Review: Tomorrowland: A World Beyond



DIR: Brad Bird • WRI: Brad Bird, Damon Lindelof • PRO: Brad Bird, Jeffrey Chernov, Damon Lindelof • DOP: Claudio Miranda • ED: Walter Murch, Craig Wood • DES: Scott Chambliss • MUS: Michael Giacchino • CAST: George Clooney, Britt Robertson, Hugh Laurie


I was excited when I saw the trailer for Tomorrowland: A World Beyond. It was a short teaser showing the lead character, Casey (Britt Robertson) picking up a strange totem and being transported to this mysterious utopia, with George Clooney laying down the voice-over.


Brad Bird, fresh from his successful first foray into live-action film making with Ghost Protocol, as the director, and a perfectly weighted teaser along with some great casting, this was something to get excited about.


And after the big wait it turned out to be disappointment, as things like this often do in the current age.


The story follows the main character, a NASA engineer’s daughter, coming across the badge she doesn’t recognize, which introduces her to the titular Tomorrowland. A future-scopic metropolis where the inhabitants are hand-picked based on their longing for progression rather than power. Innovation and invention are the sole tools of society but, like every modern vision of the future, those ideals are eroded through the inert nature of the present.


It’s a kids’ movie. It might be that Brad Bird’s inherently colorful sensibility just makes the hifalutin ideas put forward in Tomorrowland a bit difficult to take in. Damon Lindelof is the writer (Star Trek), and his script – which was reworked by Bird – presents some really interesting concepts but might not be palatable for its target audience. That’s not to imply that kids are thick or anything, but for once, Brad Bird – the outstanding family movie director of today – seems all too unaware of that fact himself.


The writing is sketchy, platitudes and bon mot’s are interwoven with light-hearted quips that just don’t land often enough. Themes like perseverance are dealt with using ham-fisted and clunky dialogue with a rousing sound track. Don’t get me wrong, I ate that stuff up when I was younger but I have accomplished nothing on the back of it. So what purpose does it serve?


As for the actual narrative itself, well, like some of Lindelof’s most prominent past credits – namely Lost and Prometheus, Tomorrowland starts out promisingly before getting tangled in its own ideas towards the end.


This movie should be amazing. And I do hope its target audience thinks that it is. But a director with such broad blockbuster appeal, and a cast with George Clooney in it – who is utterly forgettable in this – should give me something more. Perhaps I’m just bitter that I’m not of the age to enjoy this idyllic froth when I’m too worried about whether I’m registered to vote. Maybe I’m just too old to care, like George Clooney in this very movie.

Shane Hennessy

12A (See IFCO for details)

129 minutes
Tomorrowland: A World Beyond is released 22nd May 2015

Tomorrowland: A World Beyond – Official Website


Cinema Review: The Monuments Men


DIR: George Clooney • WRI: George Clooney, Grant Heslov  • PRO: George Clooney, Grant Heslov  • DOP: Phedon Papamichael •ED: Stephen Mirrione  • MUS: Alexandre Desplat  • DES: James D. Bissell  • CAST: George Clooney, Cate Blanchett, Matt Damon, Bill Murray

It’s impossible not to view The Monuments Men in advance as some sort of ‘Ocean’s 14’/Dad’s Army comedy caper, and George Clooney’s overwhelming presence certainly cements that.  Thanks to the relentlessly enthusiastic trailer that’s been pumped on every screen, it’s also managed to conjure The Great Escape – if only because of the incessantly jarring jaunty music.  While it does manage some capering, and even surprises with sporadic comedy chuckles, it tends to jump-ship too shrilly into the dramatically saccharine to really feel cohesive overall.


It begins with the premise (based on a true story) that a bunch of older patrons of the arts fly into Europe as the Second World War is drawing to a close in order to save priceless works of art from first German hands, then German flames, then Russian commanders.  This is of course very admirable, and any effort to save symbols of a beautiful humanity at a time when nations appeared devoid of it has huge resonance, but the movie can’t seem to really trust itself in its central idea that art has this much value.  It’s left, then, to the occasional monotonous soliloquy from George Clooney as he details the myriad reasons we should want art preserved, and why this bunch of Americans should be the ones to do it.  Since his band of merry men is made up of Matt Damon, Bill Murray, John Goodman, Jean Dujardin, Hugh Bonneville and Bob Balaban the rest of the movie is spent making sure each character has had a caper, a comic pratfall, a sentimental moment, and some drama.  Side characters appear to have more interesting storylines, like Cate Blanchett’s French resistance curator, which leaves the movie floundering for where its forward momentum should come from.  Focusing on a single statue as the symbol of redemption does little to appease the gnawing feeling that, apart from hyperbolic German histrionics and sardonic Russian smirks, these men are in a personal conflict without opposition.


Clooney has talked about this movie as a labour of love, and it’s clear to see that he has drawn influence from older movies – something he mentions when discussing his reasoning behind bringing this story to life.  It’s very much his version of ‘how it used to be’ – and no better man to attempt it, considering his charisma and screen presence.  But what was once charming is now bordering on smarmy, and Monuments Men suffers as a result.  Throwing in dramatic moments for the sake of it – because remember, we’re at war! – seems tacked-on, and the movie’s insistence on jingoist drama and moments of anti-German and anti-Russian patriotism just don’t quite cut it.  A caper that goes wrong I can handle, a caper that ends in tragedy equally so, but a caper that stops and starts at all the wrong moments with ill-fitting intensity and drama just ends up being no kind of caper at all.


While not the worst movie I’ve seen this year, it’s an eminently forgettable one.  What Monuments Men highlights, more than anything, is the Clooney effect: how to attract a stellar cast to mediocre roles in a movie that never reaches the sum of its parts.


Sarah Griffin

12A (See IFCO for details)
118  mins

Monuments Men is released on 14th February 2014

Monuments Men– Official Website


Cinema Review: Gravity



DIR: Alfonso Cuarón  • WRI: Alfonso Cuarón, Jonás Cuarón • PRO: David Heyman • DOP: Emmanuel Lubezki • ED: Alfonso Cuarón, Mark Sanger • DES: Andy Nicholson • CAST: Sandra Bullock, George Clooney, Basher Savage

Two actors pretend to float in space. The premise promises little, but Gravity is an exceptional film that has already pulled huge audiences worldwide and attracted rave reviews, both well deserved. It’s simply stunning.

Dr Ryan Stone (Sandra Bullock) and Lt Matt Kowalski (George Clooney) are among the crew servicing the Hubble Space Telescope. A Russian missile destroys an obsolete satellite. The debris hurtles through space, causing catastrophic damage to Stone’s shuttle. We know from film taglines that, in space, no one can hear you scream. There’s no air pressure, no oxygen. So, how will they survive? Is it even possible?

Gravity works well because Alfonso Cuarón, who co-wrote the script with his son Jonás, directs it as a thriller. He clearly sets out difficulties to overcome and the stakes should the characters succeed or not. He ratchets up the tension as oxygen levels fall, fuel runs out and space debris strikes again. The pacing is excellent.

But it’s more than a thriller. Gravity may very well be this year’s Life of Pi, a visually impressive film best seen in IMAX 3D. Gravity surpasses Lee’s film because its philosophizing is less trite, more subtle. Their central device is much the same: an isolated hero confronted by a vast wilderness struggles to get home. It’s possible to read Gravity as an existential meditation, confronting our fear of dying, our need to connect to other people, and our utter dependence on the planet we take for granted. Cuarón’s direction and the intelligent writing allow these themes to emerge, to be contemplated perhaps after the film’s initial impact.

Its imagery beguiles. Emmanuel Lubezki, Cuarón’s regular DOP, worked wonders with Terrence Malick and his natural light in The Tree of Life and To the Wonder. Here, he must integrate digital and live action, and it’s his lighting that makes it seamless. The visual effects are nothing less than marvellous. Gravity is often breathtakingly beautiful, with shots ranging from panoramic vistas of the Earth below or close-ups of Dr Stone’s tears floating before us in 3D. It’s one of the most technically accomplished films yet produced.

All this technical skill, philosophizing and striking scenery may draw parallels with the works of Stanley Kubrick, in particular 2001: A Space Odyssey. Indeed, some of the film’s images, such as Dr Ryan Stone assuming the foetal position in a space capsule, directly recall the 1968 classic. Whereas Kubrick’s films could be cold, Cuarón’s film avoids that pitfall with Sandra Bullock’s excellent performance and George Clooney’s important contribution.

The actors are often confined in small spaces, their movements restricted in their spacesuits, leaving them to convey much with their voice and facial expressions, and they succeed admirably. The dialogue at times seems far removed and unrelated to the captivating imagery, but Gravity frequently becomes profoundly moving.

Clooney gives the film its warmth and its humour, playing on his roguish charm and playboy image. Bullock demonstrates how much Hollywood has undervalued her abilities to date. Ed Harris reprises his role as the voice of Houston, and his interactions with the astronauts at the beginning serve as a sweetener before the crisis ensues.

A big budget epic made with the skill and intelligence that keeps its more lofty elements grounded, Gravity is a deeply affecting, mesmerizing film that exemplifies the best of contemporary cinema.


John Moran

 12A (See IFCO for details)

90 mins

Gravity is released on 8th November 2013

Gravity – Official Website


Cinema Review: The Descendants

would you walk with this man on a beach at sunrise...?

DIR: Alexander Payne • WRI: Alexander Payne, Nat Faxon, Jim Rash • PRO: Alexander Payne, Jim Taylor • DOP: Phedon Papamichael • ED: Kevin Tent • DES: Jane Ann Stewart • Cast: George Clooney, Shailene Woodley, Amara Miller

Having recently carted away Best Film and Best Actor from this year’s Golden Globes, The Descendants should seem like an early shoo-in for entry on the Best Of 2012 Lists. However, come December, you’ll be hard pressed to remember anything from this movie other than its beautiful locales.

George Clooney is Matt King, a rich Hawaiian lawyer whose family happens to own a large portion of one of the islands. Right in the middle of negotiations about who the family should sell it to, Matt’s wife has an accident and slips into a coma. Matt is now left to look after his two estranged daughters; Alexandra (Shailene Woodley, beautiful but troubled) and Scottie (Amara Miller, cute but lonely). Matt also discovers that his wife has been having an affair and was planning on divorcing him soon. With her still in a coma, Matt has no-one to unleash this anger out on, and so the film shows his life falling apart and his attempts to reshape it into something worth living.

This is by far director Alexander Payne’s least funny movie, as the comedy to tragedy ratio in Election, About Schmidt and Sideways was better balanced, but here the movie is mostly stuck in glumsville. Clooney is excellent as the suddenly put upon father, and the daughters are great, as well as the supporting cast of Robert Forster, Matthew Lillard, Judy Greer and Beau Bridges. But this movie suffers from the same problem as The Artist, in that it’s a very average story told very, very well. So while at the time it’ll seem great, from a distance it won’t be clear why.

Rory Cashin

Rated 15A (see IFCO website for details)
The Descendants is released on 27th January 2012


Cinema Review: The Ides of March

DIR: George Clooney • WRI: George Clooney, Grant Heslov, Beau Willimon • PRO: George Clooney, Grant Heslov, Brian Oliver • DOP: Phedon Papamichael • ED: Stephen Mirrione • DES: Sharon Seymour • CAST: Ryan Gosling, Paul Giamatti, Philip Seymour Hoffman, George Clooney

Idealism and politics are a sad mix – the latter dying by degrees as the former rises.  Many lives have borne this out, and movie after movie engages with new ways to give the age-old warning that absolute power corrupts absolutely. The Ides of March is, thus, not telling us anything that we didn’t already know – but that is not really the point. This is not strictly the story of a Democratic nominee’s fight for the White House, but more the tale of one man’s struggle to be either good at his job, or a decent person.

Ryan Gosling is, of course, this man – playing Steven Meyers, the junior campaign manager for Democratic candidate Mike Morris (George Clooney – also helming), under the tutelage of veteran trail-master, Paul Zara (Philip Seymour Hoffman). Running against another Democratic party member, Pullman, for the presidential nomination, the team are pushing an ideal of perfection – Paul, as the old-hand, doing what needs to be done to win, and Steven wishing only to do what he believes in. Pullman’s character doesn’t get a look-in, as it is his campaign manager, Tom Duffy (Paul Giamatti), who provides the real test of wills with Steven. This political melee is documented by Marisa Tomei’s hardnosed NY Times reporter, Ida, and forced to a head by Evan Rachel Wood’s beleaguered intern, and possible political Waterloo, Molly.

The Shakespearean title underscores the film’s commitment to using the panic of time, (the race for the Ohio nomination forms the backdrop), as a tool to emphasise the impression that tragedy is looming. Based on a stage production, Ides makes one crucial change to the play in having Senator Morris visible as an actual character, setting up the ideal with one clear goal – to tear it down. Clooney, of course, inspires confidence by just being Clooney, with Steven believing everything he says, and his toppling is equally convincing. Through a relationship with Molly, Steven begins to find his world unravelling, beginning with a disastrous meeting with the opposition. Giamatti’s Duffy is harsh and cynical, pointing out that the Democrats have played fair for too long – and it’s time they learned to roll in the mud with the elephants. And descend into mud they do. With much more in the unsaid than anything spoken, the film sweeps through its non-action with brooding camerawork, and a droopy-lidded Gosling intensifying every scene. Something is most certainly rotten in the state of Denmark, and Gosling plays the erring Hamlet to Clooney’s Claudius with perfection – the embodiment of foreboding, he gives what is essentially a hackneyed story some real power.

The Ides of March was slated for production in 2008, but Clooney has commented that he held production of the film after Obama’s election because, and I quote, ‘people were too optimistic for such a cynical film.’ Though there is nothing new in the story, considering the wealth of heavy-weights combining onscreen, not watching this movie would hurt far more than watching it. Steven and Morris’s denouement face-off is especially blistering, and Gosling’s mute horror, perfectly captured in extreme close-up, leaves a bitter aftertaste for political believers. Seductive ambition, indeed.


Sarah Griffin

Rated 15A (see IFCO website for details)

The Ides of March is released on 28th October 2011

The Ides of March – Official Website




Midday Movies

Two Irish films make this year’s Cannes slate

The key programmes for Cannes, which begins on 11th May, have all now been announced. The good news for the home industry is that two Irish productions have secured prominent spots. Paolo Sorrentino’s This Must Be the Place, starring Sean Penn as an ageing rock star hunting a Nazi war criminal, will compete in the main competition. Rebecca Daly’s debut film, The Other Side of Sleep, a spooky thriller concerning a lifelong sleepwalker, will play in the semi-official Directors’ Fortnight strand.


Charlie Sheen dumped by text message

Adult film star Rachel ‘Bree’ Olson sent the actor a short message saying she wanted to end the two month long relationship. Olson, 24, has been by Sheen’s side since he was fired from the hit TV show Two and a Half Men. She has been part of his ‘Torpedo of Truth’ tour along with another of the goddesses, Natalie Kenly.


Thor was ‘irresistible’ says Kenneth Branagh

Noted Shakespeare director and actor Kenneth Branagh talks about his latest film – a comic book blockbuster about Marvel superhero Thor. Rada graduate Kenneth Branagh was already an established stage and television star when he directed and starred in his 1989 film of William Shakespeare’s history play ‘Henry V’. The critically acclaimed result earned him Oscar nominations for his work both behind and in front of the camera, a best director award from Bafta and a slew of other honours…


Mirren wasn’t keen on first Arthur

Arthur star Dame Helen Mirren has revealed she wasn’t a fan of the original film. The Oscar-winning actress plays long-suffering nanny Hobson alongside Russell Brand’s title character in the remake of the 1980s comedy which starred Dudley Moore. The 65-year-old admitted: ‘I didn’t like it very much. I found I’ve always been a bit of a feminist and I just found the female role although brilliantly played by Liza Minnelli, just annoying.’


Star to statesman: Interview with George Clooney

With five years’ involvement in Sudan, George Clooney has begun to define a new role for himself: 21st-century celebrity statesman. ‘It’s harder for authoritarian regimes to survive, because we can circumvent old structures with cell phones and the internet,’ says Clooney. ‘Celebrity can help focus news media where they have abdicated their responsibility. We can’t make policy, but we can “encourage” politicians more than ever before.’



Midday Movies

Actor Farley Granger dies at 85

Farley Granger, best known for his starring roles in two Alfred Hitchcock films, Strangers on a Train and Rope, died Sunday of natural causes in New York City, according to a friend, Steve Bassett. He was 85. Granger appeared in two films noir of note, both co-starring Cathy O’Donnell: Nicholas Ray’s They Live by Night (1949) and Anthony Mann’s Side Street (1950).


Berlusconi’s lawyers want Clooney to testify at sex trial

Lawyers defending Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi in an underage prostitution case want George Clooney and his Italian girlfriend to testify at the premier’s upcoming trial.

‘Mr Clooney has been included in the list of the defence witnesses,’ Piersilvio Cipolotti, one of Mr Berlusconi’s lawyers, said yesterday. ‘He was cited in court documents as a guest of Mr Berlusconi at one of the dinners the premier organised and we want to ask him to confirm this.’ The witness list will go forward to be approved by judges.


Belfast man hoodwinks TV station with Sheen tweeter hoax

University of Ulster design student Jonny Campbell became a social and mainstream sensation yesterday after claiming he was troubled 45-year-old Sheen’s new intern. The Northern Irish man said he beat more than 82,000 competitors to the real role, which involves an eight-week US placement managing Hollywood’s ‘most trending’ Tweeter.


Mad Men fifth series delayed until March 2012

The fifth series of US ad agency drama Mad Men will not hit TV screens before March 2012 because of stalled contract talks with its creator.

In a statement, cable network AMC said the delay was ‘due to ongoing, key non-cast negotiations’ with creator and executive producer Matt Weiner. Deadline reported Weiner is fighting demands involving product placement, a reduced running time and cast changes. The new series had been scheduled to be broadcast in the US in July.


Malaysia’s first gay film is a controversial hit

The first homegrown movie with gay themes to be shown in Malaysia has proved an unexpected box office success in the conservative Muslim country. Opening less than a week ago, Dalam Botol (In a Bottle), about a post-op transsexual who comes to realise that she may have been better off as a man, has already earned more than one million ringgit (£206,000) at Malaysian cinemas, easily recouping its production and marketing costs of 970,000 ringgit.



Up in the Air

Up In The Air

DIR: Jason Reitman • WRI: Jason Reitman, Sheldon Turner • PRO: Jeffrey Clifford, Daniel Dubiecki, Ivan Reitman, Jason Reitman • DOP: Eric Steelberg • ED: Dana E. Glauberman • DES: Steve Saklad • CAST: George Clooney, Vera Farmiga, Anna Kendrick, Melanie Lynskey

Another Jason Reitman movie, another slick awards contender. Up in the Air, just his third directorial feature, has been building some serious buzz in Hollywood celebratory circles since it premiered at Telluride last year. Only this time, instead of tobacco lobbyists or hip pregnant teenagers, Reitman’s latest focuses on the dysphoria of the current economic climate, the dislocation of modern man. Sounds like a winning formula, right? It doesn’t hurt that George Clooney stars in a role tailor-made for his specific talents: he pours himself into it with the precision of a fully-automated Nespresso machine – potent and pleasing – but a little predictable, much like the film itself.

Clooney plays Ryan Bingham, a corporate downsizing expert who flies around the country calmly and efficiently firing employees from companies that no longer require their services. He also moonlights giving seminars outlining the benefits of living a baggage-free existence. ‘Make no mistake, your relationships are the heaviest components on your life’, he tells his audience – for Bingham keeping your distance and severing ties with family, friends and lovers is the key to living well. He’s suave. In control. This guy is just asking for something to come along and turn his world upside down, and alas it does; not one, but two dynamic women threatened to break open his ‘cocoon of isolation and banishment’. The poor fella might have to learn to keep his feet on the ground.

Bingham first meets Alex Goran, a fellow (female) high-powered frequent flier, played by the effortless Vera Farmiga, with whom he instantly hits it off after catching her eye at a plush stopover bar. Their form of flirtation involves comparing loyalty club cards and exchanging elitist double-entendres, before hitting the hotel room. Slightly intimidating, she’s different from most women he’s encountered in the past – apparently unconcerned with settling down, and motivated by status. ‘Just think of me as you with a vagina’, she assures him over the phone when he’s unsure of how to sensitively proceed. Meanwhile, a motor-mouth young executive named Natalie Green (rising actress Anna Kendrick) arrives in his boardroom to shake things up at the corporation. Fresh from Cornell, she introduces a scheme to eradicate the need for travel in the company and instead fire people via teleconferencing. Concerned that this might hinder the humanity of the process (but more concerned with consolidating his position), Ryan offers to take her along on the job, to learn a thing or two before she re-structures the whole enterprise and he has say goodbye to flying high.

Once these conceits are in place, the film finds a nice rhythm and sharp spectacle, as you’d expect from a production of this calibre. There are plenty of laughs, mainly thanks to Kendrick’s uptight dramatics sparking off Clooney’s calm reserve. Bingham reveals to her his goal to reach 10 million air mile bonus, to which she replies, ‘That’s it? You’re saving just to save?’. There’s a wonderful scene in which Clooney, Fermiga and Kendrick discuss relationships and commitment – the dynamic between a yuppie and the apparently content corporate high-fliers she pertains to one day be is very engaging.

Despite being written a year before the global economic downturn, the film does tap into the sense of despair currently felt by the American people. As Clooney fires a succession of decent folks who crumble to pieces at the news – these scenes are all the more effective with the knowledge that those made redundant are not played by professional actors, but by the actual recently unemployed. It gives the film a certain credibility…then again, it also highlights the reality that these multi-millionaire actors are coercing a reaction from ‘ordinary’ people for the benefit of their own elite product…within the realm of this story however, it works.

Unfortunately the film loses steam as it approaches the third act – the characters try to reassess their values and become more intimate, but the hollowness of the story shows through. Kendrick’s trilling becomes more irritating than endearing and Clooney’s conviction more monotone – yet Farmiga remains consistently compelling and is one of the film’s more worthwhile appeals. Sensing a deeper connection with Alex, Ryan takes what he sees as a huge step and invites her to his somewhat homely sister’s wedding. However, set against these ordinary characters, our leads seem more like caricatures, and the choice of switching to handheld digital for the entire wedding montage is very stylistically jarring.

In the end the film satisfies, but not as completely as it could – it’s a shame because for the most part Reitman deftly strikes the balance between sleek satire and genuine pathos. Certain reversals however are not adequately built up or elaborated to achieve the emotional response Reitman wants and the audience deserves. Ultimately, this is entertainment with plenty to recommend it but not much to truly remember. If you ever watch it in-flight you may start to forget it once you reach your destination.

Eoghan McQuinn
(See biog here)

Rated 15A (See IFCO website for details)
Up in the Air is released on 15th January 2010

Up in the Air – Official Website


The Men Who Stare at Goats

The Men Who Stare at Goats

DIR: Grant Heslov • WRI: Peter Straughan • PRO: George Clooney, Grant Heslov, Paul Lister • DOP: Robert Elswit • ED: Tatiana S. Riegel • DES: Sharon Seymour • CAST: George Clooney, Ewan McGregor, Jeff Bridges, Kevin Spacey

“More of this is true than you would believe”…

This is how the film starts and as it progresses one can’t help but become fascinated by what the true parts are because every facet of this film is quite simply insane! The film revolves around journalist Bob Wilton (McGregor) who becomes involved with former ‘psychic spy’ Lyn Cassidy (Clooney) while trying to get across the Iraq border. As he uncovers Lyn’s story through a series of very entertaining flashbacks he finds out more than he wants to about the lengths his government is willing to go to out-think the Russians and, later, the Iraqis.

The film stays somewhat on the fence about whether Cassidy is an eccentric super-soldier or a crazed hippie madman but the heart of the film lies in the tragedy of the corruption of something you believe in. Whether or not these people are insane doesn’t matter when you see the evil Hooper (Spacey) abusing what he has learned from the shaman-like Bill Django (Bridges).

This film for all its insanity is really entertaining, extremely funny and the cast, particularly Clooney and Bridges turn in some fantastic performances. Also, for an Iraq movie, it nicely avoids waxing lyrical on the subject and keeps quiet to a large extent, remaining within its own world, only coming in contact with the war when it suits the plot.

This is a very unusual, very funny and very clever film, made all the more interesting because of its unlikely basis on fact.

Charlene Lydon
(See biog here)

Rated 15A (See IFCO website for details)
The Men Who Stare at Goats is released on 6th November 2009

The Men Who Stare at Goats – Official Website