Cinema Review: Red 2

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DIR: Dean Parisot  WRI: Katie Dippold  PRO: Lorenzo di Bonaventura, Mark Vahradian  DOP: Robert Yeoman  ED: Brent White, Jay Deuby  CAST: Bruce Willis, John Malkovich, Helen Mirren, Anthony Hopkins

Directed by Dean Parisot (Galaxy Quest, Fun with Dick and Jane), this is the follow up to 2010’s Red  based on Warren Ellis’ comic of the same name.

Red 2 takes place a few months after the events of Red. Retired C.I.A. operative Frank Moses (Bruce Willis) is living happily ever after with the love of his life Sarah (Mary-Louise Parker) and on the surface everything seems perfect. Unfortunately, and unaware to Frank, their relationship is feeling the strain of stagnation. While buying in bulk Frank is confronted by his best friend Marvin (John Malkovich) with a portent of doom. “They” are coming for Marvin, and Frank will certainly be next. After faking his own death Marvin’s suspicions are confirmed. It transpires that someone has leaked a document on to the internet claiming that Frank and Marvin took part in a covert, cold war plot to smuggle a new type of nuclear weapon, designed by Dr Edward Bailey (Anthony Hopkins) into Moscow. Now they are flagged as nuclear terrorists and they are wanted by both the C.I.A. and MI6, among others. Their old friend, Victoria (Helen Mirren) as well as an enemy from Frank’s past, Han Cho Bai (Byung-Hun Lee) have both been hired to kill the pair as well as Sarah. Frank, Sarah and Marvin must embark on a globe-trotting quest for, first information then resolution, all while Frank and Sarah’s relationship suffers the strain of Frank’s ex Katja (Catherine Zeta-Jones) resurfacing and being integral to plot that is afoot.

The immediate problem with this second instalment is that it’s almost instantly forgettable. The story is too complex for the enjoyable brand of action comedy the plot is trying to achieve. The constant flitting from London to America to Russia to Paris and back again make the story feel episodic and the events unrelated. It all ties up almost too neatly in the end but it’s hard not to wonder where any of it is going while the story is unfolding in front of you. It may be that the original comic saw Frank Moses die at the end of the story but the current screenplay lacks the same drive and constant goal for which everyone is striving that lent the original Red  a sense of purpose.

Largely the action feels slow and flat, with the exception of the scenes involving Byung-Hun Lee. His impressive skill and martial arts background make for the most explosive and enjoyable fight scenes of the film. He also does an astounding job of playing a hired assassin with a personal vendetta. He spends most of the film motivated more by the theft of his private jet than by the contract he is trying to fulfil. The older cast members and returning characters know their roles and play them well. Willis is the tough-guy looking out for the girl, Malkovich is paranoid, Hopkins is crazy, Mirren is elegant even in moments of extreme violence and Parker is a fish out of water who desperately wants to be a part of the action. Unfortunately this sort of paint-by-numbers rehashing of the characters makes the few arcs there are in the film seem false.

Technically Red 2 has all the elements to be just as good as the first, great cast, action, humour, story, but somehow they don’t seem to gel as well this time around. It is very easy to enjoy but equally difficult to remember why.

 

 

Paddy Delaney

Rated 12A (see IFCO website for details) 

115 mins
Red 2 is released on 2nd August 2013

Red 2  – Official Website

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Report: Ballyfermot College Final Year Animation Showcase 2013

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Paddy Delaney went along to the recent Ballyfermot College Final Year Animation Showcase to check out Ireland’s future animators.

Irish animation is standing pretty strong on an international level. From prestigious awards at Sundance for Irish Folk Furniture  to continued international success, with companies like Brown Bag Animation, to having the No.1 children’s television show in 2012 with over 100 million viewers in over 160 countries. Attending the Ballyfermot showcase it’s easy to see why.

When asked what he thought of the offerings one attendee said, “The standard was really great. This year the standard was just so professional” and he was absolutely correct. It was incredibly impressive to see what a small team of animation students could accomplish. Ranging in duration, there was a staggering variety of styles and subject matter. From the illustrated style sea-monster story of Curraid by Adam Kavanagh, to the hauntingly beautiful Lake Isle of Innisfree by Don Carey, to the unsettling The Pit Out There by JJ Kavanagh, to the short but hilarious Not Programmed For Love by Brian McDevitt the technical achievements of all the films were remarkable.

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Lake Isle of Innisfree

Another shining example of the quality to be expected from the College’s alumni was my personal favourite The Sweet Life by Maureen Walshe. Reminiscent of the opening montage from Disney/Pixar’s Up it tells a story of hardship, loss and redemption with a touching and heart-warming happy ending that had everyone in the audience saying “Aw”. All this was done in about three or four minutes with no dialogue. The stylised three dimensional characters were so expressive and the soundtrack so perfectly aligned with the events of the story that there was never any uncertainty as to what was happening or how the cast of characters were feeling.

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The Sweet Life

Speaking with Maureen after the show it was clear that it’s not just time the college are willing to invest to see their students succeed. For example, eight of the films from the show-reel were selected for the Galway Film Fleadh, and as Maureen said, “The college are really, really good at getting (our films) into the festivals, they paid for all of us. They’re really good like that”.

Despite some technical difficulties (the Blu-ray had to played through a PS3 and the pub next door was on standby as a backup location due to earlier problems with the audio) it is very hard to look on this showcase as anything but a rousing success and a testament to the hard work and skill of the students at Ballyfermot. If their films are anything to go on, Ireland will continue to be a world leader in the field of animation.

 

The films shown were:

Curraid

1798 Rebellion

Complicit

16,000 ft

Cat Calls

Strongbow & Aoife

1Up

Snagged

Endurance

Love is Blind

The Pit Outside

Mass Appeal

Mochi Mochi

Not Programmed For Love

The Sweet Life

Duncan

The Winklesteins

Reflections

The Lake Isle of Innisfree.

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Cinema Review: Fast & Furious 6

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DIR: Justin Lin •  WRI: Chris Morgan • PRO: Vin Diesel, Neal H. Moritz , Clayton Townsend . • DOP: Stephen F. Windon • ED:Greg D’Auria, Kelly Matsumoto, Christian Wagner • DES: Jan Roelfs • Cast: Tea Falco, Jacopo Olmo Antinori, Sonia Bergamasco, Veronica Lazar

Director Justin Lin (also directed the previous three instalments) brings us the latest episode in this now long-running series of films.

Picking up fairly quickly from where we left off in Fast & Furious 5 (a.k.a. Fast 5) we find Brian O’Connor (Paul Walker) and Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel) racing through the back roads of some undisclosed country to arrive at the birth of Brian and Mia Toretto’s (Jordana Brewster) baby. After the multi-million dollar heist of the last movie Dom and his crew are ‘out of the game’, but sadly this is not to last. Agent Luke Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson) needs the help of Team Toretto to stop the latest car obsessed international criminal. A former S.A.S. operative by the name of Owen Shaw (Luke Evans). Shaw has been rampaging across Europe collecting the components for a ‘tech bomb’ said to be worth billions. What’s more Letty Ortiz (Michelle Rodriguez), the until recently thought dead girlfriend of Dom, is one of his crew. It’s up to Dom, Brian, Roman (Tyrese Gibson), Tej (Ludacris), Giselle (Gal Gadot) and Han (Sung Kang) along with Hobbs and his new sidekick Riley (Gina Carano) to stop Shaw and try to bring Letty back home.

For a series as long-running as the Fast & Furious family (the first movie was released in 2001) to have a coherent story the writers either need to have an excellent vision for where the characters are headed or be proficient in the use of redactive flashbacks. Conveniently it would seem that screenplay writer Chris Morgan is very safely in the latter category. The myriad relationships that have developed over the course of the franchise begin to verge on the levels of a soap opera in this, the sixth chapter of a story that began its life centred around the idea of driving cars very quickly in a straight line. The resurrection of the amnesiac Letty is not the only change to the Fast universe. It seems that the placement of ‘Tokyo Drift’ in the time line alters with each new movie released. Although there would appear to be a fairly definitive line drawn under that issue at the end of Fast & Furious 6.

Attempting to break the mould of one big heist or race per movie Dom and his team are now pitted against a similar skilled group of adversaries. Predominantly set in London, and with such well-matched rivals, the stage is set for lots of impressive, tense chases down narrow streets and busy thoroughfares as well as blistering fight scenes. Sadly, there seem to be comparatively few of these. The cars undertake their usual incredible feats but they are edited in such a way that no blurry, unsteady shot lasts for more than a second or two and it’s hard to get an overall idea of what’s going on. This leaves the film without a sense of tension or impetus. With the notable exception of one battle in an underground station the fight scenes also lack coherence. Incoherence is, in fact, the largest problem suffered by the film. The plot comes across as an incidental series of events to get the characters from one self-referential moment or clichéd piece of dialogue to the next. With that being said, if you have come to see Fast & Furious 6 for the plot and dialogue you are in the wrong place.

Fans of the franchise (of which there are many) will likely adore this as another adrenalin-fuelled, testosterone-heavy blast. If you are not already a fan then either go back to the beginning and try to become one or avoid this offering altogether.

Paddy Delaney

 

Rated 12A (see IFCO website for details)
130 mins
Fast & Furious 6 is released on 17th May 2013

Fast & Furious 6 – Official Website

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Cinema Review: So Undercover

DIR: Tom Vaughan • WRI: Steven Pearl, Allan Loeb • PRO: Tish Cyrus, Guy East,  Allan Loeb, Steven Pearl, Nigel Sinclair • DOP: Denis Lenoir • ED: Michael Berenbaum, Wendy Greene Bricmont • DES: Daniel B. Clancy • CAST: Miley Cyrus, Autumn Reeser, Alexis Knapp, Joshua Bowman

Tom Vaughan (Starter for 10, What Happens in Vegas) is at the helm for this, the new film for Hannah Montana star Miley Cyrus.

 

Having lost her mother at an early age Molly (Miley Cyrus) was raised by her police officer father, Sam (Mike O’Malley). By age eleven she had become adept with a firearm and when her father was kicked off the force due to his gambling addiction she joined him in his private eye business. Now in her late teens Molly is a formidable detective although she and her father mostly get jobs investigating and photographing unfaithful spouses, be they senators or truck drivers. It is on one such assignment that Molly is approached by FBI agent Armon (Jeremy Piven). Alex (Lauren McKnight) is the daughter of a key witness in a federal case against an Eastern European Crime syndicate and she is in possession of a ‘bargaining chip’ given to her by her father. As a result she is in danger of being assassinated to get to her father and the FBI wants Molly to infiltrate her sorority to identify the potential killer and protect Alex, and the information she is holding. After her father loses big at the race track Molly reluctantly accepts the job for a substantial fee. She is transformed into Brooke Stonebridge, a transfer student from Hawaii. Roomed with Becky (Kelly Osbourne) she must survive the catty world of college, all the while trying to uncover the plot against her ward.

 

The question that quickly rears its puzzling head when watching this film is ‘Who is the intended audience?’. With relatively strong language, adult themes such as gambling addiction and regular sexual references it is obviously not aimed at Cyrus’  usual fan base. Then again with little plot beyond the usual tough-girl-fish-out-of-water comedy there is not much on offer for the general viewing public either. The tired stereotypes of the sorority girls offer little in the way of humour. There is the two-faced head of the chapter with her secret past as a geek, the dumb blonde who is a chemistry major, the overtly religious good girl with lesbian inclinations and of course the rampant bulimia. Cyrus herself is unbelievable as both a tough private eye and a ditzy sorority girl. Her romance with possible hit man Nicholas (Joshua Bowman) feels tacked on. There is an attempt at a twist in the story in the third act but by that point the original plot of FBI investigation has been set aside and is mostly forgotten. Even Piven, normally worth a few laughs in any of his roles, is sadly without virtue until the outtakes shown during the end credits.

 

Banal, trite and lacking in originality, it is hardly surprising that rumours abound of So Undercover being released straight-to-video in America.

Paddy Delaney

Rated 12A (see IFCO website for details)
994mins

So Undercover is released on 7th December 2012


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dATwT11orjk

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Cinema Review: The Sapphires

 

DIR: Wayne Blair • WRI: Tony Briggs, Keith Thompson • PRO: Rosemary Blight, Kylie Du Fresne,  DOP: Warwick Thornton • ED: Dany Cooper • DES: Melinda Doring • CAST:  Chris O’Dowd, Deborah Mailman, Tory Kittles

 

Based on a true story this Australian film centres on four aboriginal girls, three sisters and a cousin, and their quest for fame in the late sixties.

 

Gail, Cynthia and Julie are sisters living in rural Australia in 1968 with a penchant for folk and country music. They, along with their cousin Kay, used to perform as a group for their family when they were children. Now adults the three sisters continue with this pursuit. During a talent contest in the local town, hosted by the overtly racist hotel owner, the girls encounter the Irish rogue Dave Lovelace (Chris O’Dowd). Lovelace is a down-and-out musician who advises the sisters that the proper music for black girls to sing is Soul rather than Country and Western. Having secured the girls an audition to perform for U.S. soldiers in Vietnam the quartet form an unlikely alliance; the sisters as the talent and Lovelace as manager. Reunited with cousin Kay, and much to the dismay of mother figure Gail, the group reorganises and under the tutelage of Lovelace becomes an archetypal Soul group akin to Diana Ross and the Supremes. After wowing the crowds in Vietnam with their first performance the band are sent on a tour of military outposts until a fateful U.S.O. show sees them return home again.

 

Set against a backdrop of a war and civil rights movements in both America and Australia there is a surprising lightness to The Sapphires. The time spent in Vietnam does try to highlight the toll that war took on the troops involved but this is heavily offset with scenes of merriment such as late night poker games or barbecues. The issue of racism is raised on a number of occasions also but in a ham-fisted almost embarrassed fashion. This is particularly highlighted in the film’s attempt to broach the subject of Australia’s so-called ‘Lost Generation’. The reasons for Kay’s estrangement are hinted at throughout but only clarified in the form of a story retold by Gail, involving Kay’s de facto abduction and placement with a white family, after which she and Lovelace begin dancing. This shift in tone from solemnity to frivolity is quite jarring and is echoed each time the story leans towards darker elements. When the movie truly shines is in dealing with the lighter side of its story. O’Dowd will please anyone who is already a fan of his work with his brand of awkward charm and the Australian cast display a wonderful aptitude for the comedic elements of the script. Short scenes involving the sisters’ father are especially noteworthy. Superior vocal performances lend the soundtrack some gusto and the version of ‘Heard it Through the Grapevine’ does the Soul roots of this film more than proud.

While this story may skirt around the issues that were prevalent during the time in which it is set, and though it may not be as extraordinary as the story which was its inspiration, it is no less heart-warming and no less deserving of attention.

 

Paddy Delaney

Rated PG (see IFCO website for details) 
103 mins

The Sapphires is released on 9th November 2012

The Sapphires –  Official Website

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Cinema Review: Frankenweenie

 

DIR: Tim Burton • WRI: John August • PRO: Allison Abbate, Tim Burton • DOP: Peter Sorg • Chris Lebenzon Mark Solomon • DES: Rick Heinrichs • CAST:  Martin Landau, Christopher Lee, Winona Ryder

 

Before Scissorhands, before Beetlejuice, before Pee-wee, there was Frankenweenie. Tim Burton’s 1984 short film about a reanimated dog initially soured the professional relationship between the director and Disney, but nearly three decades on they’ve long since kissed and made up. They’ve teamed up again – after the baffling commercial success of Alice in Wonderland– to produce this feature-length stop-motion remake of Burton’s early film.Burton has never been guilty of disguising his gothic and B-Movie influences, but only rarely has he channelled them this explicitly. Frankenweenieplays like an eccentric yet affectionate satire of Frankenstein. Indeed, the protagonist of the film is a boy named Victor Frankenstein (voiced by Charlie Tahan). After his dog Sparky is killed by a car, the young scientist is devastated. Inspired by his creepy but motivational new teacher Mr. Rzykruski (Martin Landau), Victor manages to reanimate Sparky by creating an elaborate electrically charged experiment in his attic. Barring the occasional limb falling off and the need for an occasional recharge at the mains, Sparky is as good as new. While Victor tries to keep Sparky’s resurrection secret, it isn’t long before the kids at school get wind of the development.The film’s wide-eyed, stop-motion style will draw inevitable comparisons with The Nightmare Before Christmas and Corpse Bride. In many ways, though, it’s more of a companion piece with Ed Wood (arguably Burton’s masterpiece). Aesthetically, the comparison is most obvious – they both have crystal clear black & white cinematography, and they’re equally well-versed in the style and iconography of mid twentieth century low-budget horror films.Almost everything here is satirising or celebrating the horror genre. Characters are based on the stars and icons of Universal and Hammer – from a next-door neighbour named Elsa Van Helsing (Winona Ryder) to Landau’s enthusiastic channelling of Vincent Price. The film is dotted with references both obvious and subtle, including a great Bride of Frankenstein joke and Christopher Lee’s real-life Horror of Dracula appearing on television. Unlike the cheap pop-culture gags of a Shrek film, they’re all organically weaved into the story. It all makes for a charming homage, and one that adult audiences familiar with the reference will thoroughly appreciate.

Not to say young audiences will be completely alienated – it has an accessible story, is just the right amount of scary and is littered with quirky characters and sight gags. But I wouldn’t be surprised if the film’s most loyal supporters are older. A surprising anti-Creationism / pro-science subtext ensures the film’s underlying morals are admirable too.

There’s a lot to fit into a mere eighty minutes, and unfortunately some aspects do suffer as a result. There are far too many characters, and some potentially fruitful subplots are curiously underexplored. The film’s manic third-act piles on the B-Movie satire and cameos – let’s just say a Japanese character’s presence has a rewarding pay-off – but the action-packed climax feels somewhat less satisfying than what came before. There’s also a hint that the film might conclude on a suitably bittersweet note. Disney’s presence, however, inevitably ensures everything is wrapped up predictably.

Stephen McNeice

Rated PG (see IFCO website for details)
86 mins

Frankenweenie is released on 17th October 2012

Frankenweenie –  Official Website

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Cinema Review: Hotel Transylvania

DIR: Genndy Tartakovsky  WRI:Peter Baynham, Robert Smigel PRO: Michelle Murdocca  ED: Catherine Apple DES: Marcelo Vignali  CAST:  Adam Sandler, Steve Buscemi, David Spade

At first glance the prospects for the latest animated offering from Sony Pictures are quite bleak. The only pedigree lauded on the poster ‘from the studio that brought you The Smurfs’ suggests this film could be doomed to mediocrity. A closer inspection does offer some hope. Boasting a formidable cast and directed by Genndy Tartakovsky (Samurai Jack and Star Wars: The Clone Wars) there is certainly potential.

 

The story largely centres on Count Dracula (Adam Sandler) who, having lost his wife to an angry mob swears to protect his daughter Mavis (Selena Gomez) forever. To this end he builds a sanctuary for monsters everywhere. Hidden in a ‘spooky’ forest and surrounded by the land of the undead this sanctuary is the Hotel Transylvania. Monsters of all shapes and sizes can come to holiday in the luxurious castle and take refuge from the dreadful humans who are, as taught by the count, the real monsters. Given the opportunity, they will stop at nothing to destroy the count and his friends.

 

We join the story on the eve of Mavis’ 118th birthday, for which a large celebration is being planned. In attendance are all the counts friends; Uncle ‘Frank’ Frankenstein (Kevin James), Wayne the Werewolf (Steve Buscemi), Griffin The Invisible Man (David Spade), Murray the Mummy (CeeLo Green) and their respective other halves. All is going according to plan until both the party and the safety of the hotel are threatened when hapless human backpacker Jonathan (Andy Samberg) follows some of Dracula’s minions back to the monsters’ haven. After a failed attempt to sneak Jonathan out of the hotel unnoticed, the Count is forced to disguise the intruder as a monster himself. Dracula invents increasingly elaborate explanations ultimately introducing Jonathan as ‘JohnnyStein’ the cousin of Frankenstein’s right arm and a party planner there to help with the festivities to honour Mavis. Much to the ire of Dracula, Johnny quickly gains the admiration of the monsters due to his carefree nature, and even wins the heart of Mavis herself with his tales of the world beyond Hotel Transylvania, before he is ultimately revealed as an imposter.

 

From the outset there are some cheap laughs that will certainly appeal to the younger audience but the film suffers throughout by failing to choose a target demographic or appeal equally to several. Whereas titles such as Toy Story succeeded in pleasing children while simultaneously appealing to the adults who are accompanying them, Hotel Transylvania seems to flip flop between the two goals. Some of the more childish humour seems forced and without real substance, largely focusing on slapstick sight gags and the consumption of disgusting foods such as pancakes filled with worms. On the other hand some of the more mature jokes border on the macabre or are simply throwaway lines at the end of scenes which are easily missed. The plot also seems to lose direction after the initial exposition, settles into clichés and unconvincingly meanders towards a third-act resolution. Despite the flailing narrative there are some real gems in the script. Sandler carries his character’s neuroses expertly and the scenes with Samberg will likely bring a smile to your face if not a chuckle from your lips.

 

Hotel Transylvania lacks the universal appeal or emotional resonance of a Pixar title but it is by no means a bad film. There is plenty on offer to keep children entertained although adults may be a tad bored by the time the credits roll.

Paddy Delaney

Rated PG (see IFCO website for details)
91 mins

Hotel Transylvania is released on 12th October 2012

Hotel Transylvania    –  Official Website

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