship between character and viewer.

As mentioned, the sci-fi glamour compliments the ambience. The lack of high brow techno-babble is a mercy and the gadgetry induces wide-eyed awe as well as the occasional appreciative giggle, i.e. the lightsaber-esque razor Foster’s character uses to shave with.

This said, the most impressive characteristic of Pandorum is its decision to fuse various tones and practices, uncharacteristic of the horror genre. This is a sci fi horror, but it’s also more. Expect veiled threats, masses of creatures, chase scenes, special effects, riot guns, the occasional twist, plenty of gore… And fights. That’s right: Fight Scenes. In a horror film. And not just one, there are a number of quick but impressively brutal and technically sound fight scenes littered throughout Pandorum. Action junkies should be overjoyed.

This may present the film as a woeful amalgamation of cinematic methods that shouldn’t quite gel. But that’s what is so remarkable, and surprising, about Pandorum, it presents an excellent synergy of these techniques without descending into madness (unless intentionally.) In fact this synergy further promotes the viewer’s affinity to the characters, and the pace changes to constantly keep the blood pumping. Pandorum is no horror by numbers.

Unfortunately, it is very possible that Pandorum will get lost amongst larger releases, or sceptically attacked, due to bias against horror films. But this film demands recognition: At best, it is a bold synergy of great ideas that sync remarkably, and transcend its genre. At worst, Pandorum is an imaginative venture and deserves the benefit of the doubt and an open mind.

Jack McGlynn
(See biog here)

Rated 16 (see IFCO website for details)
Pandorum
is released on 2nd Oct 2009
Pandorum – Official Website

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G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra

G.I. Joe

DIR: Stephen Sommers • WRI: Stuart Beattie, David Elliot, Paul Lovett • PRO Lorenzo di Bonaventura, Bob Ducsay, Stephen Sommers • DOP: Mitchell Amundsen • ED: Bob Ducsay, Jim May • DES: Ed Verreaux • CAST: Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, Christopher Eccleston, Dennis Quaid, Channing Tatum, Sienna Miller, Marlon Wayans

Perhaps the timing was off. Had the film incarnation of Hasbro’s popular G.I. Joe cartoon series/action figures emerged during the dying years of George W. Bush’s presidency, perhaps there would have been a perverse irony to G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra – an American-led outfit fighting terrorism and evil around the world. Indeed, despite the ample room for some tongue-in-cheek politics this ostensible kids’ movie holds, Stephen Sommers (The Mummy,Van Helsing) and his writing team have opted for a hodge-podge collection of strange casting choices, poor CGI and, surprisingly for a film based on a children’s cartoon, an overly-complicated plot. The young viewers I heard in the theatre were at times impressed, but not all that often.

From the start, Sommers is keen to emphasise that the G.I. Joe we encounter, that is the elite, secret Army Unit run by General Hawk (Denis Quaid almost phoning in his performance) is an international grouping with members from all around the globe. Thus we are introduced to the likes of French-Moroccan gadget expert, Breaker (Saïd Taghmaoui) and buff cockney Heavy Duty (played by Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje). Both, it goes without saying, sport ridiculous, overblown accents. They, however, are the lucky ones in a feature that preys on poor choices. Christopher Eccleston, playing McCullen, the evil Scottish arms dealer of the piece, is underused and crucially miscast as a villain who appears largely bored and uninterested. Indeed, the rather farcical linking of his role with the film’s opening scene, where we are shown the torturing of a treacherous arms dealer (McCullen’s ancestor it turns out) in 17th century France is as incongruous as Brendan Fraser’s one-minute appearance as an army instructor. Channing Tatum (Step Up, Stop-Loss) as the film’s lead Duke, no doubt looks the part of an all-American US marine, but on this showing Tatum may soon end up being the actor’s equivalent of Katie Holmes: a pretty face, two facial expressions and little else. Indeed, Jonathan Pryce (Tomorrow Never Dies, Pirates of the Caribbean) is the strangest casting decision of all – he plays the US President, with a noticeable English accent in tow.

Acting skills, however, are not what viewers, or parents of viewers for that matter, of G.I. Joe … are paying out for. Yet when it comes to explosions and impressive gadgetry, whilst there are some impressive action sequences, Sommers manages to thoroughly suck the energy out of scenes that should have seemed rudimentary on paper. If ever there was a time that Jerry Bruckheimer was needed, this is it. Not even the collapsing of the Eiffel Tower can make up for consistently shoddy CGI and altogether dull fighting sequences. It probably doesn’t help that G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra is littered with flashbacks that not only slow the action, but are often completely needless and forced upon the viewer. Did Sommers forget his intended audience was teenage boys? It appears so.

What should have been a relatively simple outing in a possible franchise turns into an ill-fitting, altogether strangely structured film that will neither overawe kids nor entertain parents. G.I. Joe: the Rise of Cobra is an average action movie with a cast largely running on autopilot. When Marlon Wayans (as Duke’s best friend ‘Ripcord’) is your only comic relief, you know things are bad. Will there be a sequel? The ending certainly implies it. Let’s hope it goes straight to DVD.

Jason Robinson
(See biog here)


Rated 12A (See IFCO website for details)
G.I. Joe: The Rise of the Cobra is released on 7th August 2009

G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra – Official Website

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