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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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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Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides

Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides

DIR: Rob Marshall • WRI: Ted Elliott Terry Rossio• PRO: Jerry Bruckheimer • DOP: Dariusz Wolski • ED: David Brenner Michael Kahn Wyatt Smith • DES: John Myhre • Cast: Johnny Depp, Penélope Cruz, Geoffrey Rush

Synonymous with the Pirates of the Caribbean series, the witty dynamic and outrageous Pirate extraordinare, Captain Jack Sparrow returns and sets sail sans Elizabeth and Will (about time I say!) in this apprehensively anticipated fourth movie of the series directed by Rob Marshall. Due to the somewhat customary disappointing second and third films that followed the major hit of the first Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl, it could be argued why did they even bother trying again plus significant time has passed since the last attempt; surely interest in the franchise (especially given the choice of blockbuster on offer at the moment) has died. However, if any character or actor in their most infamous role can resurrect a dieing franchise it is Jack Sparrow/Johnny Depp. Depp succeeds in making Sparrow more charming and magnetic then ever.

Audiences fell in love with Jack Sparrow and Pirates in the first one and this film is them coming back and saying I disappointed you twice but this time round I am going to sweep you off your feet on a wild adventure and remind you why you fell for me in the first place! Director Rob Marshall breeds new life into Pirates of the Caribbean taking Gore Verbinskis place, reminding us why we find Pirates so exciting and alluring.

It has just the right blend of action, drama, romance and stunning visuals. Bubbling with larger then life characters, this is pure swashbuckling escapism, sure to satisfy both children and adult alike!
Cruz’s Angelica is intoxicating climbing on board as the one that got away to Depp’s Sparrow with whom she has fiery chemistry. In a milieu, brimming with all shades of manhood (besides the odd mermaid) Angelica provides a female match for Sparrow, showcasing the ferocity of a woman’s sexuality and heart.

The centre piece of the film, is the mysterious fountain of youth that both the now one-legged Captain Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush) and the menacing Blackbeard (Ian McShane), along with Sparrow, Angelica and co. embark upon a quest to find. This fountain if drunk from is said to grant eternal youth which is something we would all yearn for and seek if thought tangible. Geoffrey Rush is totally on form reprising his role as Barbossa now an officer to the King, totally commanding and charismatic and is granted numerous witty dialogue which he delivers with the class you expect of Rush. Ian McShane is a pleasant ice cool addition to the cast as the notorious ‘I’m a bad man’, Captain Blackbeard, and has great chemistry with Depp and Rush. There is something so endearing about the way McShane plays him. Newcomer Sam Claflin is engaging as the young handsome clergyman, Philip – quite distinct surrounded by tarnished Pirates, who makes falling for a mermaid plausible. Kevin McNally returns as the loveable aged rogue Gibbs, feeding some of Sparrows and Barbossa’s best lines. There are a few other familiar faces thrown into the mix…

The film is visually beautiful and exhilarating without going over the top with special effects (a mistake the second and third films made) and the back and forth between characters is so witty and high-quality yet feels spontaneous. It is overall a tremendous effort and comeback and previous Pirates fans should be extremely satisfied. A synthesis of gripping action aboard ship and on land, dreamy and sensual sequences, laugh-out-loud funny encounters and finally an ending that could leave one a bit emotional at the prospect of saying ‘adieu’ to an iconic character and to such a feast for the imagination that the Pirates of the Caribbean series has been. This is seriously not to be missed and especially in the cinema to truly delight in this epic adventure tale … Savvy?

Órla Walshe

Rated 12A (see IFCO website for details)
Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides is released on 20th May 2011

Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides – Official Website

 


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Nine

Nine

DIR: Rob Marshall • WRI: Michael Tolkin, Anthony Minghella • PRO: John DeLuca, Rob Marshall, Marc Platt, Rob Marshall, Harvey Weinstein • DOP: Dion Beebe • ED: Claire Simpson, Wyatt Smith • DES: John Myhre • CAST: Daniel Day-Lewis, Marion Cotillard, Nicole Kidman, Penélope Cruz

Nine is a film based on Federico Fellini’s autobiographical film 8 1/2 (1963), and on the 1982 Tony award-winning musical, Nine, book by Arthur Kopit, music and lyrics by Maury Yeston, adaptation from the Italian by Mario Fratti. It is the story of Italian film director Guido Contini (Daniel Day-Lewis). He has recently turned forty and is facing a mid-life-crisis with his willingness to be a professional and creative director and a romantic to his wife Luisa (Marion Cotillard) and his mistress Carla (Penelope Cruz). The setting is Rome in 1965.

Judi Dench plays Lilli, Guido’s costume designer. She tells Guido before he goes to a press conference to do what he does best – ‘Lie, lie for Italia’. Dench appears in a flashback sequence on stage when Guido was a boy singing ‘Folies Bergère’. Day-Lewis appears above the stage in a touching scene of nostalgia. Kate Hudson has a cameo as a young and foxy Vogue columnist, Stephanie. She remarks to Guido, that every frame in his films is like a postcard. Grammy-nominated singer Fergie appears in some musical sequences as the irresistible Saraghina. She gives a wonderful performance of ‘Be Italian’ – The best song in the film. Nicole Kidman is the beautiful movie star Claudia, an old flame of Guido’s. Penélope Cruz has a most erotic rendition of ‘A Call from the Vatican’. It will raise a few eyebrows over the decision of a 12A rating. Carla wants to spend more time with Guido, but he is preoccupied with many other things.

Daniel Day-Lewis shines as always. He really gets into the character of Guido with his mannerisms and dialogue. Marion Cotillard adds more emotional core to the film with her renditions of ‘My Husband Makes Movies’ and ‘Take It All’. In a key scene Luisa says to Guido: ‘Thank you for reminding me I’m not special. You don’t even see what you do to me. Even the moments I think are ours, it’s just… you work to get what you want…’

There are several scenes in black and white beautifully photographed by Dion Beebe – flashbacks of Guido’s childhood in a Catholic school in which he first discovers women and also some of the music sequences. Guido like many artists is flawed and trying to find a way to balance his job and love life, this proves very difficult for him. As in any musical the characters express their anxieties though song and it works well.

Rob Marshall is the director and co-choreographer. He made his name with the smash hit Chicago back in 2002. Marshall has a style that is impressive on the musical front, however, it is lacking in the substance of its characters. Michael Tolkin and late Anthony Minghella, to whom this film is dedicated, wrote the screenplay.

The musical sequences are mostly performed on a sound stage, with flashy costumes. The music is enjoyable and John DeLuca and Rob Marshall excellently choreograph the dancing. It is what it is: a musical, and it succeeds on that level. But the all-star cast overwhelms the picture, to the degree that it feels like a guest list. Kidman, Dench and Cotillard all have very little screen time. Cotillard was also underwritten earlier this year in Michael Mann’s Public Enemies. Her talent deserves more. If her character had more substance, her relationship with Day-Lewis, would have been more believable. Sophia Loren appears in a cameo to Guido as his dead mother, it will always spark the reaction from the audience that is ‘Look, there’s Sophia Loren’. All and all it keeps you interested and is worth recommending with some reservations.

Peter Larkin

Rated 12A (see IFCO website for details)
Nine is released on 25 Dec 2009

Nine – Official Website

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Broken Embraces

Broken Embraces

DIR/WRI: Pedro Almodóvar • PRO: Esther García • DOP: Rodrigo Prieto • ED: José Salcedo • DES: Antxón Gómez • CAST: Penélope Cruz, Lluís Homar, Ángela Molina, Lola Dueñas

Broken Embraces is Spanish auteur Pedro Almodóvar’s seventeenth film and it will neither disappoint nor surprise fans. It is his longest film yet and it returns from the maternal warmth of Volver (2006) back to the noir-hued style of Bad Education (2004).

The plot is complex and sophisticated and Almodóvar is clearly stretching himself technically and conceptually. The action unfolds in two different periods, the present and 1992–2004, and there is a film within a film, the making of which is also being filmed within the film. In present day Madrid, a blind scriptwriter Harry Caine (Lluís Homar) hears from a pretentious young filmmaker, ‘Ray X’, who, he realises, is linked to the tragic events that led to his loss of sight and the loss of his lover, Lena (Penélope Cruz). Working previously as a call girl and then marrying Ernesto Martel (José Luis Goméz), her rich elderly boss, she predictably begins an affair with the director who in the early strand of the story is called Mateo Blanco (later Harry Caine) and has his full sight. Martel’s gay acned son spies for his father under the pretence of making a behind-the-scenes documentary about the film Blanco is directing, Girls and Suitcases. The plot elaborately unfolds into a kind of meta-noir, which requires more concern for the characters than the film can inspire.

There are plenty of cinematic references for the spotting, if that’s your cup of tea, including Henry Hathaway’s 40s noir Kiss of Death and Rossellini’s Voyage to Italy. The film within the film is perhaps a self-reflexive look back to his own Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown. As fans will expect, Broken Embraces has a rich, vivid palette and the style and premise are the product of an infatuation with cinema itself.

In art as in life, total consensus is generally an unhealthy and suspicious thing. Trawling through dozens of reviews, in an attempt to find some critical variation in response to a film which appears to me to have many profound problems, I encountered only moments of deviation from otherwise uninterrupted adoration. Any mutinous notions suggested were instantly qualified with reminders that ‘even at his worst’ Almodóvar is still a superior director to just about anything else Europe has to offer. So here are a few gaping holes in the film which I would like to put out into the world in the hope that someone else is looking around wondering if they are missing something. Lena’s so called ‘fragmented’ character is nothing more than an absence of character dressed up in different costumes and all the references and hollow post-modern concepts in the world won’t make it otherwise. The plot and the characters are instantly forgettable, due to the shallowness of their conception, and even during the film it is difficult to stay focussed on the labyrinthine plot because it is impossible to really care what happens to any of the characters. The whole experience feels like listening to a very fast twenty-minute guitar solo: it forces you to concede to and admire its technical prowess but it leaves you cold. The film contains lots of flattering shots of a very attractive actress (Penélope Cruz) in different outfits and will leave a lot of middle-aged film critics fantasies pandered to, but it all simply lacks heart and substance. It is a film about passion that utterly lacks passion. Visually, this film is very beautiful and lush. Technically, it is characteristically artful and considered but in this lone critic’s opinion that is not enough.

Angela Nagle
(See biog here)


Rated 15A (See IFCO website for details)
Broken Embraces is released on 28th August 2009

Broken Embraces – Official Website

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Vicky Cristina Barcelona

DIR/WRI: Woody Allen • PRO: Letty Aronson Stephen Tenenbaum, Gareth Wiley • DOP: Javier Aguirresarobe • ED: Alisa Lepselter • DES: Alain Bainée • CAST: Rebecca Hall, Scarlett Johansson, Javier Bardem, Penélope Cruz

Vicky Christina BarcelonaWoody Allen, master writer-director of the Jewish New York comedy, throws his faithful fans a witty, yet serious film that asks ‘why is love so hard to define?’ Being known for his artsy, intellectual characters of privileged means and ultra New York-ified scripts, Vicky Cristina Barcelona is typical Woody Allen – but set in Spain…

Two young friends, bohemian Cristina and intellectual Vicky, arrive in Barcelona for a summer adventure. Split screens and a narrator whimsically explain that though the two women are best of friends, they are polar opposites when it comes to love, which, I suppose in a Woody Allen microcosm, translates to them being polar opposites when it comes to the world. Cristina: artistic, insatiable and uncommitted, alongside Vicky: practical, rational, and about to be married. The ensuing drama can only be described as angst-filled, tragically romantic whimsy, transpiring between people of talent, beauty and privilege. Juan Antonio, a painter whose tempestuous marriage ended in a rain of gossip throughout the art scene, lands both women into the middle of the stormy relationship between himself and his ex-wife, Maria Elena. A weekend in Oviedo with the bluntly flirtatious Spanish painter ultimately challenges the rigidly held views of both Vicky and Cristina.

Javier Bardem (No Country for Old Men) as Juan Antonio and Penélope Cruz (Vanilla Sky) as María Elena steal the show as their passionately violent relationship upstages even Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera. Cruz’s Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress legitimizes not only the film but the power of its performances.

Melodramatic, yet tempered with good old-fashioned ‘get on with it girl’ attitude and ‘can do’ solution-oriented rationalizations, the script for Vicky Cristina Barcelona is nothing short of brilliant. Allen manages to create a borderline pretentious flirtation in his characters between what one must do and what one wants to do in relationships, with, of course, a whole lot of feelings tempered by the unavoidable siren call of the insatiable: changing of minds. What is left is a perfect combination of drama, adventure, intrigue, romance and comedy. If all that isn’t your cup of tea, no worries, the film times in at a bearable 96 minutes.

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Elegy

Elegy
Elegy

DIR: Isabel Coixet • WRI: Nicholas Meyer • PRO: Andre Lamal, Gary Lucchesi, Tom Rosenberg • DOP: Jean-Claude Larrieu • ED: Amy E. Duddleston • DES: Claude Paré • CAST: Penélope Cruz, Ben Kingsley, Patricia Clarkson, Peter Sarsgaard

A scene early on in Elegy sees Ben Kingsley’s ageing professor show Penelope Cruz’s character his darkroom. He comments that he never uses it anymore, and that he really should switch to digital photography, but he doesn’t understand it. Cruz looks at him knowingly, and disagrees: ‘Of course you do’. It’s a fleeting moment, but it’s one that neatly sums up Kingsley’s character. This is a highly intelligent, educated man, who has developed a remarkable talent for kidding himself.

Based on Philip Roth’s novel The Dying Animal, Elegy is a smart, character-driven drama that avoids the traps that other films of this nature (such as the last Philip Roth adaptation, The Human Stain) frequently fall into. We first see dry academic David Kepesh (Kingsley) on a talk show, discussing ideas of sexual happiness and independence, and how they have influenced the course of his life. The rest of the film is an extension of these themes. Having left his wife at a young age, Kepesh has lived a life based around such freedoms; a popular lecturer, he admits to regularly sleeping with his students, usually through his end-of-term cocktail parties (in an amusing aside, he makes it clear that he only does this after he has given them their results). It is through one such party that he connects with Consuela (Cruz), an intriguing student thirty years his junior. Kepesh begins to find himself establishing a relationship and falling in love with her, and as a result questioning his values and ideas.

Kingsley’s name is no longer the seal of quality it once was – you may have seen him embarrass himself in The Love Guru – so it’s refreshing to find that Isabel Coixet’s film is an above-average piece of work. Initially, the mood appears to be one of consistent, dreary navel gazing, but thankfully both the character and film are blessed with a sense of humour and self-awareness that rescues them from self-pity. Kepesh is introspective, but frank; his voice over is frequently very funny, and the fact that the film stars Dennis ‘Mad Bomber from Speed’ Hopper as a Pulitzer Prize winning poet (!) erases a lot of potential intellectual snobbery too. When Kepesh finds himself – in his 60s – as afraid of commitment and emotional honesty as a teenager, he is just as aware of the irony and ludicrousness of the situation as the audience, a fact that makes for a fascinating and believable character. Hopper aside, the film is populated with characters like this; believably flawed without being dislikeable or dull. Indie stalwart Patricia Clarkson shows up as a married woman who provides Kepesh with regular, no-strings attached sex, and the always welcome Peter Sarsgaard is superb in a handful of scenes as Kepesh’s son, who takes pride in a moral superiority over his absent father, only to find himself just as fallible. Cruz, while older than her character and not quite as instantly attractive, does a fine job in a role that requires her to come across wiser than a man thirty years her senior.

Regularly treading the fine line between intelligent and indulgent, the film nearly tips over into the latter as the seemingly-obligatory-for-this-sort-of-thing-terminal-illness plotline rears its ugly head, and an unimaginative soundtrack doesn’t help. Ultimately, though, the strength of the performances and the witty, acerbic nature of the piece win out, and instead, the film remains a smart, engaging work, one that succeeds in being entertaining and genuinely intelligent in spite of itself.

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