Review: Rings

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DIR: F.Javier Gutierrez • WRI: David Loucka, Jacob Estes, Akiva Goldsman • PRO: Laurie MacDonald, Walter F. Parkes • DOP: Sharone Meir • ED: Steve Mirkovich, Jeremiah O’Driscoll • DES: Kevin Kavanaugh • MUS: Matthew Margeson • CAST: Matilda Lutz, Alex Roe, Johnny Galecki, Vincent D’Onofrio, Aimee Teegarden, Bonnie Morgan

Set thirteen years after the events of first of the American Ring films, Rings is focused primarily on teenager Julia, played by Matilda Lutz and her boyfriend Holt, played by Alex Roe. When Holt goes off to college and suddenly disappears, Julia sets off after him to find out where he’s been and uncovers a dark secret linking Holt to the mysterious video which kills anyone who watches it after seven days. After that, the plot pretty neatly imitates its predecessors, following clues and images in the video to track down answers and attempt to bring the spirit Samara’s evil to an end once and for all. However, while it may follow the formula of the earlier films, it doesn’t quite capture the suspense and psychological impact of them.

Rings attempts to expand Samara’s story, adding to her history and her motivation, though it ultimately feels like a pale imitation of everything that came before. The lead couple don’t manage to bring any substance to their story and Matilda Lutz occasionally seems too focused on getting her American accent just right, often failing to make her performance believable or engaging. Vincent D’Onofrio, who has received wide acclaim for his role in Netflix’s Daredevil series performs well as a blind groundskeeper with answers to Samara’s past. Perhaps surprisingly, it’s Johnny Galecki, of The Big Bang Theory fame who gives the most interesting and believable performance as Holt’s biology professor who quickly becomes fascinated with Samara’s video and what it may mean for understanding life and death. Aside from this, character motivations are baffling and unnatural and it’s ultimately very hard to care about who lives or dies.

The plot is, at best, confused. Time jumps forward awkwardly, first two years after the opening scene, then a month and a half later, before focusing on, as you might expect, seven days for the remainder of the film. At its worst, the film alternates between being unfortunately bland and fairly predictable jump-scares. Perhaps the most surprising thing about the film is that it definitely isn’t what its misleading trailers set it up to be. This is not The Ring loose on the worldwide web, taking humanity down through Youtube. Instead it’s a shoddy imitation of the original, minus the originality and atmosphere that made the series so noteworthy. Plot twists abound, but rarely hold up to scrutiny and, despite the sheer number of times that smartphones are clearly shown on screen, characters can’t seem to remember that they exist whenever they’d be of any use.

Rings is not a film to watch if you’re looking for a scare and it doesn’t really fall into the enjoyably bad or cheesy vein of horror either. It’s a limp, forgettable and entirely unnecessary epilogue to a much better story. Watching this film won’t kill you, but there’s a good chance it won’t entertain or frighten you too much either.

Ronan Daly

102 minutes

Rings Loving is released 3rd February 2017

Rings – Official Website

 

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Review: Friend Request

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DIR: Simon Verhoeven • WRI: Matthew Ballen, Philip Koch, Simon Verhoeven • PRO: Quirin Berg, Max Wiedemann • DOP: Jo Heim • ED: Denis Bachter, Felix Schmerbeck, Tom Seil • DES: Sylvain Gingras, Tommy Stark• MUS: Gary Go • CAST: Alycia Debnam Carey, William Moseley, Connor Paulo, Brit Morgan, Sean Marquette

 

Friend Request starts off with a college lecture hall and a psychology class about to continue their coverage of foreshadowing, I mean, the dangers of internet-addiction, when their professor makes the sad announcement that one of their fellow classmates, Marina Mills, has taken her own life over the weekend and the camera pans in on popular girl Laura’s shocked reaction before panning back to two weeks earlier.

We quickly learn of Laura’s overwhelming general happiness, her biggest problem being “too many friends”. Marina, the strange loner in class, seems to take a liking to her and adds Laura on Facebook. Laura is a little worried by the fact that Marina has been active on Facebook for a long time but has no other friends, but decides to accept her anyway. Marina is a talented, dark artist with gothic pictures and videos all over her timeline. When Marina starts to become obsessed with Laura’s every move, Laura pulls away and eventually, unfriends her, which leads to… well, let’s just say that this brings us about two weeks into the initial flashback.

While Laura is pretty freaked out by Marina’s death, things become far creepier when the video of Marina’s suicide shows up on Laura’s Facebook profile and she continues to receive messages and visions from the dead girl. Worse still, Marina’s Facebook accounts adds Laura’s friends, one at a time, before killing them off and continues to post a video of each death from Laura’s profile, alienating her from her online friends who think she’s enjoying the tragedies.

In a pretty unlikely turn of events, and I say that freely while describing a film about a haunted Facebook account, Marina’s body was never found, with the only evidence of her death being the video left behind, while nobody seems to consider for a moment that the girl who created disturbing videos as her only pastime might have been able to make a fake suicide video. Nope, instead the police adopt an incredibly lax, “let us know if anyone stumbles across her body” attitude, while accusing Laura of being sadistic every time a video is posted on her feed and reacting like they’ve never heard of the concept of hacking every time she claims someone else is doing it. Laura and her ever-diminishing group of close friends try to track down the resting place of Marina’s body to try to put an end to the curse. The plot is more or less a paint-by-numbers composite of Carrie, Unfriended and Final Destination.

There isn’t a lot to say about this film. The concept could have been made into something creepy but every opportunity for something haunting is thrown away on the loud-noise jump-scare device, seemingly without a second thought. There can be something to be said for using bland characters in horror films as they can stand as placeholders for the audience to project themselves onto, but in this case it misses the mark. Characters don’t develop far beyond the following characteristics: Laura – the main one, Marina – less charming Wednesday Addams, Friend A – is single, Friend B – has a boyfriend, Friend B’s boyfriend – is chubby and makes wisecracks, Laura’s boyfriend – dreamy medical student, computer-geek Kobe – we know he likes Laura because it’s mentioned twice and we see him look at her twice, (he’s also the only person to think critically about their situation in the whole movie), Cop A – is serious and apparently not very good at his job, Cop B – makes three very poorly timed jokes and is definitely not very good at his job.

Now, I know that a horror movie has other things to focus on rather than character development but when it’s impossible to care about any of the characters at all, each murder scene is just a countdown to another jump-scare with no stakes in the outcome. You might jump, but you probably won’t care.

The one thing that I will say in this film’s defence is that it has some very strong visual elements. These are nicely applied to transition shots as well as subtle motifs and “did I see that” moments in the background, and it can be genuinely disturbing in examples like Marina’s art, when it’s not just going for scary face close-ups. The CGI is a little lacking in some swarm-related shots, but it delivers pretty well overall.

All in all, there really isn’t anything new in this film. Rather, it’s a very standard horror film which attempts to be modern by incorporating social media deeply into its lack-of-plot. Unfortunately, even the use of social media as the medium for haunting isn’t original at this stage and this movie will most likely be forgotten by the time Facebook launches its next update.

Ronan Daly

91 minutes
15A (See IFCO for details)

Friend Request is released 22nd April 2016

Friend Request – Official Website

 

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Review: Kung Fu Panda 3

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DIR: Jennifer Yuh Nelson, Alessandro Carloni • WRI: Jonathan Aibel, Glenn Berger, Veronika Franz • PRO: Melissa Cobb • DOP: Martin Gschlacht • ED: Clare De Chenu • MUS: Olga Neuwirth • DES: Raymond Zibach • MUS: Hans Zimmer • CAST: Jack Black, Dustin Hoffman, J.K. Simmons, Bryan Cranston, Angelina Jolie, Jackie Chan, Lucy Liu, Seth Rogen, David Cross, Randall Duk Kim

 

Five years after Kung Fu Panda 2 showed the world that a peacock could be intimidating if it was voiced by Gary Oldman, the loveable kung fu fanatic, Po (voiced by Jack Black) is back for the third instalment.

The film begins with Master Oogway (Duk Kim), who floated off this plane of existence in the first film, enjoying the tranquillity of the afterlife until he’s confronted by a foe from 500 years in his past. This warrior, Kai (Simmons) has been working his way around the spirit world, draining kung-fu masters of their spiritual energy and, upon doing the same to Oogway, has enough power to make his way to the world of the living to destroy everything that Oogway believed in.

Meanwhile, Po has a pretty eventful day, in the morning his master, Shifu, appoints him as the new master and teacher of his friends and idols, the Furious Five and in the afternoon he happens to run into his birth-father (Cranston), long thought to be dead. More surprising still, Po’s father comes from a hidden village of pandas which survived the campaign to exterminate them revealed in the second film. While Kai begins carving his way through all of the kung fu masters in China, Po finds that the key to defeating him may well lie in reconciling his new role of teacher and the new community that he finds himself a part of.

It pretty much goes without saying that a good children’s film these days will be able to appeal as much to adults as to kids. This is definitely the case here. While there’s still the strong physical humour and a busload of silly new characters, there’s a depth to plot that adults should be able to appreciate. The film carries on with some of the darker plot elements from the second film and, while it does employ the “adopted parent is jealous of the birth parent” trope that’s been seen in virtually any medium where someone finds out they’re adopted and there are certainly an abundance of the tiny cute panda babies that are on all the promotional posters, it refuses to get complacent. Yes there are cute little kids running around, but when the time comes for the big climactic fight, you won’t see them playing peek-a-boo or biting a bad guy’s tail or any other such clichés and any turbulence between Po’s two fathers is resolved in a pretty sensible manner, free from any misunderstandings of overheard conversation or manipulative undermining of each other.

If there’s one fault with the film which really stands outs, it’s that it could probably stand to be longer. The film takes its time nicely in establishing the conflict and Po’s heritage, but the result is that the second act spent in the panda village is pretty rushed. This means that some running gags run through their entire lifespan in twenty five minutes or so, making it seem more like someone forgot they did the same joke three times than a well laid out pattern.

As with the other films, this one carries its fair share of heart and emotional revelations, which again manage to avoid seeming contrived, even when you know they’re coming. The animation is sterling, as always, and it’s lost its predecessors unfortunate habit of overusing slow-motion, letting the kung fu action be impressive without feeling the need to beat audiences over the head with it.

It’s easy for the third instalment in a series to try to coast on the success and reputation of its prequels, but Kung Fu Panda 3 doesn’t even attempt this. Building on character development and plot points from the first two films, this story manages to feel both like a complete tale in and of itself and like the successful continuation of one story. While it would be a much better idea to go into this film having seen the first two, there’s just enough light exposition to let viewers guess more or less what they need to know. Word has it that Dreamworks is planning to make Kung Fu Panda a six-part series, but if it was to finish as a trilogy, this film is about a strong an ending as we could hope for.

  Ronan Daly

95 minutes

PG (See IFCO for details)

Kung Fu Panda 3 is released 11th March 2016

Kung Fu Panda 3 – Official Website

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Review: The Martian

the-martian

DIR: Ridley Scott • WRI: Drew Goddard • PRO: Simon Kinberg, Ridley Scott,  Michael Schaefer, Aditya Sood, Mark Huffam • DOP: Dariusz Wolski • ED: Pietro Scalia • MUS: Lorne Balfe • DES: Arthur Max • MUS: Harry Gregson-Williams • CAST: Matt Damon, Jessica Chastain, Kristen Wiig, Jeff Daniels, Michael Peña, Kate Mara, Sean Bean, Sebastian Stan, Aksel Hennie, Donald Glover, Chiwetel Ejiofor

When a violent sandstorm forces a team of astronauts to cut short their mission to Mars, one of their number is hit by a large piece of equipment and lost in the storm. With no time to search, his crewmates are forced to assume that he’s dead and take off for Earth without him. Luckily, or perhaps anything but luckily, Mark Watney (Matt Damon) is very much alive, though his situation doesn’t look too good. With the crew’s living quarters and food supply still intact, Watney is able to take shelter and tend to his own injuries, but without the means to signal his crew or anyone on Earth, his survival in the long term becomes much less certain.

Left with enough food and water for several months, Watney knows that the next planned trip to Mars isn’t scheduled to arrive for another four years and sets about trying to grow his own food and make contact with the people of Earth. With only television shows, his own video journal and an unfortunately disco-heavy music collection for company, Watney’s hopes for ever seeing another human soul, or living past a year rest entirely on his own resourcefulness and tenacity, or to put it in his own words “In the face of overwhelming odds, I’m left with only one option; I’m going to have to science the shit out of this.”

While Watney improvises a home on the surface of Mars, NASA eventually realises that their casualty of exploration is still alive and kicking and the question of whether he can even be saved is soon raised. Once the public catches wind of Watney’s situation, that question gets a very strong answer, but as Watney’s equipment, only intended to last for a few months, starts to give out, the rescue mission starts to look like an utterly lost cause.

At well over two hours, The Martian manages to keep its tension and energy throughout. Damon is superb as Watney, managing to emanate personality and wit while also carrying the terror and isolation of being the only person on the planet and it’s hard not to become completely engrossed in his fight to survive. Meanwhile, a heavyweight cast at Houston and in Watney’s crew manage to capture the desperation of the situation on an entirely different level. In particular, Teddy Sanders, the director of NASA (Jeff Daniels) and Mitch Henderson, the crew’s liaison (Sean Bean) clash over exactly how to go about saving their lost astronaut and whether or not it’s entirely worth it.

The Martian is hardly the first tale of isolation and survival audiences have seen. Perhaps in a world of growing satellite systems and GPS, we’ve lost any sense of awe at the prospect of being stranded on a desert island and so the stakes are presented on a much grander level. The Martian is, at its core, Castaway for the cynical space age, with building a shelter replaced by growing potatoes using one’s own excrement, building a raft replaced with customising a Mars rover and Wilson the volleyball omitted entirely.

While the tale is one we’ve seen before, this film truly captures the scale of being millions of miles from everything you’ve ever known, of being the only person on an entire world and the all too often overlooked importance of having a really good desert island playlist.

Ronan Daly

12A (See IFCO for details)

141 minutes
The Martian is released 2nd October 2015

The Martian – Official Website

 

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Review: Mistress America

DIR: Noah Baumbach • WRI: Noah Baumbach, Greta Gerwig  • PRO: Noah Baumbach, Rodrigo Teixeira, Lila Yacoub • DOP: Sam Levy • ED: Jennifer Lame • DES: Sam Lisenco • MUS: Britta Phillips, Dean Wareham • CAST: Greta Gerwig, Lola Kirke, Heather Lind, Matthew Shear

 

Baumbach and Gerwig once again bring out the charm and disillusionment of young, urban dwelling ‘creative-types’ in their newest collaboration, self-appointed douchebags and all. This feels like a pot already stirred by the real-life couple in 2012’s Frances Ha, but Mistress America stands alone as a comedy ever-dangling on the edge of farcical brilliance.

We meet Tracy (Lola Kirke), a college freshman, whose move to the Big Apple has proved to be more than a little disappointing. Struggling to find her footing in this new environment, and her short story being mercilessly rejected by the school’s prestigious literary club to boot, Tracy finds herself adrift. That is until her mother suggests she contacts her soon-to-be step-sister Brooke (Greta Gerwig), a vivacious 30-year-old who “lives life with purpose”, but without any real sense of direction. Being a little bit directionless herself, Tracy quickly latches onto to Brooke’s seemingly enviable life. She knows the who’s who of New York, she dances on stage with bands, has a rich boyfriend who’s in Greece “betting on the economy or something”, lives in a chic loft apartment (even though it’s technically a commercial space), and jumps from one occupation to another, never stopping to think of her limitations because she has none.

Except, of course, that she does.

Brooke’s dreams are pinned on opening her own family-restaurant-cum-community-space in Williamsburg, where she believes she’ll finally find her niche in life. Having left her twenties with the realisation that none of her achievements have led to any sort of fulfilment, and with so many aspirations still lingering, Brooke’s hectic lifestyle has begun to catch up with her. In her would-be-step-sister’s personal crisis Tracy finds great material for her newest short story- morally questionable or not. The self-delusion of youth (and specifically, as stated above, ‘creative-types’) is explored throughout the film in a way that many who have dabbled in some form of artistic pursuit can relate to. Tracy, along with her writer friends, long to fit in yet consistently hold themselves apart from others, believing secretly that they have been called to a higher purpose in life than their counterparts. All allusions to pretension or narcissism are brilliantly dismantled, however, in the film’s second act wherein several characters find themselves in Brooke’s ex-fiancés mansion in Connecticut for…reasons. The scenes that subsequently follow are a perfect example of Baumbach’s deft-hand in directing farce and Gerwig’s on-point writing. Beyond doubt, the film’s middle section is what sets it apart from any other works of the same ilk.

But it is Greta Gerwig’s nuanced performance that really makes the film. We’ve all known someone like Brooke in our own lives, for better or worse, and Gerwig plays her with such effortless charm that it’s impossible not to be seduced by her. Brooke is the person we all wish we to be if we could only free ourselves from our inhibitions. Kirke’s turn as Tracy also deserves kudos, managing to both bring across the character’s flaws while keeping her empathetic.

This is an engagingly funny film that grips the audience from the get-go and touches on issues that won’t relate to everyone, but to lot of people at the same time. A must see.

Ellen Murray

15A (See IFCO for details)
84 minutes

Mistress America is released 14th August 2015

Mistress America– Official Website

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Book Review: Fan Phenomena: The Lord of the Rings

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Ronan Daly relaxes in the Shire and leafs through Fan Phenomena: The Lord of the Rings, which  delves into the philosophy of the series and its fans, the distinctions between the films’ fans and the books’ fans, the process of adaptation, and the role of New Zealand in the translation of words to images.

 

We all know that the Lord of the Rings is huge. No, I’m not talking about the hefty weight of the combined literary tomes. I’m not even talking about the marathon length of the (extended or original) cinematic trilogy. The Lord of the Rings is huge in terms of its impact; the adoration that its fans feel, the significance of the films within modern cinema and the fact that it legitimised the fantasy genre, whilst ensuring that all other fantasy films would be forced to live in its shadow.

Fan Phenomena: The Lord of the Rings, edited by Lorna Piatti-Farnell, takes up the daunting challenge of investigating exactly how and why The Lord of the Rings has come to be such a landmark in the worlds of literature, cinema, fantasy and beyond. Remarkably in depth and well researched, this book examines the significance of the differences between text and film and even the importance of fan-films in understanding LOTR in a series of essays by a number of contributors in a very concise and accessible package. Chapters include looks into how different fans celebrate the series worldwide, the roles of women both in fandom and within the books and films, and even an examination into why the more recent Hobbit film trilogy never really stood a chance of living up to the acclaim or popularity of LOTR.

There’s a special focus given to New Zealand in places, both as the filming location for the films, but also in its adopted identity as the “official” site of Hobbiton, the hobbit village, and its status as the Mecca for the majority of Tolkien-themed pilgrimages. This is also contrasted quite astutely with Birmingham, the place of Tolkien’s childhood and therefore the “true” site of veneration for many fans whose love of the series far predates or, perhaps even ignores, the films.

Incredibly respectful to the books and films, and to the fandom, Fan Phenomena feels quite academic at first, but in truth it’s a labour of love, an examination of what makes this series quite so spectacular in the eyes of so many people. Eleven contributors present the world of Middle Earth from all angles, providing insights and background information that may have escaped even a lot of major fans. From behind-the-scenes photos to excerpts from obscure interviews and insider info, this book has really done its homework into the worlds created by Monsieurs Tolkien and Jackson, as well as everything from fan-fiction to video games and Lego adaptations.

For a series with such a diverse following, spanning generations, continents and media, this book does a superb job in bringing the world behind the creation(s) of Middle Earth to life. So, whether you’ve devoured the books and films and just haven’t satisfied your LOTR appetite or you just want to know a little bit more about what makes this series’ following tick, the fine folks at Intellect Books have you in good hands.

 

Paperback: 156 pages

Editor: Lorna Piatti-Farnell

Contributors: Lorna Piatti-Farnell, Alexander Sergeant, Maggie Parke, Joshua Wille, Miguel Angel Perez-Gomez, Emily M. Gray, Cait Coker, Karen Viars, Paul Mountfort, Anna Martin, Abigail G. Scheg

Publisher: Intellect Book

 

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Review: Fantastic Four

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DIR: Josh Trank • WRI: Jeremy Slater, Simon Kinberg, Josh Trank  • PRO: Gregory Goodman, Simon Kinberg, Robert Kulzer. Matthew Vaughn • DOP: Matthew Jensen • ED: Elliot Greenberg, Stephen E. Rivkin • DES: Molly Hughes, Chris Seagers • MUS: Marco Beltrami, Philip Glass • CAST: Miles Teller, Michael B. Jordan, Kate Mara, Jamie Bell, Toby Kebbell, Reg E. Cathey, Tim Blake Nelson

 

Seven years after the last Fantastic Four film, or to put it another way, the maximum amount of time that Fox could stall without losing the rights to the characters, we’re given a reboot of the series with fresh new faces and a new origin story to boot.

Based on the Ultimate Fantastic Four comics, this film sees our would-be heroes preparing to travel, not into outer space, but across dimensions, leading to the accident which imbues them with their marvellous powers… eventually. There’s a serious amount of build up and character development exploring Reed Richards’ (Miles Teller) sense of isolation growing up as the only super genius in town and we’re given some rather briefer glances into Ben Grimm’s (Jamie Bell) early home-life, Victor Von Doom’s (Toby Kebbell) volatile personality, Johnny Storm’s (Michael B. Jordan) rebellious streak and Susan Storm’s (Kate Mara) intellect and discerning nature. Even with the sheer number of superhero origin films over the last couple of decades, it’s rare and refreshing to see so much detail given to who these characters are as people, until you realise that you’re quickly running out of movie. The pre-super powers part of the film takes its sweet time and feels like a richer film, but this makes everything afterwards feel forced and rushed.

When the inevitable happens and things go slightly wrong, leaving our titular characters stretchy, invisible, rocky and fiery, all character development stops and we’re rushed through several defining moments. The plot can be quickly summed up with

1- the government gets involved and tries to control the FF.

2- Reed escapes. The others don’t.

3- Reed returns and they learn to fight as a team in one of the most rushed superhero fights to make it onto the big screen.

Given the saturation of superhero cinema at the moment, it’s a little surprising to see another origin story on the screen, particularly when audiences are generally at least a little familiar with who the Fantastic Four are. While some would argue that seven years is more than enough time for some kids to grow up with no knowledge of the previous Fantastic Four films or media, it’s worth noting that the darker content and occasionally strong language in this film really do appeal to an older audience than its predecessors.

With a truly great cast, this film could have probably benefitted from another forty five minutes to really stretch its legs and give us a different type of superhero film. What we’re left with is something that strives for a thought-provoking character piece about isolation, family, trust and responsibility… and then quickly remembers people will want some explosions and punches and tacks on an underwhelming last-minute fight just so nobody can say it didn’t have one. The obligatory villain, Doom, really feels like a missed opportunity. While visual effects shouldn’t be a major priority in a film like this (and I’d have to actually say that the CGI Thing and Human Torch avoid major issues), there’s something that feels a little cheap about Doom’s slightly plastic mummy-like appearance and there’s no hint of character development leaning towards his turn to supervillain. His character was an ass before becoming a super-powered fiend, but there really isn’t enough time given to explain his plans or motivations for villainy.

Is this film better than the last two Fantastic Four outings? Probably. It’s a more mature and carefully made film, without the camp gags and cheesy lines that plagued the others. Unfortunately, it’s no longer 2007. We’re now living in the post-Avengers age of superhero films and audiences have learned to expect it all; humour, action, style and snappy dialogue. Fantastic Four might be the best film we’ve seen made with these characters, (unless you harbour a secret fondness for the ludicrous 1994 film), but it sacrifices humour for darkness and then almost forgets it’s supposed to be a superhero film at all.

It’s fairly good.

It’s fine.

Fantastic? That might be a stretch.

Ronan Daly

12A (See IFCO for details)
97 minutes

Fantastic Four is released 7th August 2015

Fantastic Four – Official Website

 

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Review: Minions

Minions-2015

DIR: Pierre Coffin, Kyle Balda • WRI:  Brian Lynch • PRO: Janet Healy, Christopher Meledandri  • ED: Claire Dodgson • MUS: Heitor Pereira • Cast: Pierre Coffin, Sandra Bullock, Jon Hamm, Michael Keaton, Allison Janney, Steve Coogan, Geoffrey Rush

 

While Minion’s predecessors Despicable Me and Despicable Me 2 focused on the antics of Gru, the world’s greatest supervillain, this film focuses on, well, you can probably guess. Gru’s beloved little yellow henchmen are the be-all and end-all of this film, in their historic quest to find an evil master worthy of their service.

Things start off with the Minions’ evolution since long before mankind showed up and their insatiable desire to serve the biggest baddest creature around. From giant fish to dinosaurs and, eventually, to humans, the minions manage to mess things up for every master they serve and are forced into exile to live out their days in peace… and total boredom. When enough time passes, the minions are so depressed with their now meaningless lives that three brave/foolish minions, Kevin, Stuart and Bob, venture into the world on a quest to find a new master, and evil, villainous, despicable master.

When the three make their way to America, the year is 1968 and they manage to stumble their way to a supervillain convention where they seek out the most celebrated baddie the ’60s have to offer. The particular brand of the chaos that the minions specialise in follows them everywhere and the film rarely misses an opportunity to throw laughs at its audience.

Now, anyone familiar with the first two films will probably recall that the minions speak in a frenzied blend of different languages and actual gibberish, meaning that a great deal of the story relies on physical comedy and action to move forward. However, that doesn’t mean that this film should be written off as simply silly humour for kids. It’s fantastically silly humour for kids and some really intelligent cultural references and jokes which should sail right over younger heads and make some parents chuckle, if not laugh out loud.

The cast (yep, there’s a cast), includes some wonderful performances by Sandra Bullock as supervillain extraordinaire Scarlet Overkill, Jon Hamm as Herb Overkill, Scarlet’s husband, and Geoffrey Rush as a sombre narrator, with some wonderful cameos by Steve Coogan, and Michael Keaton. It also has to be mentioned that Pierre Coffin also manages to give the best voice performance (for all the Minions) where the words don’t carry any of the meaning since Vin Diesel broke our hearts as a talking tree. The performances all hit the mark and there are really no missteps in terms of story or entertainment. The biggest flaw I could find with this film is that the 3D effects were a little bit hit and miss, occasionally drawing attention away from what was actually happening and making it hard to focus.

The minions were easily the breakout characters from the Despicable Me movies and it would have been easy to tack on any cast and weak story to sell movie tickets and a lot of yellow toys with this film. What we got instead was a clever and hugely entertaining film with a lot of evidence of thought and effort put in. Minions is a film that tries to improve on its successors and, in many respects, it really does.

Ronan Daly

 

G (See IFCO for details)
90 minutes

Minions is released 26th June 2015

Minions– Official Website

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