Review: Poltergeist

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DIR: Gil Kenan • WRI: David Lindsay-Abaire • PRO: Nathan Kahane, Roy Lee, Sam Raimi, Robert G. Tapert • DOP: Javier Aguirresarobe • ED: Jeff Betancourt, Bob Murawski • DES: Kalina Ivanov • MUS: Marc Streitenfeld • CAST: Sam Rockwell, Jared Harris, Rosemarie DeWitt

 

Having not actually seen the 1982 Poltergeist, I was looking forward to attending the reboot with a pair of fresh eyes and no lingering attachment to the original. There was no umbilical cord to wrap around my neck due to some nostalgic obligation to the Spielberg/Hooper classic if expectations weren’t adequate. It was an early screening so I grabbed my coffee and spare undies in case the supernatural antics got a bit too much for me. Suffice to say, I left clean as a whistle without even breaking a sweat. Not one emasculated jump was given and at the end of the day that is the primary function of any horror movie.

 

The new Poltergeist is a contemporary take directed by Gil Kenan. It stars Sam Rockwell as the sarcastic, boozy father and Rosmarie DeWitt as the fretting mother, who have toned down a financial notch by moving into downscale house. They have three children. The adorable little girl, Kennedi Clements, the chicken shit son, Kyle Catlett, and the stubborn teen, Saxon Sharbino. This is a disaster already, without the ghouls. As expected, things go bump in the night and the terror begins. Kenan is premature with the suspense, which would be fine if the big scares actually worked.

 

Sam Raimi produced the film and you can see elements of his technique lending influence, but it lacks any of the spontaneity and speed that Raimi utilises within his own movies.  We never feel like we are in any danger. Kenan nurtures the audience too much, forbidding inventive imagination to leave the nest. For instance, the contemporary setting should give way to a huge amount of frightening possibilities. The poltergeist possess the house’s electric utilities in order to intimidate the family, and even though the new technology is haunted, it is never applied to great effect. We only get a glimpse of an iPhone or a flat screen television acting up, and sure my phone does that every single day anyway. Instead, we get stuffed toy pigs and sinister looking clown dolls going on a rampage as if we didn’t see that fifty years ago.

 

The performance don’t wield our attention either. Rockwell is the only mildly entertaining character, but even the kids don’t make us fear for them. A familiar ensemble of characters come into play in the third act, paranormal investigators and an exorcist (with an atrocious Irish accent), who come to help the family with their electricity problem. This set up was becoming too similar to James Wan’s excellent possession movie The Conjuring, with these ghostbusters bringing their hip new tech gear to try save the day. (Funnily enough, the poltergeist don’t seem to try possess any of those gadgets) The Conjuring depicted how tedious and traumatising the entire process of exorcism really is, whereas Poltergeist makes it seem like a picnic.

 

Poltergeist is a mild PG-13 rated horror film, which is difficult to pull off for sure. But, it wasn’t gore I was searching for, but rather any form of imagination or creativity with the vast amount of possibilities the filmmakers could have taken advantage of in this modern framework. Why not possess an E-Cigarette, the Wii or a George Foreman Grill? I’d pay to see that.

Cormac O’Meara


15A (See IFCO for details)

93 minutes
Poltergeist is released 22nd May 2015

Poltergeist – Official Website

 

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

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Say When

say when

DIR: Lynn Shelton • WRI: Andrea Seigel • PRO: Kevin Scott Frakes, Steve Golin, Alix Madigan, Myles Nestel, Raj Brinder Singh, Rosalie Swedlin • DOP: Benjamin Kasulke • ED: Nat Sanders • DES: John Lavin • MUS: Benjamin Gibbard • CAST: Keira Knightley, Chloë Grace Moretz, Sam Rockwell, Kaitlyn Dever, Jeff Garlin, Ellie Kemper

Growing up is not an easy thing to accept, particularly when all those around you are blazing a trail in their lives and you seem to be looked upon as the unproductive one. This is the main focus of Lynn Shelton’s ninth feature film, as Megan (Keira Knightley) finds herself 28 going on 16. The film is interesting in that it is female-centred in a predominantly male-dominated genre (much like Bridesmaids from 2011).

The film follows Megan, a woman in her late twenties who has simply drifted through life, having all decisions made for her. This is thanks in no small part to the pampering she receives from her father (Jeff Garlin), who still employs her as a sign-holder. One of Megan’s friends is getting married and, while all her other friends have started families and got good jobs, Megan is still more than happy to continue living an uneventful life, and is still with her lovable but dim high school boyfriend Anthony (Mark Webber). However, when he proposes, and she finds her father cheating, Megan’s world is rocked. Her safe haven of a world has been threatened, and she leaves.

In an attempt to recapture her adolescence, she buys alcohol for a group of teenagers, and becomes particularly close with the group’s leader, Annika (Moretz). Telling her boyfriend that she is attending a week-long, self-improvement seminar course, Megan stays in Annika’s to try to come to terms with the fact her fun-fuelled young days are over.

Shelton’s film is solid overall, particularly in the first half. Megan’s conundrum is something everyone can relate to at some point in their lives as the shackles of our ideal younger world are threatened by the looming presence of adulthood. What is undoubtedly the film’s strongest point is the outstanding acting performances by all the cast, particularly Knightley and Moretz. Considering the high-calibre films Knightley has featured in over the past decade, it is amazing how comfortable Moretz is alongside her on-screen, and she gives a truly compelling performance as the younger embodiment of Megan’s personality.

Knightley’s performance is also one of assured quality. She is remarkably suited to the role, and really lets the audience connect with the character. Even when Annika and her friends ask her to buy them alcohol, Megan is unsure as she isn’t comfortable being the older person, rather wanting to be the person having the alcohol bought for them. Another interesting scene is where she pretends to be Annika’s mother (who has left her father) at a teacher meeting and when Annika is being questioned about her ‘plan’, Megan realises she is no better than her.

Unfortunately, the film slightly falls apart in the latter half. Annika’s father (Sam Rockwell) seems unusually comfortable with having a complete stranger over ten years older than his daughter sleeping in her room. The film, while being intelligent in its opening, falls into typical clichés in its second half, and its ending can be predicted a good half an hour before the final credits roll. What promised to be an interesting premise was not built upon, and one really wonders if Megan’s decision at the end has really made her grow up, or will she now just fall back into a comfortable state of affairs again? It makes the viewer feel slightly cheated, but the film is worth it for the acting displays on show.

Alan Shalvey

15A (See IFCO for details)

99 minutes

Say When is released 7th November 2014
Say When – Official Website

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Cinema Review: Seven Psychopaths

DIR/WRI: Martin McDonagh • PRO: Graham Broadbent, Peter Czernin, Martin McDonagh • DOP: Ben Davis • ED: Lisa Gunning • DES: David Wasco • CAST: Christopher Walken, Sam Rockwell, Woody Harrelson, Tom Waits, Colin Farrell

Psychopaths make great movies. Or at least, psychopathic characters make for great movies. Just one psychopath can make for memorable viewing, such as Hannibal Lecter or, in TV land, Dexter. Seven psychopaths? Director Martin McDonagh hasn’t made your standard cinema fare in the past and he’s not about to start now.

 

McDonagh’s follow-up to the superb In Bruges reunites the director with Colin Farrell. Farrell plays the lead, Martin, a Hollywood screenwriter suffering from writer’s block with only the title of his next script committed to paper. The title of his script? ‘Seven Psychopaths’. So let’s recap – Seven Psychopaths is a movie about a screenwriter, named Martin, writing a movie called ‘Seven Psychopaths’. You’d be correct in thinking this not your average cinema material.

 

Seven Psychopaths is recognisable as a McDonagh production through its moments of shocking violence amidst prolonged spells of colourful language. The movie brings to mind similarly mind-bending ventures, such as anything by Charlie Kaufmann. It also recalls Kiss, Kiss, Bang, Bang as it playfully toys with Hollywood clichés. The movie jumps between the reality of McDonagh’s script and the fantasy of Martin’s script, with one bleeding into the other. McDonagh passes little heed on the innocent audience as he splices the two Hollywood worlds together, stopping just short of having his characters talk directly to the camera in a movie about moviemaking.

 

Farrell is given fantastic support from an array of actors that suit the title very nicely including Sam Rockwell, Christopher Walken, Woody Harrelson and Tom Waits; men for whom psychosis doesn’t seem much of a stretch. The cast relish McDonagh’s dialogue in a script where anything goes, and regularly does go. Watching Walken and Harrelson share the screen is a sight to behold. Each man trying to out-psychopath the other until they are literally gobbling up scenery as quickly as their maniacally toothy grins will allow. Okay, maybe not literally, but not far off either.

 

With Seven Psychopaths, McDonagh has taken another bold step in cementing his status as a truly fearless and original filmmaker at a time when studios are increasingly fearful of risky business.  You’d be crazy to miss out on this slice of madness.

Peter White

Rated 16 (see IFCO website for details)
110 mins

Seven Psychopaths, is released on 7th December 2012

Seven Psychopaths– Official Website

 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XvuNfq5vN-w

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Cinema Review: The Sitter

DIR: David Gordon Green • WRI: Brian Gatewood, Alessandro Tanaka • PRO: Michael De Luca • DOP: Tim Orr • ED: Craig Alpert • DES: Richard A. Wright • Cast: Jonah Hill, Ari Graynor, Sam Rockwell

Since stumbling awkwardly onto our screens in Superbad, Jonah Hill has become a comedy favourite, forcing audiences into fits of hysterics with his on-screen antics. More recently, audiences have seen a change in the actor as he has physically shrunk before our eyes, causing some to think that his recent Call of Duty advert was photoshopped. It seems that the sky’s the limit for the young actor, but this year’s early comedy flop, The Sitter, seems to be a giant step backwards in the comedian’s career.

It’s almost unnecessary for me to provide a synopsis here as the movie’s title probably gives away all you need to know. An unlikely and irresponsible babysitter in the form of Hill as Noah, is tasked with caring for three of the world’s most aggressive kids and manages to bring them on an unforgettable adventure through the streets of New York. It is a common premise leading to unfortunate consequences; for every laugh-out-loud moment, there are ten moments of boredom and realising you’ve been here before.

Hill himself is ultimately charming as he mixes self-loathing with self-awareness to just the right degree. Sam Rockwell plays the insane pursuer well, and clearly enjoys the outlandish role. Our three demon children play their somewhat cliché parts well and without over-acting. Landry Bender is somehow adorable as the potty-mouthed Blithe, and Kevin Hernandez is well cast as explosives enthusiast Rodrigo, despite his character being slightly unnecessary. Unfortunately for Max Records, his character Slater is somewhat pushed into the background by his ‘siblings’. Usually we can put blame at the door of actors for the over-the-top nature of a film, but here I’m afraid, the blame rests behind the scenes.

The ultimate problem with this movie is that it’s been done to death, from the premise to the scenarios and the inevitable heart-warming realisations; there is not the slightest hint of originality here. Whilst Jonah Hill is hilarious in these unlikely scenarios, audiences are tiring of the formula, and already know not to hire an unlikely babysitter, whether it be Jackie Chan or Jonah Hill. Here is a disappointing filler movie from a comedic actor who has the talent and the timing to be fantastic. But perhaps this is Jonah’s last hurrah to his old overweight comedic stylings. We can only hope.

Each and every scenario which arises in this movie is carefully orchestrated to necessitate the use of curse words by one of our angel-faced wards, and whilst a cute kid swearing or kicking off is always funny the first time around, by the half-way point we forget we’re in a cinema trying to enjoy a movie and begin to feel like we’re sitting in a quiet restaurant being assaulted by that one child on a nearby table who just won’t quit. It’s disappointing when a movie has nothing but a swearing kid and one with a penchant for explosives to keep the audience interested. The Sitter is a movie made by intelligent filmmakers which should be enjoyable, but ultimately is not. The audience will not be completely bored as there are some moments of hilarity, but overall it is an ultimately forgettable experience. This is hopefully the beginning of a new age for Hill, in which he will flex his comedy muscles and avoid cliché movies like this one.

Ciara O’Brien

Rated 15A (see IFCO website for details)
The Sitter is released on 20th January 2012

The Sitter – Official Website

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Moon Review 1

Moon

DIR: Duncan Jones • WRI: Duncan Jones, Nathan Parker • PRO: Stuart Fenegan, Trudie Styler, Mark Foligno, Alex Francis, Steve Milne, Nicky Moss • DOP: Gary Shaw • ED: Nicolas Gaster • DES: Tony Noble • CAST: Sam Rockwell, Kevin Spacey, Dominique McElligott

The best science fiction stories take advantage of their setting in deep space or the distant future to explore big questions of time, space and identity. The best of the genre use the mind bending implications of space travel to take audiences on equally head-wrecking trips. Stanley Kubrick’s 2001 is the classic, Solaris (Andrei Tarkovsky) is another standout example and even Danny Boyle’s Sunshine got agreeably freaky the further it strayed from planet Earth. This is the promise of Moon, Duncan Jones’ directorial debut.

In Moon, Sam Bell (Sam Rockwell) is a lonely engineer stationed at a lunar fuel processing plant tasked with single-handedly keeping the plant running for the duration of his three-year contract. Sam’s only companion is the artificially intelligent robot named GERTY, and with the station’s communications feed on the blink Sam can only communicate with earth via recorded message.
A proper sense of loneliness, alienation and quiet desperation is well established; Sam is three weeks from the end of his contract, he desperately misses his wife and young daughter and you feel his pain when he reports to his superiors that ‘Three years is waaaay too long.’

The expected sci-fi strangeness surfaces when Sam crashes his lunar rover, is badly injured, and then inexplicably rescued by his double. The lunar station is now home to two Sam Bells. This also marks, unfortunately, the film’s high point. This is a great disappointment because it’s a very strong start and it’s hard to take issue with any specific aspect of the movie. Indeed, it is an extremely well made film, and it is beautifully art-directed; the lunar station is believable and rich in visual detail. Sam Rockwell is spot on in his role, or rather two roles, and the different versions of Sam Bell are nicely differentiated with the on screen doubling never becoming clumsy.

So Duncan Jones has made a rather good film. What limits his achievement is a failure of ambition. After the initial setup, so well done, expectations are high, but then the momentum is lost as the initial strangeness is dissipated and the plot settles into a rather humdrum race against time. Mr Jones would do well to allow his imagination a little more free rein. That said though, it is still a good film and will find an audience. It is also a debut and for that it is quite an achievement. We will be hearing more from Duncan Jones.

Conor O’Kelly
(See biog here)

Rated 15a
Moon is released on 17th July 2009
Moon – Official Website

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Moon Review 2

Moon

DIR: Duncan Jones • WRI: Duncan Jones, Nathan Parker • PRO: Stuart Fenegan, Trudie Styler, Mark Foligno, Alex Francis, Steve Milne, Nicky Moss • DOP: Gary Shaw • ED: Nicolas Gaster • DES: Tony Noble • CAST: Sam Rockwell, Kevin Spacey, Dominique McElligott

Like other children of famous artists – be they Jesse Dylan (son of Bob) or Nick Cassavetes (son of John) – Duncan Jones will probably never fully escape the shadow of his famous father (in his case David Bowie). However, while the aforementioned directors have failed to wow audiences with their efforts, Jones’ first major feature is an assured piece of filmmaking, boosted by the quirky affability of the film’s star, Sam Rockwell. A deceptively simple storyline masks an effective sci-fi film that may never seek to challenge the audience in the same way as 2001: A Space Odyssey or Solaris, but remains compelling viewing nonetheless.

Set around the year 2020, Sam Bell (Rockwell) is aboard a base on the Moon run by Lunar Industries, a company responsible for harvesting fuel for use back on Earth. Sam is alone on the Moon base bar a rather talkative computer called GERTY (voiced by Kevin Spacey) who caters to his every need – be it as his doctor, hairdresser or even as a comforting friend. With his three year contract aboard the station set to run out, Sam looks forward to a return to Earth but – lo and behold – things start to go awry with only three weeks left to go. A series of hallucinations begin to disorientate Sam and during a journey out on to the Moon’s surface, Bell comes across a male survivor in a company vehicle.

Jones, who both wrote and directed Moon, eschews the appeal of outright confrontation or melodramatic inner reflection. Instead, the carefully nuanced interactions are an apt analogy for the film in general: Jones’ story is all about ‘less is more’ and avoids bludgeoning the audience with moments of action or dramatic tension. Rockwell, who remains a criminally underappreciated actor, brings a real simplicity and believability to his role(s) as the astronaut whose only friend is a talking machine complete with an assortment of smiley face reactions.

Moon is by no means a classic, yet Jones’ beautifully shot look at isolation and the nature of human experience (although one suspects that such issues as the depletion of fossil fuels and global warming, which Sam Bell’s mission ultimately revolves around, also feature prominently in Jones’ mind) shows a director with a great degree of promise and a keen eye for an arresting shot. The Moon itself, as well as the Selene Moon base, belies the pitfalls of the film’s small budget (said to be in the region of $5 million). Moon’s nuanced approach, both visually and otherwise, proves once again that bigger does not equal better and that a sharp script, coupled with sharp acting, can account for an altogether more intriguing end product.

Jason Robinson
(See biog here)

Rated 15a
Moon is released on 17th July 2009
Moon – Official Website

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