Maps to the Stars

mapstothestars

 

DIRDavid Cronenberg  WRI: Bruce Wagner  PRO: Saïd Ben Saïd, Martin Katz, Michel Merkt  DOP: Peter Suschitzky  ED: Ronald Sanders  DES: Carol Spier  MUS: Howard Shore  CAST: Julianne Moore, Mia Wasikowska, Olivia Williams, Sarah Gadon, John Cusack, Robert Pattinson 

David Cronenberg has built his career on shock, but what happens when he chooses a subject that not only is unable to shock audiences, but is also so mundane that it is available to us through a simple finger tip to our phones? The subject matter of which I speak is the sordid social fabric of Tinseltown, Hollywood, U.S.A., which Cronenberg and screenwriter Bruce Wagner tackle in Maps to the Stars.

Well, they don’t exactly tackle this notion of Hollywood lifestyle as much as they give us a glimpse of what we already know via the constant bombardment of social media and sleaze journalism. Maps delves into the nooks and crannies of Hollywood and some of its unsavory characters. A society where status, age and looks are constantly scrutinized, where movie stars refer to their maids as “chore whores” and everybody hides under a mound of drugs.

Yes, it does sound like a delightful scandalous romp of excess and maniacal nihilism, and it possibly could have been some odd twenty years ago, however, this generation’s savvy cynicism preempts this sort of behavior. We are living in an age, where celebrities’ personal lives are on display 24/7 for the universe to criticize. The Justin Biebers, Lindsay Lohan’s and Kanye Kardashian’s of this world have already been crucified on a daily basis. With all this in mind, one might find Maps to the Stars a tad stale and its characters are all too easy to hate. The audience should have to work and debate in a satire of this magnitude, not enter the theatre knowing whom the scumbag is then leaving with the same opinion in tact.

However, Maps to the Stars is not your regular classical narrative structure. It’s a surreal feature that attempts to portray the nightmare disguised by the glitz and glamour of the business. The question isn’t “is it surreal?” The question is “is it surreal enough?”. We get the sense that Maps to the Stars doesn’t quite know what it is. It possesses a strong sense of realism through its great performances and violence, but it throws in a ghost or two to hint a supernatural element. The most stylistic audacious movie of this kind of genre was David Lynch’s Mulholland Drive, which was complete other world of mind-fuckery in itself. At the end of Mulholland Drive you couldn’t fathom what the hell actually happened, but you enjoyed the ride nonetheless. However, with Maps to the Stars you might not have entirely understood what went on, but you didn’t really care either.

Some may argue that with today’s online social paparazzi, a movie like this may seem redundant. It’s true that our post modern, nonchalant barriers are hard to penetrate, but maybe if we are shown the flipside of the coin, a celebrity superstar’s POV of the TMZ parasites and abuse from trolls hiding behind the comfort of their computer screens. We’re not good; we just know how to hide.

Cronenberg’s incredible vision and creativity is on a higher plateau than this. His gift has always been producing original and wild fictional worlds that no one but he could invent. With Maps to the Stars he has given us a film we can just swipe to the side like another tabloid story hurdling down the endless information highway.

Cormac O’Meara

18 (See IFCO for details)

111 minutes

Maps to the Stars is released 26th September 2014

Maps to the Stars – Official Website

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

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The Rover

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DIR/WRI: David Michô PRO: David Linde, David Michôd,Liz Watts • DOP: Natasha Braier  ED: Peter Sciberras DES: Josephine Ford  MUS: Antony Partos  CAST: Guy Pearce, Robert Pattinson, Scoot McNairy

In a world bereft of new Twilight films, anything that Robert Pattinson does is going to be looked at, and he couldn’t have gone further (in almost every way) in this film, which is set in a desolate, dilapidated Australia “ten years after the collapse” and begins with grubby Eric (Guy Pearce) driving across the dusty, deserted land. We don’t know where he’s going or why, but his eyes are fixed in a thousand yard stare and only just register signs of life when his car is stolen outside a lonely bar.

After revving the thieves abandoned truck out of the ditch it landed in when it crashed, he gives chase. The injured Henry (Scoot McNairy) and his two scavenger friends can’t believe it, and even when they pepper the truck with bullets and come to a halt, standing off like cowboys on the road, Eric vows that he won’t stop following them until they give his car back.

Elsewhere, a shot and bleeding Rey (Pattinson) clambers into a dying soldier’s Hummer and sets off along the road. He’s chasing after Henry too; he was a member of the gang and got left behind for dead when things went wrong.

Eric comes to and gets back into the truck, then stops at every bizarre roadside shack looking for information – and to buy a gun. Now the killing begins. Back outside, Rey appears and unwittingly asks Eric where he got Henry’s truck from; now Eric has a way to get his car back, though first he has to get Rey patched up at the house of a bush doctor (Susan Prior).

As they drive, drive, drive, Eric says little and seems to care even less, while the seemingly slow-witted Rey struggles with being left behind. Sleeping under the stars, they’re soon on the run from the army too as they make for the small town where the gang was due to lay low…

Owing a great deal to Westerns, the legacy of Mad Max – and the often-forced quirkiness of David Lynch too – this rather frustrating but compelling film is held together by excellent performances from the leads. Pearce – his shoulder hunched, his eyes looking exhausted and his mind as focused as a psychopaths – is as intense as the ruined country he now lives in, while Pattinson is a revelation, a mass of ticks and confusion as he heavy-breathes and tries to come to terms with not only his sibling betrayal, but the fact his only source of hope is a man unconcerned with humanity.

The shoot took place in sweltering and isolated spots of Australia, and it certainly did its job: you’re always itching for a shower. The countless supporting characters – many of them local people and all of them shouldering rifles – look so drawn and wild that they could easily fit into the world of JRR Tolkien.

But it’s relentlessly grim, violent stuff, and the long stretches of time when we simply follow the car or Eric sits in silence while Rey tries desperately to make a connection, the pair of them seeming like Lennie and George from Of Mice and Men, can get very tiresome.

There are some major self-serving logic problems too; it’s unbelievable that Henry’s truck is drivable after the crash we see – let alone that they leave it by the unconscious Eric after he’s just said he’d never stop chasing them – and as thieves it’s inconceivable that they wouldn’t bother to look in the boot, or at least siphon out the precious petrol.

Eric never seems to want for water or food either – though he almost seems like he doesn’t need it – and the thing that was in his car? Well, I’ll leave it to you to decide whether – and why – it was worth it all the dead bodies.

 

James Bartlett

16 (See IFCO for details)
102 mins

The Rover is released on 15th August 2014

The Rover  – Official Website

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ChM2icbWo9w

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Cinema Review: The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 2

DIR: Bill Condon • WRI: Katherine Fugate • PRO: Wyck Godfrey, Stephenie Meyer, Karen Rosenfelt • DOP: Guillermo Navarro • ED: Virginia Katz • DES: Richard Sherman • CAST: Kristen Stewart, Robert Pattinson, Taylor Lautner

The international success of the Twilight saga can be traced back to a single demographic – teenagers. And their mothers. From its inception, it’s abundantly clear that Twilight is catering to a specific niche market that enjoys poorly constructed stories involving teenage angst, one-dimensional characters and weak plots. It had vaguely promising beginnings with Catherine Hardwicke – she of Lords of Dogtown / Thirteen fame. But now, in its fifth and final film, the magic has well and truly worn off. The story follows on from Breaking Dawn, Part 1 and let us be clear from the start – you need to have seen it in order to know what’s going on. No true explanation is given to goings on or events throughout the film. It’s simply understood that the viewer has seen the previous films, is aware of the canon and can follow the story. Unfortunately, this serves as one of many stumbling blocks to watching the film as key scenes and subplots hinge on specific knowledge of the previous films. As such, there’s a good two-fifths of the film that is baffling to the uninitiated.

Robert Pattinson and Kristen Stewart have clearly moved on from Twilight and the poor script. Those who’ve seen Cosmopolis and On The Road will know that, when given decent material, both actors manage to amp up their efforts and abilities. Here, both of them look listless and bored – very clearly phoning in the performances as part of a contractual obligation. Taylor Lautner, who is very clearly this generation’s Keanu Reeves, gives a ‘spirited’ performance but ultimately ends up falling flat. Michael Sheen, playing Volturi leader Aro, looks like an idiot. Hamming it up in every scene under two and a half inches of make-up, it’s a little depressing to see an actor of his calibre slumming it in this affair. Likewise, Lee Pace, Dakota Fanning, Maggie Grace and Rami Malek all work their roles with sufficient effort but come off looking the worse for it. Bill Condon’s direction is tame and boring, failing to put any kind of individual stamp on the film and makes it feel more like a TV movie instead of a tentpole franchise. The CGI throughout the film is laughable at best, particularly the scenes involving the love-child between Pattinson and Stewart. The ‘immortal child’, Renesme, is straight out of the Uncanny Valley and is genuinely unsettling to watch. Overall, Breaking Dawn, Part 2 is a laughable excuse of a film. Regardless of critical reaction, the film will do huge business and close off the franchise for the next ten years.
Brian Lloyd

Rated 12A (see IFCO website for details)
The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 2 is released on 16th November 2012

The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 2 – Official Website

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Cinema Review: Cosmopolis

 

DIR/WRI: David Cronenberg • PRO: Paulo Branco • DOP: Peter Suschitzky • ED: Ronald Sanders • Cast: Robert Pattinson, Jay Baruchel, Juliette Binoche, Kevin Durand

David Cronenberg’s decade-long run of reality-grounded character dramas has come to an end following his last venture, the disappointingly sterile A Dangerous Method. His latest, Cosmopolis, feels more like a film from the director of Videodrome and Crash than anything since the 1990s, but is this shift back towards his roots one for the better?

Um… yes?

Based on the 2003 novel by Don DeLillo about a corporate high-roller’s disassociation from reality, Cronenberg’s film could be seen to be more relevant in a world in recession, post-Occupy Wall Street, than its source material.

Robert Pattinson stars as Eric Packer, a 28-year-old magnate travelling across New York City in his fortress-like stretch limo, just to get a haircut. A fan of routine, nothing will stop him from getting his hair cut at the barbers where he has always got his hair cut; even as fate conjures all the traffic-halting forces it can to prevent him from reaching his destination. A presidential visit, a funeral march for rap star, and an apocalyptic anti-capitalism protest keep this finance-themed Waiting for Godot from reaching its destination.

Along the way Packer engages in corporate back-and-forths with his underlings (amongst them Jay Baruchel’s financial wünderkind, Samantha Morton’s top adviser and Juliette Binoche’s art expert), all of whom he summons to his limo-cum-office, while making time for various sexual encounters and even undergoing his paranoia-induced daily prostate exam. He also finds time to squeeze in meetings with his already-estranged new wife Elise (Sarah Gadon). But as these run-ins become less polite and the markets begin to tumble, Packer’s mindset becomes dangerously self-destructive.

Largely set within Packer’s high-tech iLimo, there’s a very stagey feel to proceedings; dialogue is adeptly scripted but highly self-aware, and much of the film feels like a play imperfectly adapted. Pattinson is strong in the lead role, carrying the dignity of a reckless, self-made man and the madness of a man about to lose it all. But at times it feels too much like he is delivering lines unnaturally, performing the character’s more bizarre decisions without the necessary certainty – a fault with the complex story perhaps more so than with Pattinson himself. The cast is strong across the board, especially Morton and an enjoyably hammy Kevin Durand as Packer’s head of security. A last-minute appearance by Paul Giamatti in a very Paul Giamatti role feels a little too easy, but he fits the character fine.

Cronenberg fans may be a little disappointed that it is not quite the mind-bender anticipated, although there are plenty of Cronenbergian touches. The fetishisation of technology, especially the limousine itself, echoes back to Crash. While not made of biological matter like in Videodrome or eXistenZ, Kevin Durand’s personalised, almost en-souled sidearm, feels like a subtle hark back to those most Cronenberg of movies.

The unimpressive effects designed to pass Toronto off as New York take time to get used to, but once you get past that there is plenty to admire, or be horrified by, in Cosmopolis. Some of its longueurs however will frustrate viewers, and the film’s central message of how capitalism controls our lives does not always strike home.

It’s a wildly straight-forward film from Cronenberg, which shows him at his best and worst, but most often at his most middle-of-the-road. Which is, curiously, where this movie is mostly set.

David Neary

Rated 16 (see IFCO website for details)
Cosmopolis is released on 11th June 2012

Cosmopolis – Official Website


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Cinema Review: Bel Ami

DIR: Declan Donnellan Nick Ormerod •  PRO: Uberto Pasolini  •  WRI: Rachel Bennette  • DOP: Stefano Falivene • ED: Gavin Buckley Masahiro Hirakubo • DES: Attilla Kovács• Cast: Robert Pattinson, Christina Ricci, Uma Thurman, Kristin Scott Thomas 
A handsomely made but ultimately soulless excursion Bel Ami as a film, has aspirations above its station, a trait it very much shares with its central protagonist, the opportunistic and wholly unlikeable Georges Duroy .

The story which sees a returning soldier of very little social worth climbing up the ladder of society through seduction and manipulation is mildly diverting at best but in the end it all amounts to very little. Georges successive courting of three high society women, making a cuckold of a few men in the process, are played, respectably, by Christina Ricci, Uma Thurman and Kristin Scott Thomas. These trysts enable his shaky rise to power but as is the way with such things deceit and emotional instability begin to hobble the cause before too long.

Bel Ami is too workmanlike in execution to really engage us, lacking in the wit and sincerity required to keep its premise afloat. Any thrills provided come across as crass and empty, the whole affair playing like the illusion of love the Cad will contrive to work his way into your bed and by the end you feel used by the film in very much the same way. We do not care enough to be swept up in the hedonistic part of Duroy’s journey so why should we then care when it takes a turn for the tragic?

This is a cold and detached film, and it doesn’t give enough either way. You never root for or pity this character. You must simply tolerate him as his rise and fall plays out in a depressingly predictable arc. It’s clear Pattinson is trying here to branch out and leave his teen idol status behind. Those so smitten with him from the Twilight series may at first be excited by the flesh and titillation on display but his character is so vile it won’t be long before they wish him back to teen immortality and pouting over shouting.

No one is going to be ‘Team Georges’ after this. Despite his attempts to carve out a new facet to his acting style there just isn’t enough skill for him to carry it off. His Georges isn’t imposing or menacing, he is petulant and unfeeling and is played in a very pedestrian way. He just doesn’t have the gravitas required for the big emotional releases which emerge in the later stages of the film although he may be crippled by the scripts inability to do justice to the themes it desperately wants to be tackling.

Elsewhere any flickers of life that one can attribute to the film must be credited to the triumvirate of the female performances. Scott Thomas is given a thankless role as the most shamelessly besotted of his conquests, her character goes from barely there to histrionic bluster in an implausibly short time. That is another criticism that must be levelled at the film, everything happens at an indecent haste. While I’m delighted the film is relatively short, the rush of events seems quite unlikely, his initial encounters speed by quickly, alliances forged, attractions made before we’ve gotten to know anyone. This adds to the sense that we never get to see Georges revel in his success at any point as we don’t believe in any of the core relationships.

Uma Thurman puts in a fine performance as the most complex of the women he deals with but again it is very difficult to invest in their union. While Thurman is the lynchpin acting wise Ricci puts in a truly luminous performance and is the only character the viewer can approach with affection and empathy. Its period trappings are well mounted and the whole thing has an authenticity in that regard, it’s just a shame there’s such a vacuum at its rotten core.

Emmet O’Brien
Rated 16 (see IFCO website for details)
Bel Ami is released on 9th March 2012

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Water For Elephants

Water for Elephants

DIR: Francis Lawrence • WRI: Richard LaGravenese, Sara Gruen •  PRO: Gil Netter, Erwin Stoff, Andrew R. Tennenbaum • DOP: Rodrigo Prieto • ED: Alan Edward Bell • DES: Jack Fisk • Cast: Robert Pattinson, Reese Witherspoon, Christoph Waltz

 

Basically Titanic set in a circus, the story starts with an old-timer telling a stranger about a beautiful woman he fell madly in love with way back when. Unfortunately, she was married to a homicidal maniac, and the entire thing is a foreground for a massive disaster lurking on the horizon.

 

Robert Pattinson is a veterinarian student, who is suddenly without money or a place to live, when he parents are killed in a car accident. He happens upon a train that homes a travelling circus, and he is quickly hired as their in-house (in-tent?) vet. And just as quickly, he falls head over heels for Reese Witherspoon, who is the star of the show, which is owned by her husband Christoph Waltz.

 

The three leads all do well enough with roles they’ve played before; Pattinson is angsty and love struck, Witherspoon is conflicted between lust for this new man and fear of her old one, and Waltz is equal parts charisma and lunacy, with a penchant for throwing people off his train because it’s easier than dealing with the paperwork of firing them.

 

Director Francis Lawrence made his name in the world of music videos (including, yes, Britney Spears’ ‘Circus’), but here he dials back the OTT visuals he brought to Constantine and I Am Legend, and instead serves up something much more old-school, letting the perfectly reimagined 1930’s setting and glorious cinematography wash over you.

 

As a whole, the film is far from great; there are a lot of cheesy lines, and there are more than a few montages dedicated entirely to stolen glances of longing. But when there are lions and tigers and fat ladies and midgets and, of course, that glorious elephant Rosie, that you will fall in love with almost immediately, you can almost forgive any discrepancies in quality. Almost.

 

Rory Cashin

Rated 12A (see IFCO website for details)

Water For Elephants is released on 6th May 2011

Water For Elephants – Official Website

 

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The Twilight Saga: Eclipse

The Twilight Saga: Eclipse

DIR: David Slade • WRI: Melissa Rosenberg • PRO: Wyck Godfrey, Greg Mooradian, Karen Rosenfelt • DOP: Javier Aguirresarobe • ED: Art Jones, Nancy Richardson • DES: Paul D. Austerberry • CAST: Kristen Stewart, Robert Pattinson, Taylor Lautner, Xavier Samuel

Eclipse is the third instalment of The Twilight Saga, a series of four fantasy/horror/romance novels by Stephenie Meyer. Melissa Rosenberg, who has written some episodes of Dexter, writes all the screenplays. You must see the first two films before watching Eclipse. I sat down recently to watch Twilight and New Moon for the first time to prepare myself. The fundamental flaw of the Twilight films is the pacing, which often meanders. They all need alot of editing. Sometimes when you think back it is hard to work out which film is which. Twilight (2008) was made for $37 million, New Moon (2009) for $50 million and Eclipse (2010) for $65 million. The bigger the budget, the louder the film and the more special effects are substituted for storyline, which never works. The flashbacks to the origins of the some of the Cullen family are bit distracting to say the least, not to mention the soppy and overused music score throughout. There are some one-liners, which were not there in the first two films.

We return to Bella (Kristen Stewart) an 18-year-old high school student and Edward (Robert Pattinson) a 109-year-old vampire in the body of a 17-year-old. The majority, if not the entire cast are still with us. Bella’s father Chief Charlie Swan (Billy Burke) Alice Cullen (Ashley Greene) Dr. Carlisle Cullen (Peter Facinelli) and of course the human werewolf Jacob Black (Taylor Lautner) to name but a few. Bella is graduating from high school and so is Edward (for the 83rd time!). Edward’s group of vampires and Jacob’s group of werewolves join forces to protect Bella from the evil forces of Victoria, a vampire out for revenge since the first film. Bryce Dallas Howard, who replaces Rachelle Lefevre from the first two films, plays Victoria. Bella must decide who she loves more, Edward or Jacob.

A miscast Dakota Fanning returns as Jane, a guard of the Italian vampire coven known as ‘Volturi’. Stewart, Pattinson and Lautner get by with their roles. Stewart’s lack of facial expressions can look a bit off. But, she gets away with it. Pattinson’s American accent isn’t bad at all. Lautner has fun having his shirt off most of the time! I wonder where these stars will be in ten years – like Harry Potter there is only one film left with two parts. Who knows how seriously they will all be taken after the signature roles are over.

Although Eclipse is slow and dull at times like all of the Twilight films, it is an acceptable fantasy/horror/romance blockbuster, which will continue to wow its target audience. However, if you look back at Twilight, New Moon and Eclipse you’ll realise that not a lot happens and it happens very slowly.

Peter Larkin

Rated 12A (see IFCO website for details)
The Twilight Saga: Eclipse
is released on 9th July 2010

The Twilight Saga: Eclipse Official Website

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