Review: She’s Funny That Way

1415661eca4f1e3697fdca9e1c139638a480c93f

 

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

Share

Serena

serena-skip-crop

DIR: Susanne Bier • WRI: Christopher Kyle • PRO: Ben Cosgrave, Mark Cuban, Steve Schwartz, Paula Mae Schwartz, Todd Wagner, Nick Wechsler • DOP: Morten Søborg • ED: Pernille Bech Christensen, Matthew Newman, Simon Webb • DES: Richard Bridgland •  MUS: Johan Soderovist  • CAST: Jennifer Lawrence, Bradley Cooper, Tobey Jones, Rhys Ifans, David Dencik, Ana Ularu

 

Adapted from a 2008 novel by Ron Rash, Serena is essentially another rewrite of Macbeth, this time relocated to the harsh but picturesque Smokey Mountains of North Carolina in 1929.  The story revolves around timber magnate George Pemberton (Bradley Cooper) and his formidable but unhinged wife Serena (Jennifer Lawrence).  As Pemberton’s empire begins to unravel, Serena goads him into violent action, drawing the attention of the rumpled local sheriff (Toby Jones).  Meanwhile, Serena allies herself with a sinister employee (Rhys Ifans) as her jealousy of her husband’s illegitimate child leads to further tragedy.

 

This brew is heated to nowhere near boiling point by the prolific Danish filmmaker Susanne Bier (best known for the Oscar-winning In a Better World).  Tellingly, despite Bier’s pedigree and the box-office appeal of her two leads, Serena has spent over two years in search of a distributor since shooting wrapped in 2012.  This kind of long wait is often a sign that something’s amiss, and Serena bears tell-tale marks of a troubled production.  No less than three editors are credited, and yet the pacing is still choppy.  In the opening stages particularly, the film seems both rushed and repetitive, as George and Serena’s courtship is dispensed with in a montage that makes perplexingly disorganised use of fades to and from black.  Several crucial players, including Ana Ularu, as the mother of George’s baby, languish on the edge of the action until they are pressed into service by the plot, while a key development involves the murder of a character so peripheral she never actually appears on screen.  Rhys Ifans’ role as Serena’s henchman is particularly perplexing, especially when his apparently quasi-supernatural character is foregrounded towards the end.

 

Jut-jawed and cobalt-stared, Cooper never gets to grips with the inner weakness of his deeply unsympathetic character, and the narrative’s late attempt to give Pemberton the dimensions of a tragic hero – complete with a little half-baked animal symbolism – falls entirely flat.  The eponymous Serena might have been a fine addition to a banner year for sympathetic villainesses – from Angelina Jolie in Maleficent to Rosamund Pike in Gone Girl – but Jennifer Lawrence feels miscast, not least because she seems rather young for a part originally intended for Jolie.  The strikingly naturalistic star of Winter’s Bone has never felt further away than she does here, as we’re treated to a succession of vampy poses and regal glares that might have picked up a cult following were the surroundings not so staid.  Fans of Lawrence’s over-ripe turn in American Hustle (2013) will be pleased to know that she remains among contemporary cinema’s least subtle performers of drunkenness, even resorting to a comical hiccup this time out.  More pressingly, neither she nor Cooper seems particularly at home in the period setting, and their wandering accents – like those of Jones and Ifans – do little to dispel the piecemeal feel of the enterprise.

 

Production designer Richard Bridgland and cinematographer Morten Søborg do sterling work, conjuring an authentic Smokey Mountains feel on sets and locations in Denmark and the Czech Republic.  The landscape shots that bookend the film are particularly striking, evoking an elemental, folkloric quality that the rest of Serena gestures toward, but never effectively captures.

 

David Turpin

15A (See IFCO for details)
110 minutes

Serena is released 24th October 2014

Serena – Official Website

Share

Cinema Review: The Amazing Spider-Man

man in spandex

DIR:Marc Webb • WRI: James Vanderbilt, Alvin Sargent, Steve Kloves • PRO: Avi Arad, Matthew Tolmach, Laura Ziskin • DOP: John Schwartzman • ED: Alan Edward Bell, Michael McCusker, Pietro Scalia • DES: J. Michael Riva • Cast: Andrew Garfield, Emma Stone, Rhys Ifans

And sure why not do this?! It’s not like a billion dollars worth of people are already well aware of Peter Parker’s humble beginnings!! Despite an armada of promotional material suggesting otherwise, The Amazing Spider-Man remains an origin tale. And one excruciatingly similar to Sam Raimi’s efforts of ten years ago!

That was sarcasm.

A lot of sarcasm.

Yes, some novel angles and fresh slants compliment the wry humour and often joyous special effects. Cast and characters enjoy similar redecoration. Titular web-slinger Andrew Garfield accounts for himself very well indeed, though undisputed Best-of-her-Generation Emma Stone does even better.

Yet the opening hour treads such familiar territory, stumbling over more than a few wider Superhero clichés, you’ll find yourself impatiently wishing him into the impossible-for-any-teenage-boy-to-ever-weave-anything-so-intricate spandex and just bloody well get on with it.

The emotional ‘toil’ of this charming, quick-witted, handsome, athletic, intelligent adolescent wore a bit thin a decade ago. Retracing these steps (at the expense of anything resembling an action sequence) seems a dependable way to piss an audience off.

It’s not until Dr Curt Connors’ (Rhys Ifans) ill-fated bid to restore his right arm with reptilian genes that The Amazing Spider-Man kicks into gear, finally standing apart as its own chronicle rather than a trendy revamp.

But by then the damage is done.

And for every fresh innovation, every frightened boy encouraged to rescue himself from a flaming vehicle, every secret revealed to a wonderfully mature, competent girlfriend there is the obligatory scene of a newly augmented Parker turning the tables on his bullies or New Yorkers aiding their friendly neighbourhood vigilante.

Rather than doing the sensible thing and running for their lives!

And don’t get me started on how often the R word is bandied about.

FYI Sony Pictures – Synonyms for Responsibility: Accountability, duty, obligation…

On its own merits, The Amazing Spider-Man is a heartfelt blockbuster and an impressive accomplishment for director Marc Webb.

It illuminates how comic book films, because of not in spite of their origins, boast nuanced character and emotional turmoil to compliment well crafted gags and spectacular fights involving a high school, a red and blue spandexed acrobat and a nine-foot-lizard-man-dinosaur-thing!

But one cannot entitle a work ‘The Amazing Spider-Man’ without inviting certain comparisons.

Chances are, if you are in any way excited for Spidey’s latest outing, you’ve seen at least some of the previous trilogy.

Should you fall into this category take heed: You’ll be impressed by Garfield, you’ll fall in love with Stone and the Lizard’s wall crunching, truck flipping set pieces (albeit unpardonably brief) entertain on a level paralleling Spiderman 2’s now legendary Doc Ock/Spidey slugfests.

But nonetheless, that spidey sense will tingle.

You may not have seen nor heard ALL of this before. But there’ll be enough unshakable familiarity to mar what should have been a hip, sensitive, spectacular and above all unique Spider-Man film.

But hey! It could be much, MUCH worse.

It could be Spider-Man 3….

Jack McGlynn

Rated 12A (see IFCO website for details)
136m 03s
The Amazing Spider-Man is released on 3rd July 2012

The Amazing Spider-Man – Official Website

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_XayxMPrUP4

Share

Cinema Review: Anonymous

You can't get in. You're bard.

DIR: Roland Emmerich • WRI: John Orloff • PRO: Larry Franco, Roland Emmerich, Robert Leger, John Orloff, Marc Weigert • ED: Peter Adam • DOP: Anna Foerster • DES: Sebastian Krawinkel • CAST: Rhys Ifans, Vanessa Redgrave, David Thewlis, Sebastian Armesto

There are some directors whose work will always go before them. Whether it’s their visual effects, their style of direction, their output, it takes a certain courage to go completely in the opposite direction and defy what’s expected from them. Roland Emmerich is a director known for massive set-pieces with huge special effects and very little subtlety. Some may even describe him as a European Michael Bay. To take on a script that focuses on the final days of the Tudor dynasty and the authorship of Shakespeare’s plays is absolutely baffling – and yet here we are.

The story takes place, as mentioned, in Elizabethan England and follows the intrigue and political machinations surrounding the succession of Elizabeth I. However, parallel to this, is the story of the birth of modern theatre. The whole film is something of a love letter to ‘Shakespeare’s’ work and the film does a good job of making it seem relevant – both in terms of the story and for the audience watching. The cast is filled with notable Shakesperean actors such as Vanessa Redgrave, David Thewlis, Derek Jacobi and more and it’s them that give this film the weight it needs to be somewhat credible. The very idea of Roland Emmerich attempting something like this without these actors backing him up is laughable – and it’s them that deserve the most credit for this film.

Throughout the film, you can see that Emmerich is desperately restraining himself and trying to fit his visual style into what could have been something completely different in the hands of a director. Indeed, the film itself is a bit confused. In one respect, it’s trying to be a historical film – carefully laying out its viewpoints and backing them up with fact and so forth. In another, it’s trying to be a swashbuckler/period thriller – all court intrigue and muskets. In another breath still, it’s a melodrama. Unfortunately, it becomes muddled and can’t settle down to one particular train of thought. The screenplay is magnificent and Rhys Ifans does a spectacular job in his role, likewise Natasha Richardson and Vanessa Redgrave both display Elizabeth’s mercurial nature without giving in to the lure of playing her as a tempermental shrew.

If this screenplay was given to a different director who had more experience working with this kind of material, there’s a good chance this film would be more than what it is. The varying elements of the script could have done with more refinement by the director. In other words, he should have picked a style and focused on that, rather than trying to fit every aspect of what the script entailed. It’s a missed opportunity in that Roland Emmerich is so woefully unskilled at making films with this amount of depth and substance. He might be trying to for a new direction and that’s fine. This is a decent first attempt – however, this script feels like it could have been something spectacular in the hands of a more gifted director than he.

Brian Lloyd

Rated 12A (see IFCO website for details)
Anonymous released on 28th October 2011

Anonymous – Official Website

Share

Greenberg

Greenberg

DIR: Noah Baumbach • WRI: Noah Baumbach, Jennifer Jason Leigh • PRO: Jennifer Jason Leigh, Scott Rudin • DOP: Harris Savides • ED: Tim Streeto • DES: Ford Wheeler • CAST: Ben Stiller, Greta Gerwig, Rhys Ifans, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Chris Messina, Brie Larson, Juno Temple

After the incisive The Squid and the Whale and the less warmly received but equally brilliant Margot at the Wedding, it seemed that Noah Baumbach was on something of a roll this past decade. Unfortunately Greenberg grinds him to a complete halt – it’s a film as low-key and lifeless as its central character – a failed musician and middle-aged slacker, recently discharged from a psychiatric ward, whose sole purpose in life now is to do nothing – hardly the stuff of cinematic gold.

Roger Greenberg, played by an almost inanimate Ben Stiller, is house-sitting for his brother for six weeks in LA, spending his days building a house for their dog and writing letters of complaint to big corporations. During this time he catches up with old friends and also meets his brother’s eager personal assistant – a young woman named Florence, played by fresh-faced Greta Gerwig in a wonderfully natural turn. She counters all of Greenberg’s jaded cynicism with ditzy charm and a slight lack of self-esteem evidenced by how easily she falls for him. Why a young woman as attractive and seemingly intelligent as Florence would be drawn to this loser is a mystery never questioned in the film – the audience is expected to watch this queasy sort of reluctant romance unfold, very slowly and without much consequence.

The film’s story was devised by Baumbach and his wife, Jennifer Jason Leigh, who also plays a brief role as Greenberg’s ex-girlfriend in the film. Unfortunately, there’s not much to it – nothing to really to drive the film forward – neither the inexplicable central relationship nor the irrelevant illness of Greenberg’s brother’s dog. Perhaps this is intentional, to underline Greenberg’s inertia; the majority of the shots in the film are static and observational – but without much action to observe it starts to feel very lethargic.

There are some highlights. In a droll exchange with his former bandmate Ivan Schrank, played by Rhys Ifans, Schrank recalls the old adage ‘Youth is wasted on the young’, to which Greenberg replies, ‘I’d go further, I’d go life is wasted on…people’ – one of the few really funny lines in the film, basically summing up the message of the movie. When Greenberg’s niece returns home and throws a house party, it lands Greenberg in a room full of 20-something scenesters – he clashes with the modern generation of youth, cementing his belief that he’s completely out of touch with the world.

Ultimately this is a film about the disappointments in life, the regrets this rather reprehensible character has. There’s not much offered in terms of a resolution, or even a series of events leading up to one. Full of bitter exchanges and misunderstandings, it ultimately feels like a waste of time – Gerwig’s performance being one of the few bright spots. Perhaps it’s a cautionary tale to anyone whose life is lacking in direction, but hardly a satisfying way to kill two hours in the cinema.

Eoghan McQuinn

Rated 16 (see IFCO website for details)
Greenberg
is released on 11th June 2010

Greenberg Official Website

Share