Review: Fantastic Four

fantastic-four-reboot

DIR: Josh Trank • WRI: Jeremy Slater, Simon Kinberg, Josh Trank  • PRO: Gregory Goodman, Simon Kinberg, Robert Kulzer. Matthew Vaughn • DOP: Matthew Jensen • ED: Elliot Greenberg, Stephen E. Rivkin • DES: Molly Hughes, Chris Seagers • MUS: Marco Beltrami, Philip Glass • CAST: Miles Teller, Michael B. Jordan, Kate Mara, Jamie Bell, Toby Kebbell, Reg E. Cathey, Tim Blake Nelson

 

Seven years after the last Fantastic Four film, or to put it another way, the maximum amount of time that Fox could stall without losing the rights to the characters, we’re given a reboot of the series with fresh new faces and a new origin story to boot.

Based on the Ultimate Fantastic Four comics, this film sees our would-be heroes preparing to travel, not into outer space, but across dimensions, leading to the accident which imbues them with their marvellous powers… eventually. There’s a serious amount of build up and character development exploring Reed Richards’ (Miles Teller) sense of isolation growing up as the only super genius in town and we’re given some rather briefer glances into Ben Grimm’s (Jamie Bell) early home-life, Victor Von Doom’s (Toby Kebbell) volatile personality, Johnny Storm’s (Michael B. Jordan) rebellious streak and Susan Storm’s (Kate Mara) intellect and discerning nature. Even with the sheer number of superhero origin films over the last couple of decades, it’s rare and refreshing to see so much detail given to who these characters are as people, until you realise that you’re quickly running out of movie. The pre-super powers part of the film takes its sweet time and feels like a richer film, but this makes everything afterwards feel forced and rushed.

When the inevitable happens and things go slightly wrong, leaving our titular characters stretchy, invisible, rocky and fiery, all character development stops and we’re rushed through several defining moments. The plot can be quickly summed up with

1- the government gets involved and tries to control the FF.

2- Reed escapes. The others don’t.

3- Reed returns and they learn to fight as a team in one of the most rushed superhero fights to make it onto the big screen.

Given the saturation of superhero cinema at the moment, it’s a little surprising to see another origin story on the screen, particularly when audiences are generally at least a little familiar with who the Fantastic Four are. While some would argue that seven years is more than enough time for some kids to grow up with no knowledge of the previous Fantastic Four films or media, it’s worth noting that the darker content and occasionally strong language in this film really do appeal to an older audience than its predecessors.

With a truly great cast, this film could have probably benefitted from another forty five minutes to really stretch its legs and give us a different type of superhero film. What we’re left with is something that strives for a thought-provoking character piece about isolation, family, trust and responsibility… and then quickly remembers people will want some explosions and punches and tacks on an underwhelming last-minute fight just so nobody can say it didn’t have one. The obligatory villain, Doom, really feels like a missed opportunity. While visual effects shouldn’t be a major priority in a film like this (and I’d have to actually say that the CGI Thing and Human Torch avoid major issues), there’s something that feels a little cheap about Doom’s slightly plastic mummy-like appearance and there’s no hint of character development leaning towards his turn to supervillain. His character was an ass before becoming a super-powered fiend, but there really isn’t enough time given to explain his plans or motivations for villainy.

Is this film better than the last two Fantastic Four outings? Probably. It’s a more mature and carefully made film, without the camp gags and cheesy lines that plagued the others. Unfortunately, it’s no longer 2007. We’re now living in the post-Avengers age of superhero films and audiences have learned to expect it all; humour, action, style and snappy dialogue. Fantastic Four might be the best film we’ve seen made with these characters, (unless you harbour a secret fondness for the ludicrous 1994 film), but it sacrifices humour for darkness and then almost forgets it’s supposed to be a superhero film at all.

It’s fairly good.

It’s fine.

Fantastic? That might be a stretch.

Ronan Daly

12A (See IFCO for details)
97 minutes

Fantastic Four is released 7th August 2015

Fantastic Four – Official Website

 

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Cinema Review: Filth

Filth film still

DIR/WRI: Jon S. Baird • PRO: Mark Amin, Christian Angermayer, Jon S. Baird, Will Clarke, Stephen Mao, Ken Marshall, James McAvoy, Jens Meurer, Celine Rattray, Trudie Styler • DOP: Matthew Jensen • ED: Mark Eckersley • MUSIC: Clint Mansell DES: Mike Gunn • Cast: James McAvoy, Jamie Bell, Imogen Poots, Eddie Marsan

It’s as brimming with life and black comedy as it is pints and seminal fluid. A sardonic revolt of masculinity bursting at the seams. A seductive little beast bottling everything defile and humorous in life into one condensed viewing. It’s an adaptation of the notorious novel by cult author Irvine Welsh and adapted for the screen by Jon S. Baird.

Detective sergeant Bruce Roberts (James McAvoy) is a man of the law, an absolute degenerate, a scoundrel, a pervert, a Scotsman and he’s got his sights set out on a big promotion. A very big promotion indeed. He wants to be made detective lieutenant and why couldn’t he? He’s highly ethical and principled, his interests ranging anywhere from police oppression, masonic gatherings, blackmail and autoerotic asphyxiation. As you can tell he’s perfect for the job. So it’s hardly a surprise that he’s quite well respected and trusted. Added to which he’s moving in the right social circles at the masonic lodge. But as promising as his odds for promotion are there’s no level of debauchery too low if it ensures his promotion. The importance of this promotion hinges on Roberts’s aspiration to win back his family who’ve seemingly abandoned him. He sets out on a seditious campaign to further damage the reputations of his meagre competitors and colleagues. It’s on this drunken, drug-fuelled odyssey to blacken colleagues’ reputations that things begin to disintegrate as Roberts struggles to keep his sanity. He medicates himself on a violent concoction of alcohol, cocaine, and coercion. He’s never a far step away from being a “cocaine socialist.”

McAvoy is both riveting and detestable, a formidable antihero reminiscent of Malcom MacDowell’s “Alex” from A Clockwork Orange.  It’s McAvoy who’s the binding ingredient, he’s the cement holding the film together, at its heart Filth is a tragic character piece about the mental health of man abandoned by his family. McAvoy gives a credible sense of empathy to a truly detestable character, which allows the audience feel sympathetic toward him. Behind all his apparent hatred, his drunkenness, his shameless exhibitionism is a man who is hopelessly afraid.

There’s a tremendous supporting cast – Jamie Bell is exquisite as Ray Lennox the cock-eyed cokehead copper who’s Roberts’ partner in work/crime.  Jim Broadbent as Dr. Rossi, Roberts’ crazed psychologist – albeit Broadbent’s performance is something of an extended cameo, but his contribution gives a certain memorable sense of flamboyancy.

The film is the definition of cinematic, with the potent marriage of cinematography and art direction really tearing straight into the heart of the story. There’s a constant sense of pace and movement and when the camera is still there’s a tremendous sense of unease. This is all balanced out with the copious dosages of foul humour. Filth is a film as self-reflective on itself and the history of cinema as it is reflective. But it wears its references on its sleeve with a few humble Kubrickian homages, which are pretty much an essential nowadays. Clint Mansell’s score was somewhat underwhelming being one of the less memorable attributes of the film given his usual lust for melody.

It’s abundantly clear that this is thoroughbred filmmaking, the lineage of a craftsman, the work of a very deft and capable storyteller and I look forward with great interest as to how Jon S. Baird’s career may blossom from here. Overall Filth is filthy, in the best possible sense. Recommended for anyone with a really dark sense of humour, or borderline misogynists or S/M enthusiasts. But anyone with a prudish bone in their body had best avoid this one as your world view will be so offended you won’t be able to breath.

Michael Stephen Lee

18 (See IFCO for details)

97 mins
Filth is released on 4th October 2013

Filth– Official Website

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Cinema Review: Man on a Ledge

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DIR: Asger Leth • WRI: Pablo F. Fenjves • PRO: Lorenzo di Bonaventura, Mark Vahradian • DOP: Paul Cameron • ED: Kevin Stitt • DES: Alec Hammond • Cast: Sam Worthington, Elizabeth Banks, Jamie Bell

Man on a Ledge has a different take on the standard heist movie format. Sam Worthington plays an ex-cop who breaks out of prison maintaining that he was framed by a diamond seller and an all round heartless capitalist (Ed Harris). After his escape, he checks into a Manhattan hotel and climbs out on to the ledge threatening suicide. We soon learn that this is a rouse to distract the city from his brother and his girlfriend who are attempting to steal a diamond from Harris’s building across the road.

This is an interesting premise but the plot doesn’t have many surprises. The twists are revealed quickly and it doesn’t take long before we are told who wronged who. There’s a lot of background information needed to tell the story as the entire plot derives from events in the past. When we do get background information about the characters it is heavy handed and we don’t really get to know them. It was pleasing to see the negotiator played by a female (Elizabeth Banks) and watching her battle against the man’s world is enjoyable. Sam Worthington and Ed Harris play out their roles well (even though Worthington does lose his American accent at particularly stressful times on the ledge) but ultimately their characters are quite two dimensional. The brother (Jamie Bell) and his girlfriend (Genesis Rodriguez) are an attempt to bring comic relief from the intensity of the ledge but this doesn’t work because their dialogue falls flat. In particular, the girlfriend character is truly tiresome. To be fair, the actress does not have much to work with and the purpose of her role is pretty clear with excessive shots of her breasts and a scene dedicated to her changing into a PVC outfit. The funny moments in the film arise from the depiction of media and the reaction from the enthusiastic and cynical New Yorkers who look on.

Faults with the characters and plot aside, the film does look impressive. There are some truly nerve-wracking moments that will have you reeling if you are uneasy with heights. The camera is constantly veering up and around the building and this really creates the sensation for the audience (without the need for 3D). The dramatic tension comes from this rather than the storyline but is impressive enough to make the film an enjoyable watch.

Soracha Pelan Ó Treasaigh

 

Rated 15A (see IFCO website for details)

Man on a Ledge is released on 3rd February 2012

Man on a Ledge – Official Website

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Cinema Review: The Adventures of Tintin: Secret of The Unicorn

some unknown director does a film about some unknown French lad

DIR: Steven Spielberg • WRI: Steven Moffat, Edgar Wright, Joe Cornish • PRO: Peter Jackson, Kathleen Kennedy, Jason D. McGatlin, Steven Spielberg • DOP: Janusz Kaminski • ED: Michael Kahn • DES: Andrew L. Jones • CAST: Jamie Bell, Andy Serkis, Daniel Craig

A 3D animated action extravaganza, The Adventures of Tintin is a fast-paced family film with all the fun and feistiness of a young Indiana Jones. You can’t help but be enamored by the brave, button-nosed protagonist and his trusty madra on this pirate-based escapade. Spielberg’s latest endeavor, this flick has all the innocent appeal of ET. But in 3D. And on Speed.

Set in England in the early 20th century, The Adventures of Tintin is the first in a series of adventures featuring the well-known Belgian exports: Tintin, a plucky young reporter with a ginger quiff and his shrewd, fluffy madra, Snowy. One day while the pair visit a busy market, Tintin excitedly purchases a model of a 17th century navy vessel, The Unicorn. This mysterious antique receives quite a bit of interest from some dubious shoppers, however Tintin refuses to resell and instead takes the ship home.

After his flat is ransacked and an American agent is shot dead on his doorstep, Tintin questions the history of The Unicorn. However his investigation is cut short when he’s kidnapped and taken aboard a hijacked ship heading to Morocco. While attempting to escape his captors, Tintin befriends drunken Sea Captain Haddock – and together the pair go in search of the secret of The Unicorn.

Shot using state-of-the-art motion capture technology; the aesthetics are breathtaking and feature beautiful landscapes, photorealistic cityscapes and some of the fluffiest hair ever on Snowy and Tintin. The performances from the top-notch cast are thoroughly enjoyable; Captain Haddock is played by Andy Serkis who’s no stranger to CGI after his role as Gollum in LOTR, also bringing home the funny-bacon are Simon Pegg and Nick Frost as bumbling detectives Thomson and Thompson. Billy Elliot’s Jamie Bell stars as the main man himself and the devilishly handsome Daniel Craig explores his more devilish side as nasty villain, Red Rackham.

There are a few drawbacks to this juggernaut of a film: the cast is a sausage-fest and the majority of the humour is derived from the messy antics of a drunken Celt. Now I’m not a slapstick snob but something more cerebral that ‘Ach, look how locked I am wee laddee’ would have added to the film. Loosely based on three Tintin comics – The Crab with the Golden Claws, The Secret of the Unicorn and Red Rackham’s Treasure, the plot is solid but brings nothing new to the adventure-hero-seeking-treasure genre.

That’s all just nitpicking. This film is absolutely great and cinema-goers will definitely get a bang for their buck where the 3D elements are concerned. It’s a truly gratifying cinematic experience that Hergé himself would be proud of. Here’s hoping writers Steven Moffat (Dr. Who), Edgar Wright(Shaun of the dead) and Joe Cornish (Adam and Joe Show) have something whopper planned for the nicely-set-up sequel.

 

Gemma Creagh

Rated PG (see IFCO website for details)

The Adventures of Tintin: Secret of The Unicorn is released on 26th October 2011

The Adventures of Tintin: Secret of The Unicorn – Official Website

 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r2YUkFi97VE

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Cinema Review: Jane Eyre

Q: How did Jane Eyre get the chicken across the road? A: Reader, she carried him.

DIR: Cary Fukunaga • WRI: Moira Buffini • PRO: Alison Owen, Paul Trijbits • DOP: Adriano Goldman • ED: Melanie Oliver • DES: Will Hughes-Jones • CAST: Mia Wasikowska, Michael Fassbender, Jamie Bell

Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre is a tale which we are all familiar with on some level. We may not know all of the ins and outs, or even care about them, but we all have a general idea about this ‘plain Jane’ character and her experiences. This year, Jane Eyre is re-imagined by director Cary Fukunaga, who attempts to breathe new life into this Gothic romance.

The Gothic genre is one which has always been inextricably linked to romance, as the novels of the Victorian era insisted upon this connection (that’s right folks, even before Stephanie Meyer was born!). In all of these novels there exists deep erotic undertones and an intense need for sexual freedom, and the knowledge of every facet of this person who exists as Other. Jane Eyre has become the epitome of this Gothic-romance genre and is a story which has been told under many guises.

Mia Wasikowska is of course, anything other than a plain Jane but here she is transformed into a severe-looking character who seems to have been drained of all colour, as if the very breath of life has been sucked from her over the course of her short life. This, in itself is a triumph of this movie, the costume and make-up here is astounding as the entire piece is told through muted colours and dulled tones, which, in any other story, would have the audience turn away in boredom. Here there is some small colour, some small point of interest which keeps us itching for a wider colour palate.

This is, in terms of romance, the most human telling of this story. Bronte’s novel can often come off stifling in its heavy descriptions, and previous movie adaptations have painted Mr. Rochester as some kind of foreign demon. Here, through Michael Fassbender’s take on the character, for what must be the first time, we feel pity for Mr. Rochester, and we pray for his success, and the fast release from his pains. Where, in previous adaptations, we may have feared him, here we feel that sexual tension, that longing which makes the Gothic-romance genre so enjoyable. It is a genre, much copied, but very rarely pulled off.

The one downfall of this movie is the horror aspect, or lack thereof. Bronte’s novel presents us with a bleakly horrific landscape, and that mounting tension of the build-up to a ‘jump-scare’ that may, or may not ever come. In this adaptation, that tension seems entirely absent, the play on the Other seems entirely absent, and Thornfield, although imposing in stature, entirely lacks that Unheimlich tension throughout. This lack in tension makes the ultimate reveal of the story less shocking than it has been previously, and somehow takes away from the movie as a whole. Here we focus too much on the romance, and the gothic aspects somewhat falter as a result.

Cary Fukunaga’s Jane Eyre is a successful re-telling of this popular tale. It is an enjoyable movie which unfortunately leaves the audience itching for more. The romantic aspects of the genre are portrayed to perfection, but we are left with only a hint of the Gothic or Horror motifs which should be a focal point here.

Ciara O’Brien

Rated 12A (see IFCO website for details)

Jane Eyre is released on 9th September 2011

Jane Eyre – Official Website

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C8J6Cjn06kA

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