Night Moves

Night Moves

Dir: Kelly Reichardt  Wri: Jonathan Raymond, Kelly Reichardt  Pro: Saemi Kim, Todd Haynes, Neil Kopp, Chris Maybach, Anish Savjani, Rodrigo Texeira  DOP: Christian Blauvet   Mus: Jeff Grace  CAST: Jesse Eisenberg, Dakota Fanning, Peter Sarsgard

Three young, radical environmentalists – Josh (Eisenberg), Dena (Fanning) and Harmon (Sarsgard) – plan to blow up a hydroelectric dam. Kelly Reichardt records, with methodical precision, the minute details of the before and the after of the event in this riveting drama-cum-thriller. Sedate imagery and sounds can turn into something more sinister at any turn. Reichardt takes her time, examining her characters and surroundings with an astute eye and ear. Everything is in the details in this film. Reichardt consistently finds very interesting ways to both illustrate the ideological bankruptcy of her characters and to ratchet up the tension to unbearable levels. She wrings suffocating tension from the repetitive attempts to buy fertilizer without a social security card. Subtle, small scenes such as when Josh finds an injured deer on the side of the road or the inclusion of the most discreet of sex scenes paint a fascinating, complex picture of the film’s characters and the motivations for their highly dubious actions. There is an insidious sense of foreboding running throughout the film, ready to erupt at any moment. The contrast illustrated between the beautiful, calming nature and the nasty, messy humans at the heart of the film is both tragic and unsettling.

The characters are all unlikeable. They never gain our empathy as such but Reichardt’s aforementioned attention to details draw the viewer so comprehensively into their world and the world of the film, it is impossible not to feel something as their respective worlds collide in around them. The performances are uniformly excellent. Eisenberg, following on from excellent work earlier on in the year in Richard Ayoade’s The Double, here once again strikes the right kind of nebbish nastiness and underlying malevolence. Fanning is smartly cast and utterly believable as the least morally reprehensible of the main three characters. Her Dena is naïve and terribly irresponsible in her actions but she doesn’t have the same ruthlessness as either Josh or Harmon. As Harmon, Sarsgard, an actor with a lot of potential usually squandered in sub-standard fare,  is terrifically slimy. From his first moments on screen he paints a character you wouldn’t trust in a million years. As his perfectly laid-out plans turn out to be not so perfectly laid, the viewer grasps his or her breath at the naivety and the ultimate selfishness of the respective characters and the ensuing gravity of their actions.

The cinematography by Christian Blauvet is flawless, being at once beautiful, naturalistic but also retaining an icy, chilly quality that suits the material. Reichardt here once again exhibits her mastery of sound through both the films sound design and Jeff Grace’s brilliant score. Reichardt has some very interesting things to say on such human responsibility, ideology and identity to name but some. Never once does the ambience she creates come unstuck to overwrought politics or philosophising. This is an understated, intellectual and rich piece of work yet Reichardt still has the guts to push the film into full-blown genre territory in the last act. While this would unbalance a lesser director, Reichardt manages to integrate this tonal shift seamlessly into her low-key aesthetic style and into the world of the film. Following on from fine films such as Old Joy, Wendy and Lucy and Meek’s Cutoff, this superb film confirms Reichardt’s status as one of American cinema’s foremost talents.

David Prendeville

 15A (See IFCO for details)

112 minutes

Night Moves is released 29th August 2014

Night Moves – Official Website

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Cinema Review: The Double

thedouble

DIR: Richard Ayoade • WRI: Richard Ayoade , Avi Korine • PRO: Amina Dasmal, Robin C. Fox • DOP: Erik Wilson • ED: Nick Fenton • MUS: Andrew Hewitt • DES: David Crank • CAST: Jesse Eisenberg, Mia Wasikowska, Chris O’ Dowd, Sally Hawkins

Judged purely by the trailers, you would be forgiven for thinking Richard Ayoade’s latest movie was a simple comedy about mistaken identities.  However, there is a real depth to The Double that goes beyond laughs, and connects much more firmly with the grotesquery of its base material – the seminal, and surreal, Dostoyevsky novella.  By combining the ridiculous with the existential, Ayoade has managed to create a coherent dystopian future that seems to derive directly from the present – which means the humour can sometimes appear more like hysterical terror.

 

The film focuses on Simon (Jesse Eisenberg), a spineless lackey in an oversized suit who struggles through the daily grind of cubicle life in a soulless office, where his work is underappreciated and he is ignored by all and sundry.  Into his grey life comes Hannah (Mia Wasikowska), a fresh and vibrant woman who defies the darkness of their colourless world.  However, she is at pains to make it clear from the outset that she is nobody’s saviour – Hannah cannot function as the only bright light in a dismal existence, and it is up to Simon to find his own path to self-identity.  Simon’s journey is vastly complicated by the intrusion of a brash and successful James  into his life – everyone loves James, and at first even Simon is in thrall to him too.  He is everything Simon is not – confident, likeable and assured…with the added complication that he is also the exact double of Simon, something only he seems to see.  Simon’s journey of self-discovery is thus derailed by James’ appropriation of his dreams and hopes, with vastly better results than Simon has ever managed.  As James brings Simon from crisis to crisis, leaving devastation in his path, Simon must question whether any attention is better than the life of anonymity he had previously been experiencing.  Is James a better ‘him’, or is he an unredeemable doppelganger, sent to torment his life and usurp his world?

 

Jesse Eisenberg is faced with the unenviable task of playing two diametrically opposed characters, who happen to star in almost every scene together – and it is a feat he manages with considerable aplomb.  His downcast features perfectly encapsulate Simon’s crushed hopes and spiritless mentality, while at the same time the smug smirk and cocky manner he has previously used to such great effect just as equally embodies the charismatic and self-satisfied character of James.  Ably abetted by a deep and emotional performance from Wasikowska as Hannah, Eisenberg’s Simon and James are immediately recognisable as separate people – no easy feat when someone has ‘stolen your face’.  Ayoade has also coaxed subtle performances from the supporting cast; the always-gratifying Wallace Shawn as Simon’s kinetic boss Mr. Papadopoulos and the beautiful Yasmin Paige, making a welcome return to Ayoade’s template as the bored Melanie Papadopoulos, shine in particular.  As is generally the case in British film, Ayoade’s comedy friends make brief appearances – popping up in odd places for the occasional giggle, though thankfully never stealing scenes as superfluous cameos…there is no silly Anchorman-style redundant humour to be found in Ayoade’s world.

 

Those expecting the romantic warmth of Submarine, Ayoade’s previous movie, are likely to be disappointed, as The Double focuses more heavily on the absence of meaning than the restorative powers of love.  That’s not to say that this is a movie without hope, though, and Ayoade is at pains to differentiate his interpretation from Dostoyevsky’s gloomy outlook on the possibility of humanity in crushing systems of bureaucracy.  In this, Ayoade proves himself to be taking the surrealist mantle from Terry Gilliam in terms of escape from dystopia:  in the end, no matter how soulless humanity may appear, it only takes one real connection to make the difference.  A solid exploration of the path to identity from an exciting and innovative director, The Double manages the very great task of making terrifying dystopian futures feel very present, whilst ensuring we can still occasionally laugh about our impending doom.

 Sarah Griffin

16 (See IFCO for details)
92 mins

The Double is released on 4th April 2014

The Double – Official Website

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Cinema Review: Now You See Me

NOW YOU SEE ME

 

DIR: Louis Leterrier • WRI: Ed Solomon, Boaz Yakin, Edward Ricourt • PRO: Bobby Cohen, Alex Kurtzman, Roberto Orci • DOP: Mitchell Amundsen, Larry Fong • ED: Robert Leighton, Vincent Tabaillon • DES: Peter Wenham • Cast: Jesse Eisenberg, Mark Ruffalo, Woody Harrelson, Mélanie Laurent

Jesse Eisenberg, Woody Harrelson, Isla Fisher and Dave Franco play ‘The Four Horsemen’, a rag-tag group of illusionists, hypnotists and street magicians that are assembled by a mysterious entity to form a magician super-group. Think The Avengers, but with David Blaine and Paul Daniels. A year on, they attract the attention of jaded FBI agent, Mark Ruffalo, and lovely French detective, Mélanie Laurent, when they publicly rob a bank during a Las Vegas show. Completing this cast of charismatic actors are Michael Caine, as the Four Horseman’s financial backer, and Morgan Freeman, as a professional illusion debunker.

The entire cast put in strong, but altogether tried and tested, performances. Jesse Eisenberg is teetering on the edge of one-trick-pony territory with the portrayal of a smug and arrogant genius; Woody Harrelson is in his element as the washed-up, likeable asshole; Morgan Freeman does his best God impression; and it feels like, once again, we are watching Michael Caine play himself. It is not as though any of these performances are bad, it just feels like we’ve seen this all before.

The chemistry between Mark Ruffalo, as the cynical FBI agent, and Mélanie Laurent, as the open-minded Interpol agent, was evident. But they, like the rest, suffer from there being simply too many characters. The majority of them are fairly interesting but, in trying to flaunt them all, none are given enough screen time to really shine. Coupled with a script that is heavy on plot and exposition, with enough space for a witty quip or two, and the characters are left disappointingly flat.

Ultimately though, this film is the kind that succeeds or fails on its ability to excite and entertain. No stranger to the action genre, director Louis Leterrier (The Transporter, The Incredible Hulk, Clash of the Titans) delivers a high-octane film that looks and feels as slick as a slight of hand card trick. While lacking in substance and depth, at no point did I feel bored. A few plot holes and moments of implausibility can be forgiven in a well paced story that twists and turns. Action sequences look and sound great, there is even the obligatory car chase, and you may, ever so slightly, feel yourself edging forward in your seat during the elaborate sequences where the magician’s tricks are exposed.

Yes, ultimately the film is shallow, trivial and won’t win any awards for originality, but I found it thoroughly enjoyable nonetheless. Now You See Me is like your average street magic, it won’t really put you under a spell, but it will leave you with a smile on your face.

Glenn Caldecott

 

115 mins
12A (see IFCO website for details)
 Now You See Me is released on 3rd July 2013

Now You See Me – Official Website

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8MHDYZJWLXA

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Cinema Review: To Rome with Love

DIR: Woody Allen WRI: Woody Allen PRO: Faruk Alatan, Letty Aronson,
Giampaolo Letta, Stephen Tenenbaum DOP: Darius Khondji ED: Elise
DuRant DES: Anne Seibel Cast: Woody Allen, Alec Baldwin, Penelope
Cruz, Jesse Eisenberg, Ellen Page, Roberto Benigni, Greta Gerwig

Acclaimed as one of the great New York filmmakers, Woody Allen has
made a habit of searching outside his native city for inspiration in
recent years. Match Point, Scoop, Cassandra’s Dream and You Will Meet
a Tall Dark Stranger were all filmed in London, and he also ventured
to some of Europe’s most exotic locales for Vicky Cristina Barcelona
and Midnight in Paris.

His sojourn in the French capital proved to be fruitful, as not only
was Midnight in Paris a major awards contender (Allen won his fourth
Oscar® for the film’s screenplay), but it was a surprise box-office
hit, raking in upwards of $150 million worldwide.

It is therefore no surprise to see the veteran helmer remaining in
Europe for his latest film, To Rome with Love, which, despite lacking
the invention or lasting appeal of Midnight in Paris, is a perfectly
acceptable addition to Allen’s canon.

Allen himself makes his first appearance since 2006’s Scoop, appearing
in one of four vignettes as Jerry, a retired opera director who
feels the urge to get back in the saddle when he hears his prospective
brother-in-law (tenor Fabio Armiliato) singing in the shower, but has
to think outside the box when he realises that he is not as
accomplished under normal circumstances.

Elsewhere, Alessandro Tiberi and Alessandra Mastronardi are young
newlyweds who become separated in their new city, and fall into the
company of a prostitute (Penelope Cruz) and a movie star (Antonio
Albanese) respectively; Life is Beautiful‘s Roberto Benigni is an
ordinary Joe Soap who wakes up one day to discover that he has become
famous for no apparent reason; while the final story (in chronological
terms) finds Alec Baldwin’s famed architect dishing out relationship
advice to young protege Jesse Eisenberg as he struggles to choose
between his girlfriend Sally (Greta Gerwig) and her best friend,
played by Ellen Page.

All of the stories do work quite well on an individual basis, and
there are some familiar Allen traits that are clear for all to see.
The subject of infidelity (which has played a major part in his recent
films) is a common theme throughout, and Baldwin’s inexplicable
appearances during the scenes with Eisenberg and Page brings back fond
memories of the Allen-starring Play it Again, Sam when Humphrey Bogart
was the imaginary mentor for the film’s protagonist.

It is also interesting that he has chosen to give equal share in terms
of screen time to the Italian stars, with Benigni enjoying a welcome
return to mainstream cinema after a 10-year gap, and bright
young things Tiberi and Mastronardi making for an engaging screen
pair.

Overall, the film works better as a series of moments rather than as a
wholly satisfying picture, and there is certainly no danger of To Rome with Love
ever challenging films like Manhattan, Annie Hall, Sleeper
or Love and Death as one of his very best.

However, as a comedy, the film does succeed on a number of levels, and
there are plenty of laughs to be had along the way. Allen, despite
giving himself a limited enough role on this occasion, has some
trademark zingers and one-liners that only he could deliver, and
Baldwin is in his prime 30 Rock form throughout, stealing every scene
that he is in with plenty of gusto and no little verve.

For those expecting Allen to repeat the winning formula that
brought such attention towards Midnight in Paris, they will probably be
left disappointed by his latest film, but for those who still hold a
fondness for his ‘early, funny ones’ and are looking for something
that will help to pass the time in an agreeable manner (as well as
something with a penchant for absurdity), then they might well find
something to enjoy in To Rome with Love.

Daire Walsh

Rated 12A (see IFCO website for details)
111 mins

To Rome with Love is released on 14th September 2012

To Rome with Love – Official Website

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Cinema Review: 30 Minutes or Less

the lads prepare for their skiing holiday

 

DIR: Ruben Fleischer • WRI: Michael Diliberti • PRO: Stuart Cornfeld, Stuart Cornfeld, Ben Stiller • DOP: Jess Hall • ED: Alan Baumgarten • DES: Maher Ahmad • CAST: Jesse Eisenberg, Danny McBride, Nick Swardson

The previous collaboration between actor Jesse Eisenberg and director Ruben Fleischer was 2009’s surprise hit Zombieland. Unfortunately, lightning has failed to strike twice for these guys, as 30 Minutes or Less is a mostly charmless, unoriginal affair.

Eisenberg is a pizza delivery man who gets a bomb strapped to his chest by two wannabe criminal masterminds Danny McBride and Nick Swardson, and given ten hours to get them money. Eisenberg and his best mate Aziz Ansari (who’s twin sister Eisenberg has been secretly bonking), after a few minutes of disbelief, work up the courage to rob their local bank. Meanwhile, McBride and his new stripper ‘girlfriend’ have hired a hitman (Michael Pena) to bump off his lottery-winning dad (Fred Ward) with the money that is coming their way from Eisenberg.

And that’s pretty much it. The plot is transparent pretty much from the get go, and it is entirely obvious how everything is going to turn out. There is none of the visual panache that Fleischer brought to Zombieland, and after The Social Network, it is disappointing to see Eisenberg revert back to his stuttery caricature. The comedy mostly consists of referencing other, better action movies, but whereas Hot Fuzz was able to staple action references to its own brand of comedy, here it just seems lazy and unnatural.

Also, partnering Eisenberg with Ansari, someone of the exact same nervous disposition, was a truly terrible idea. What this movie needed was one cool as hell person to root for.

Zombieland had Woody Harrelson and Emma Stone. 30 Minutes or Less has that guy who was in four episodes of Scrubs and, well, that’s it.

Disappointing.

Rory Cashin

Rated 15A (see IFCO website for details)

30 Minutes or Less is released on 16th September 2011

30 Minutes or Less – Official Website

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nn9DoxS_nck

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The Social Network

The Social Network

DIR: David Fincher • WRI: Aaron Sorkin • PRO: Dana Brunetti, Ceán Chaffin, Michael De Luca, Scott Rudin• DOP: Jeff Cronenweth • ED: Kirk Baxter, Angus Wall • DES: Donald Graham Burt • CAST: Rooney Mara, Jesse Eisenberg, Andrew Garfield, Justin Timberlake

Rarely are biopics released whilst the subject still lives, and even rarer to find a biopic so relevant and so current that the ink is not yet dry on the litigation papers. So we find ourselves in the very recent past, sitting across the table from an incredibly young Mark Zuckerberg, concerning ourselves with a contemporary techtacular event that effectively changed the imaginary field of the internet… and shook the more substantial world of commerce. The story of the youngest billionaire, and how it all may or may not have come to be, thus begins.

The breeding-ground of Harvard is introduced as a stellar universe in which only the brightest stars shine – and Mark is a burning star, intelligent to the point of neurosis. This pertinent fact is encapsulated in his introductory conversation with a girlfriend, in which he manages to insult everything from her intelligence to her upbringing, all in the name of showing his own resolution to be noticed. How to excel in a centre of excellence seems to be the order of the day, and Mark manages it by being unashamedly self-serving and anti-social – out-geeking even the most agoraphobic of geeks. Making an asset out of his ability to alienate people and effectively negate unenthusiastic detractors by virtue of not noticing them, Mark begins to build on his already impressive grasp of not only technology but (and here’s the clincher), the social networking of college-aged folks. An already exclusive college, Harvard – being the spawning ground for greatness – also contains many clubs and societies made even more exclusive by the inability of people like Mark, with no ‘family’ or money, to join them. All Mark did, really, was to exploit that innate desire of humans to not only be on the inside, but to feel as though they are keeping others on the outside. And so, it appears, the ‘friends’ list was born…

Were this just a simple tale of genius and creation, it would have remained a feel-good tale to aspiring IT professionals – but as with any meteoric rise to the top, people were stepped on and questions asked. When his girlfriend dumps him, Mark dumps on her in the fledgling livejournal stakes by not only lambasting her online, but putting together and releasing a website containing all the females at Harvard, allowing others to vote them as ‘hot or not’, called ‘facemash’. Mark’s initial and, it might be said, only friend was his co-conspirator Eduardo Saverin, who financed the project eventually known as Facebook, and supported him when others sought seemingly to exploit. At the other end are the Winklevoss twins – alpha males who contain not only the genetic code to get ahead at Harvard, but the requisite family name. The twins approach Mark with the idea of an exclusive Harvard dating vehicle, having seen Mark’s reprehensible ‘facemash’ programme storm the websites of Harvard, and the conundrum of who created what is born.

However, this is really a tale of Mark and Eduardo – or more correctly, of how Mark copes with ideas of friendship and alliance. The casting is crucial: Jesse Eisenberg carries a weight of character baggage to the role – he is consistently the loveable geek, the nerd with a heart and the social outcast who can be socially integrated. This is important, for while Eisenberg gives good depth and feeling to the role, his previous characters are subsumed into the persona of Mark to the extent that we root for him no matter what. On the other hand, Eduardo is played by Andrew Garfield, a soft-featured and slight man who is a relative unknown to American audiences (not for long, as he will soon be the new Spiderman). Their interaction is the most important of the movie, and luckily for all involved, they have an onscreen chemistry that makes their friendship realistic for all its perversities and their estrangement all the more genuine and heartbreaking. Fincher directs the interaction with the lightest touch, allowing a sense of untainted reality to prevail in the story – the intertwining narratives of past and present serving to root us in the downfall, while remembering the ascent.

Mark’s own Facebook page gives us a glimpse of the persona he seems to want; he says, ‘I’m trying to make the world a more open place by helping people connect and share.’ Though he refused to be involved in the making of The Social Network, the overriding impression we get of Mark is this very encapsulation. The idea prevails that really, despite its reprehensible beginnings and controversial continuings, Facebook was – for him – an opportunity to be cool rather than rich. The Social Network is not an uplifting call-to-arms of ‘geeks’ and IT-strugglers everywhere, and is all the better for it, delivering a deep and borderline-complex window into the world of a social outcast who became a social engineer.

Sarah Griffin

Rated 15A (see IFCO website for details)
The Social Network
is released on 15th October 2010

The Social Network Official Website

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Zombieland

Zombieland_

DIR: Ruben Fleischer • WRI: Rhett Reese, Paul Wernick • PRO: Gavin Polone • DOP: Trent Opaloch • ED: Michael Bonvillain • DES: Maher Ahmad • CAST: Woody Harrelson, Jesse Eisenberg, Emma Stone, Abigail Breslin

Zombieland is a new zombie horror comedy flick. It takes place in a post-apocalyptic world, where zombies have taken the lives of many humans. The opening sequence really sets up the tone of the film; a montage of zombie killings narrated by Columbus, the film’s main protagonist. Columbus explains his rules of survival against zombies. For example rule number 17: don’t be a hero and rule number 31: check the back seat.

Columbus (Jesse Eisenberg) is a friendly and quirky college student who wants to see his family in Ohio. On The road Columbus meets Tallahassee (Woody Harrelson) Tallahassee is a suave cowboy type with an obsession for firearms and a taste for Twinkies. The two men raid a supermarket and annihilate several zombies. They find two girls; Wichita (Emma Stone), an attractive and mysterious twenty-something and her twelve year old sister, Little Rock (Abigail Breslin), who is a step ahead of the game. The two sisters con Columbus and Tallahassee into handing over their weapons and vehicle. The four characters meet again, they stay at a Hollywood mansion, get to know each other and fight together to kill the zombies right to the predictable finale.

Zombieland is a loud and tiring eighty minutes. The first twenty minutes are acceptable on its own level of dumbness with non-stop zombie killings and witless one-liners. It wears out its welcome very fast. Edgar Wright’s Shaun of The Dead (2004) is a good example of the comedy horror genre. Simon Pegg and Edgar Wright’s script had wit, humour and gore. Zombieland just has gore. The final hour of Zombieland falls completely flat; the characters are so dull and uninteresting. The film needs more than just to references other zombie movies and spoofs. It’s a big disappointment. It would have had more potential if it had stirred away from the same sight gag in almost every scene. It is a blood fest bore in very bad taste which tries at some points to bring sentiment to its dull premise. How far down the pile of scripts did Woody Harrelson have to reach for this one?

Peter Larkin
(See biog here)

Rated 16 (see IFCO website for details)
Zombieland
is released on 9th Oct 2009
Zombieland – Official Website

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