Review: Zoolander 2

Zoolander-2-Ben-Stiller-Owen-Wilson-Penelope-Cruz-700x300

DIR: Tim Miller • WRI: Justin Theroux, Ben Stiller, Nicholas Stoller, John Hamburg • PRO: Stuart Cornfeld, Scott Rudin, Ben Stiller, Clayton Townsend • DOP: Daniel Mindel • ED: Greg Hayden • DES: Jeff Mann • MUS: Theodore Shapiro • CAST: Ben Stiller, Owen Wilson, Will Ferrell, Penélope Cruz

Zoolander for me has been everything I love in a comedy. It’s hilarious, well-written, re-watchable, quotable, and sometimes downright ridiculous but also bitingly satirical. I never saw the film in the cinema but was introduced to it by friends who had rented it out (After flopping at the box office, it was through movie rentals that the film developed a cult following). They were quoting catchphrases from Brint, Meekus, Mugatu and others to the point of irritability. Thus, I had to find out who Derek Zoolander was. Re-watching the film earlier this week, I found myself charmed and in stitches laughing just like the first time I saw the film. As I sat down to watch the sequel on the big screen a couple of days ago, I was filled with anticipation. Unfortunately, as I left the cinema, I found myself filled with bitter disappointment.

Zoolander 2 kicks off a decade and a half after its predecessor. Once the world’s top fashion model, Derek (Ben Stiller) is now living in isolation, a ‘hermit crab’ far away from society after a family tragedy and subsequent media disgrace. Hansel (Owen Wilson), Derek’s once main competition and later best friend, has also chosen a sedentary lifestyle after an accident caused by Derek led to a horrible face disfigurement. Both are invited to model in an elite fashion show in Rome run by the world famous designer Alexanya Atoz (Kristen Wiig) but soon become involved, much like the first film, in a far greater conspiracy than either of their sweet-natured but simple minds can handle. Derek is also determined to reunite with his son, Derek Junior (Cyrus Arnold), who has been placed in an orphanage which is, by strange coincidence, in Rome too.

Zoolander 2 delivers everything you loved from the first one. Therein lies its main problem: it is essentially a copy of the first film (and I don’t know if anyone else thought this, but I found that seriously frustrating about Star Wars: The Force Awakens as well…). The jokes are repeated and the storylines are rehashed, and not in a witty, self-referential way as say Mike Myers did with the Austin Powers franchise. Here it feels like Stiller (who directed and co-wrote both films) is simply being lazy and cashing in by reusing the same material that proved successful before.

And that’s not all – a great deal of the charm from the first film is gone. In trying to mature Derek and Hansel as characters, what the writers give us are cliché struggling father figures who occasionally deliver a line that remind us that they’ve still got their dim-witted ‘charisma’… Will Ferrell’s Mugatu makes a welcome appearance but he is severely underused and is only given the chance to shine near the very end of the film. Wiig hasn’t anything amusing or interesting to do with her character; an opportunity to update the first film’s satire of the fashion industry feels sorely missed here. The better roles can be found in Interpol global fashion division agent Valentina, which sees a smart and surprisingly funny turn from Penelope Cruz, while Cyrus Arnold is a delight as Derek Junior. This kid could have a serious career in comedy.

Finally, there are the cameos. Just as the first Zoolander featured some great celeb appearances from names like Billy Zane, Paris Hilton, Natalie Portman, Gwen Stefani, and the brilliant David Bowie, Zoolander 2 continues the tradition and boasts an even longer list of  musicians and film stars playing themselves. In fairness, these cameos are pretty hilarious but, again, one gets the sense that there is an over-reliance on them.

Fans of the first Zoolander will enjoy Zoolander 2 as there are a number of laugh-out-loud moments. But it will also surely rise to the top of the pile of those films disregarded and discarded where the original was infinitely better…

Deirdre Molumby

12A (See IFCO for details)

 101 minutes

Zoolander 2 is released 12th February 2016

Zoolander 2 – Official Website

 

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Review: She’s Funny That Way

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DIR: Peter Bogdanovich • WRI: Peter Bogdanovich, Louise Stratten • PRO: George Drakoulias, Logan Levy, Louise Stratten, Holly Wiersma  • ED: Nick Moore, Pax Wassermann • DOP: Yaron Orbach  • DES: Jane Musky • MUS: Ed Shearmur • Cast: Imogen Poots, Owen Wilson, Jennifer Aniston, Will Forte, Kathryn Hahn, Rhys Ifans

 

She’s Funny That Way starts off with a wistful nod to the masterpieces of Hollywood past in a fairly persuasive burst of nostalgia. New star-on-the-rise Isabella Patterson (played by Imogen Poots) tries to convince a fairly cynical journalist that she really does believe in Hollywood fairytales, insisting that she prefers a ‘good yarn’ that doesn’t let little details like the truth get in the way. What follows is her story of the chance encounter that allowed her to become a rising star.

Arnold Albertson, (Owen Wilson), is a fairly reputable director about to start work on a new Broadway production. Being away from his wife for the night before she comes to New York to star in the play, he takes the opportunity to afford himself the company of an escort, who just so happens to be our young Isabella. During their encounter, he wines her, he dines her, he treats her like she’s never been treated before and he makes her a once in a lifetime deal; if she can promise to walk away from prostitution for good, he’ll give her enough money to change her life forever. That’s right, he’s trying to “Pretty Woman” her! After some small amount of thought, she accepts and starts her brand new life as an actor and the two part ways, never to see each other again.

Except that the title of this film could have just as easily been “Wrong Places, Wrong Times”, because the entire plot seems to be made entirely of people being at the same place at someone they’re trying to hide from, a preposterous number of coincidences and a surprisingly large number of affairs for a fairly small group of characters. Naturally, Isabella auditions for a part in Albert’s play and the first of the dominoes falls. This is complicated just a little by the fact that she was seen leaving the director’s hotel room by one of her potential co-stars (Rhys Ifans) and that the playwright (a wonderfully understated Will Forte) has taken a shine to her. This is not highbrow humour, but it is a wonderfully crafted web of coincidences and colliding worlds and once you accept that this is just the type of movie you’re watching, it becomes a much more enjoyable experience.

The cast is excellent, with Imogen Poots delivering a charming and sympathetic performance as a woman trying to make the best of her situation, with a Brooklyn accent which is only quite distracting. Wilson and Forte, two comic actors who often excel when letting themselves go over the top, deliver top-notch turns as the straight-men in their outrageous situations. Jennifer Aniston lends her well-established skill at portraying women you wouldn’t want to mess with to a strong role as a bitter and judgemental therapist who doesn’t seem to get why people always come to her with their problems. In addition to the main roles, there are a number of high-profile cameos and some very clever nods to cinema classics.

She’s Funny That Way doesn’t bring much new to the table but it’s a fun watching experience with a plot that would feel over the top if it had half the level of coincidence, but which feels just right as it is; clever and funny, a yarn that doesn’t let the facts get in the way.

Ronan Daly

15A (See IFCO for details)
83 minutes

She’s Funny That Way is released 26th June 2015

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a5WtPcWlae4

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Cinema Review: Free Birds

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DIR: Jimmy Hayward • WRI: Jimmy Hayward, Scott Mosier • PRO: Scott Mosier • ED: Chris Cartagena •  DES: Mark Whiting •  MUS: Dominic Lewis • CAST: Woody Harrelson, Owen Wilson, Dan Fogler, Amy Poehler

Dear faithful reader – allow me to enlighten you on how work gets divvied up at Film Ireland HQ. If you’re imagining a more bookish version of Avengers Assemble than you’re not far off. Our roguish editor in chief Steven Galvin alerts us to upcoming missions. Usually volunteers are easy to find. You could throw a rock and hit a willing reviewer for the vast majority of films awaiting release. Arms shoot up with the eagerness of an incontinent kid in need of the bathroom. The glamour jobs like Gravity or the latest flick from the Coens cause a stampede towards Steven.

However, there’s a strain of film that causes a stampede in the opposite direction. Within seconds, ‘FI HQ’ is as empty as an echo chamber. Our plucky editor is sounding the klaxon but no one responds. It’s like a 999 call to a garda station that has deliberately left the phone off the hook for days on end. So Steven strides around the moonlit roof of FI HQ like Nick Fury pointing the Batsign in vain at the heavens.

And then a hero comes along with the strength to actually go to a G rated mid-tier non-Pixar animated film. There’s no glory in it but there is bravery. Now I’m a modest and handsome man but where does my bravery rank? Well, I occasionally nip to the shops without raingear. I once bit into a Scotch Bonnet chilli pretty much on purpose. I won’t interrupt a mugging but I will report it to the authorities at my earliest convenience. Going to a film like Free Birds though – that’s Purple Heart behaviour in critical circles.

Every critic going in knows it too. The swollen gallery of casual reviewers, guests and liggers evaporate in these cauldron moments. We are distilled down to the core few. No excess. No excuses. No passengers. Strewn across the vast chasm of seats like defiant pockets of resistance. We’re here to do a job and by god, we’re going to see it through. I know what you’re thinking by now – ‘where’s the bloody’ review? And firstly that’s not cool. This is a kid’s film and parents and children could be reading this expecting a G rated review for a G film. So ease up on the potty mouth people. Secondly, I’m trying out an AA Gill style review where he eventually mentions the food in the last two paragraphs.

So Free Birds is about a pardoned turkey on thanksgiving who travels back in time in order to change the Pilgrim’s choice of celebratory food for the very first all American holiday. Thereby saving future generations of turkeys. It’s not a bad premise at all but similar to a lot of recent animations, the idea is better than the actual script. I kept expecting a genuinely subversive notion like the turkeys trying to convert an entire nation to a vegetarian nut roast being a suitable centre piece for their festivities. As such, genuine wit is in short supply but some of the character design and sequences deliver enough action and humour to divert undemanding minds for the duration. Parents won’t be racing back to it but it’s plenty entertaining for little ones.

OK – let’s stuff in some turkey references. Audiences will flock to it because it’s plucking good fun. This film will be panned. It’s bound to get a critical roasting and be carved apart. It’s just a shame it doesn’t feature music by the Cranberries. And so on….

I’ll be back with a bulletin from the frontline again soon. Stay tuned folks and watch the skies. But not for turkeys. ‘Cos they can’t fly.

James Phelan

G (See IFCO for details)

90  mins

Free Birds is released on 29th November 2013

Free Birds – Official Website

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Cinema Review: The Big Year

Birdwatching - a human illness that is not easily tweetable

DIR: David Frankel   WRI: Howard Franklin PRO: Curtis Hanson, Stuart Cornfeld, Ben Stiller
ED: Mark Livolsi DOP: Lawrence Sher DES: Brent Thomas CAST: Steve Martin, Owen Wilson, Jack Black, Rosamund Pike, Dianne Wiest, Anjelica Huston, Kevin Pollak

Films on niche topics are inherently difficult. Typically, it’s a case of either barraging the viewer with information on the topic and hoping they’ll find their way or they keep the facts to a minimum; only giving enough to service the story and forward the plot. It’s not a case of the topic being technical, or even interesting – it’s a case of making it relevant for the story. With The Big Year, the topic is birdwatching – or, to use the correct term, “birding”. The story follows three men who are attempting to document the largest collection of birds in a single year – known as a ‘Big Year’. Owen Wilson plays the reigning champion who has held the title, Steve Martin and Jack Black both attempting to topple him and take it for themselves. The story itself is basic, and for the most part, riven with clichés. With a niche topic, it usually works better if it acts as a side-note. In other words, the focus is on their obsession – it could be anything from stamp collecting to scientific endeavours. Here, unfortunately, the topic of ‘birding’ is pretty much front and centre. If you’ve little or no interest in nature and outdoor pursuits, this film doesn’t really help to persuade from your indifference. Indeed, it almost seems to scorn you for not doing so.

The three men traverse America and form friendships along the way. Steve Martin is an executive-type who is beginning his retirement, but is continually harassed by his underlings who need his guidance. Jack Black is a computer technician who’s harboured an ambition to compete in the Big Year, but for lack of funds has been unable to do so. Owen Wilson is a twice-married man whose current wife is attempting IVF, all while he is travelling in defence of his title. Throughout the film, however, it becomes immediately apparent that the actors didn’t sign on based upon the power and quality of the script, but rather the opportunity to work together. The dialogue is so clunky that it comes across as insincere. Overall, the screenplay looks like it could have potential. The competition is ultimately self-destructive for all involved and forces each man to face a hard reality in themselves and deal with it. The topic itself may seem absolutely bizarre, but the idea of an obsession ruling their lives to the point that they forgo career, family and normality is interesting. Here, however, it just comes across as mindlessly selfish. It doesn’t even bother to attempt to convey why it is they are driven to do what they do. It simply expects you to understand – you either get it or you don’t.

The direction and photography are quite decent, especially in the close-ups of the birds and in capturing the vividness of their plumage. One particular scene in a snowy wood is shot beautifully, and without the ham-fisted script, could have been something terrific. Instead, it’s a lost opportunity – like so many others in the film. The comedy, what little of it there is, is very much PG and safe. Steve Martin is capable of far better than this and it’s surprising that he didn’t exercise some sort of common sense and steer clear of this. Jack Black and Owen Wilson, on the other hand, have churned out enough schlock-fests like this to know better, but still continue to do so. It doesn’t push boundaries; it doesn’t break taboos and is completely safe for all tastes. Which is what makes this film particularly boring.

Brian Lloyd

Rated PG (see IFCO website for details)
 The Big Year is released on 2nd December 2011

The Big Year – Official Website

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Cinema Review: Midnight in Paris

Typical Woody Allen sci-fi

DIR/WRI: Woody Allen • PRO: Letty Aronson, Jaume Roures, Stephen Tenenbaum • ED: Alisa Lepselter • DOP: Johanne Debas , Darius Khondji • DES: Anne Seibel • CAST: Owen Wilson, Rachel McAdams, Kathy Bates

Since leaving his native New York to set up shop in Europe, Woody Allen has reached some of the highs (Vicky Cristina Barcelona, Match Point) and lows (Cassandra’s Dream, Scoop) of his career. Thankfully, Midnight in Paris counts not only as one of the best of Allen’s recent output, but also his biggest ever box-office hit.

Owen Wilson plays a self-deprecating Hollywood screenwriter who is trying to finish his first novel. While holidaying in Paris with his fiancé (Rachel McAdams), her secret crush (Michael Sheen) and her parents, Wilson goes for a walk alone in the city at night and somehow finds himself transported to Paris circa 1920, and soon he is in the company of Ernest Hemingway, Pablo Picasso, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Cole Porter, Salvador Dali and almost every other early 20th century artist or writer you can think of. In the middle of this creative hub is Adriana (Marion Cotillard), whose beauty was the muse of many of the famous names mentioned above, and who Wilson promptly falls in love with. But will he decide to stay in his perceived ‘Golden Age’ of Paris with this new love, or return to the 21st century and a life he’s unsure of?

This vaguely sci-fi-ish central premise is played loose, so as not to weigh down the inherent comedy and romance of the situation. Allen uses this film not only as a love letter to Paris, with every shot brimming over with the city’s natural beauty, but also a love letter to writing, to music, to history, to love itself. Reminiscent of the fantastically romantic Amelie, this is exactly the kind of movie they hardly ever make anymore. And prepare to feel the overwhelming urge to buy a ticket to Paris the second the end credits begin.

Rory Cashin

Rated 12A (see IFCO website for details)
Midnight in Paris is released on 7th October 2011

Midnight in Paris – Official Website

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How Do You Know

How do you Know

DIR/ WRI: James L. Brooks • PRO: Julie Ansell, James L. Brooks, Laurence Mark, Paula Weinstein • DOP: Janusz Kaminski • ED: Richard Marks, Tracey Wadmore-Smith • DES: Jeannine Claudia Oppewall • CAST: Reese Witherspoon, Paul Rudd, Owen Wilson

There is so much to like about this movie that it feels like a disservice to some of the wonderful separate elements pronouncing the ‘whole’ a bit flat. But so it is. With the potential to be a perfect romantic comedy, it instead delivers a rather stale serving of predictability where might have stood a feast of chuckles and emotion. That it stands above the normal fodder of ‘chickflick’ banality is down, pure and simple, to wonderful acting from the eternally likeable Reese Witherspoon, and perfectly placed leading-man goofiness, expertly handled by Paul Rudd. Even Owen Wilson’s dumb-blonde ‘himbo’, though done to death at this stage, lifts the movie above comedy car-crash, and adds weight to an otherwise humdrum script.

Witherspoon plays Lisa, a professional baseball player, who is dating successful fellow-baseballer and all-round player Matty (Wilson), but his thoughtlessness leaves her in a position to accept a blind date from George (Rudd). Their subsequent dinner occurs on the day that Lisa is dropped from the US team for her advancing years, and George is indicted by the US government for crimes he hasn’t committed. Their predictably disastrous date is, however, dealt with quite gently and realistically, and the spark between them is undeniable. In their subsequent friendship they both find ways of dealing with these pivotal moments in their lives – Lisa in attempting a meaningful relationship with Matty, and George in repairing his own relationship with his father (Jack Nicholson), who may have gotten him into all this trouble. Despite the triteness of the story, it is imbued with character and comedy by the actors involved. Rudd, in particular, is outstanding and unbelievably likeable as George, willingly twisting his handsome face into comic foolishness, and proving that his leading-man credentials are hard-earned and well-deserved. I challenge anyone not to find Witherspoon charming – in this, or any, movie – and she gives Lisa a glowing depth not always visible in the lacklustre script. Until the final act, it feels almost like a perfect rom-com, but there is really only so much the actors involved can do to save what eventually feels like a sinking ship. Its denouement leaves no bitter-sweet taste, a lá The Graduate, from which it seems to take inspiration, nor does it give a sappy wrap-up – instead falling somewhere in the middle.

James L. Brooks has been making every effort to appear hit-and-miss, and How Do You Know is another half-step downwards in this campaign. The posters are hyping the movie as from the creator of As Good as it Gets, but despite the repeat presence of Nicholson, it can’t quite reach that magic. Finding it hard to reduce down from melodrama or boil up from pure rom-com, the lack of focus causes a dilution of both sub-genres. The upshot of this is a nice idea, with delightful component parts, producing a movie that lacks enough substance to truly make it a worthy romantic comedy.

Sarah Griffin

Rated 12A (see IFCO website for details)
How Do You Know
is released on 28th January 2011

How Do You Know Official Website

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Marmaduke

Marmaduke

DIR:Tom Dey • WRI: Tim Rasmussen, Vince DiMeglio • PRO: John Davis, Tom Dey • DOP: Greg Gardiner • DES: Sandy Cochrane • ED: Don Zimmerman • CAST: Owen Wilson, Kiefer Sutherland, Emma Stone, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Fergie

Who knows how they did it? But the producers of this film have managed to assemble an unbelievable voice cast for this terrible film adaptation of the long-running newspaper cartoon Marmaduke. For those of you who aren’t familiar with the cartoon, this film is about as far removed as it could possibly be. The cartoons are charmingly simplistic, single-panel jokes about a giant hyper-active family dog. The film gives Marmaduke a personality, a group of crazy friends and even a social life. Not to mention sunglasses!

The plot goes a little something like this: Marmaduke’s family move from Kansas to California when dad Phil (Lee Pace) gets a job in an organic pet food company. Marmaduke meets some great new outcast friends who are being bullied by the leaders of their social circle. He soon becomes the most popular dog in town but at what price?

There is not much to enjoy in this rubbish adaptation. It isn’t very funny, the plot is outrageous (a doggy surf contest) and it is frustrating to see such a vast array of talented actors tied to this drivel. But I guess if you’re going to say something good about the film it is that the vocal cast is outstanding. From spunky little mutt Mazie, voiced by Emma Stone, to the villainous Bosco, voiced by Kiefer Sutherland to Marmaduke himself, voiced by Owen Wilson. Each of them is well-suited to their part and seem to be working hard with what they’ve got to make it effective. However, it is unfortunate for them that they just don’t have anything much to work with, scriptwise.

If cute mutts are enough to entertain you, and I’ve no doubt it is enough for many young kids, then perhaps this isn’t a complete waste of two hours. But please, please heed my warning; do not go to see this film because you’re a fan of the cartoon! It is an adaptation in nothing but name and will most likely infuriate fans. Children might be entertained, but just barely. Just do yourself a favour and see Toy Story 3 again!

Charlene Lydon

Rated G (see IFCO website for details)
Marmaduke
is released on 20th August 2010

Marmaduke Official Website

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