Glassland

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DIR/WRI: Gerard Barrett • PRO: Juliette Bonass, Ed Guiney  • DOP: Piers McGrail • ED: Nathan Nugent • DES: Stephanie Clerkin  • Cast: Will Poulter, Toni Collette, Jack Reynor, Michael Smiley, Harry Nagle

Sometimes a movie will come on the receiving end of the positive side of a double standard by film critics and audiences alike. Gerard Barrett’s first movie Pilgrim Hill was granted some of those respites, with defenders often claiming, “Look what he managed to do with such a small budget?” or “Can you imagine he was only 26 when that movie came out?” Lovers and haters alike now have Barrett’s follow-up in their sights, as he folds in an all-star cast and an accompanying healthy budget. Thankfully, Barrett the director rises to the challenge, even if Barrett the screenwriter sometimes leaves us short-changed.

Try to avoid the movie’s IMDb page, or any kind of synopsis if you can, as the official version of the movie’s plot tells a slightly different story to the one you’ll actually sit down to watch. All we’ll say is that Shane (Jack Reynor) is a young Dublin based taxi driver, attempting to deal with his alcoholic mother (Toni Colette) and a best-friend (Will Poulter) whose impending departure to Australia will see Shane’s last connection to a somewhat normal life being cut away. There are later developments including an addiction specialist (Michael Smiley) and a third-act plot-intrusion which threatens to derail all the subtle work done up until then, but for the most part it’s a quiet (and sometimes not so quiet) two hander between Reynor and Colette, or Reynor and Poulter.

Much like Pilgrim Hill, Barrett loves leaving the camera on each scene just a little bit too long, and more often than not it works in his favour, resulting in a level of honest uncomfortableness from each of the actors when they’re not faced with an easy “Cut!” This same patience can sometimes result in scenes that drag on for far too long, especially one which seems to focus on a closed door for almost ten seconds after everyone else has left the scene, and even at a scant 93 minutes, some judicious editing would’ve shaved at least ten minutes away.

Getting some amazing performances from his cast – one car-based breakdown from Reynor in particular will remind those blinded by Trans4mers that he’s actually a talented actor – and presenting Dublin neither as a glittering metropolis nor a drug-infused sink-hole, but actually as it really is, Barrett has already made a huge jump in quality from his last outing. We can’t wait to see what he accomplishes with feature number three Brain On Fire, as we’re sure Barrett the director will continue to go from strength to strength. Here’s hoping Barrett the screenwriter doesn’t remain too far behind.

Rory Cashin

15A (See IFCO for details)
92 minutes

Glassland is released 17th April 2015

Glassland – Official Website

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The Maze Runner

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DIR:  Wes Ball •  WRI:  Noah Oppenheim, Grant Pierce Myers • PRO:  Marty Bowen, Wyck Godfrey, Ellen Goldsmith-Vein, Lee Stollman, Lindsay Williams • DOP:  Enrique Chediak •  ED: Dan Zimmerman •  DES: Marc Fisichella •  MUS:  John Paesano  CAST:  Dylan O’Brien, Kaya Scodelario, Will Poulter, Thomas Brodie-Sangster, Ki Hong Lee, Patricia Clarkson

 

Based on a popular novel by James Dashner, The Maze Runner is the latest in a seemingly inexhaustible stream of “young adult” dystopian narratives.  This time, the action takes place in a mysterious “Glade” at the centre of an ever-changing maze, and our cast play a group of boys (plus one girl) who find themselves mysteriously deposited there with no memory of their pasts.  The arrival of one particular boy, Thomas (Dylan O’Brien), sparks unrest in the Glade, and eventually leads to a posse making a break for freedom, while trying to evade the creepy part-mechanical monsters that police the maze.  Like many of its precursors – from the well-regarded Hunger Games to last spring’s crushingly dull DivergentThe Maze Runner deals with young people rebelling against systems over which they are denied control, and it’s perhaps this eminently relatable theme that has attracted viewers to dystopian narratives, while other attempts at post-Twilight “young adult” franchises, such as Beautiful Creatures and The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones (both 2013), have floundered.

 

The Maze Runner is more straightforwardly action-oriented than most of its predecessors, and director Wes Ball (making his feature debut after beginning his career in visual effects) handles the set-pieces with economy and poise.  A number of scenes involving characters negotiating the shifting maze are genuinely tense, although as the maze’s geography has been mapped before we enter the story, the thrills come mainly from the brute force of its transformations rather than the more cerebral excitement of solving its mysteries.  On the topic of brute force, The Maze Runner is also surprisingly violent for a film aimed principally at a young audience, particularly when it enters the final stretch, as infighting and monster attacks whittle down the cast.

 

As Thomas, Dylan O’Brien gives a committed performance, carrying the bulk of the narrative.  Save for some rather ham-fisted exposition delivered by a wasted Patricia Clarkson, the film hews closely to Thomas’s perspective, and he makes for an appealing hero.  Of the other boys, Will Poulter makes the strongest impression as the antagonistic Gally, his brow permanently furrowed in indignation.  Kaya Scodelario, after an interesting if truncated turn in Andrea Arnold’s Wuthering Heights (2011), feels a little bit beyond the tag-along role she plays here.  As Teresa, the only girl to be deposited in the Glade, she arrives half-way through the action and is given little to do.  Presumably, her character has a more significant role to play in subsequent instalments.

 

Those subsequent instalments are the name of the game here, because The Maze Runner, like so many other teen-oriented science-fiction opuses, eventually devolves into a trailer for prospective sequels.  It’s a shame that the film signs off with a craven bit of franchise speculation because, while the late twists leave plenty of questions hanging, they also cancel out many of the distinguishing features of the narrative up to this point.  Still, for what it is, the film mostly works.  The cast are game, the action sequences are effective, and the monsters are scary.   Viewers could do a lot worse in this subgenre, and they may find themselves hoping The Maze Runner proves to be more of a Hunger Games than a Mortal Instruments at the box office.

 

David Turpin

12A (See IFCO for details)

113 minutes

The Maze Runner is released 10th October 2014

The Maze Runner  – Official Website

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Cinema Review: We’re the Millers

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DIR: Rawson Marshall Thurber • WRI: Bob Fisher, Steve Faber, Sean Anders, John Morris PRO: Chris Bender, Vincent Newman, Tucker Tooley, Happy Walters • ED: Michael L. Sale • DOP: Barry Peterson  DES: Clayton Hartley • CAST: Jason Sudeikis, Jennifer Aniston, Will Poulter, Emma Roberts

Another day in Denver is coming to an end and lifelong drug dealer David (Sudeikis) has finished sorting out his many clients, so now he’s taking the time to argue flirtily with his neighbor Rose (Aniston), who gives as good as she gets – but without the flirting.

Then David’s keen-as-mustard kid neighbor Kenny (Poulter) spots the cute Casey (Roberts) being bullied in the street, and runs over to do his heroics. David follows – Kenny’s about as threatening as a fluffy toy – but then Kenny blurts out that David is a big, tough drug dealer. Soon enough that’s the end of his stash, all the money he had saved, and a kicking for his trouble too.

Now in hock to Killer Whale-owing businessman/dealer Brad (Ed Helms), David is offered a no-choice deal: drive an RV with a “smidge and a half” of cannabis hidden inside over the border from Mexico, and all will be forgiven. But how on earth can this grungey pot dealer look respectable? Why, he needs to get himself a wholesome, down-to earth American family of course.

Kenny is thrilled to be having an adventure, Casey wants $1000 for the pleasure of her cell phone-toting, eye-rolling presence, and now there’s just Rose to persuade to come along as “mom”. With bills aplenty and her strip club now wanting to add sex to the menu, she quits – and is now just as broke as David. It’s time to get some awful, pastel clothes and some square haircuts, and hey presto! The Millers are on their summer vacation, and things actually go well despite their deadly dysfunction – for a while at least.

Very much in the vein of The Hangover, only this time it’s a makeshift family as opposed to a group of four guys, this rude and crude comedy has some real snap to the dialogue and a real chemistry emerging slowly between the fake fam. With four writers on board you might have worried the broth would boil over, but when their backgrounds include Wedding Crashers and Hot Tub Time Machine amongst other crudish teenish fare, it all pulls together really well.

Sudeikis (a veteran of years of improv on Saturday Night Live) is the breakout star, though Aniston, doomed forever to be a television goddess (she’s not talented or pretty enough to be a 70 foot high movie star) finally hits the back of the net on the big screen, and utterly holds her own.

Yes, the yawning emphasis of many viewers will be on her inevitable striptease routine and her makeup seemed pretty comprehensive, but she’s as crude as the rest of them. Poulter – even with the indignity of the homophobic jokes and the routing genitalia joke – makes a name for himself too, and even Roberts, niece of the famous Julia, throws aside expectations too and is long gone from teen fare.

There are plenty of US TV comedy actors in bit parts too (Nick Offerman from Parks & Recreation) and this punchy, rapid-fire, raunchy comedy manages to walk the tightrope of cliché without going too gross or getting sucked into too much sweetness. It doesn’t get lost in trying to create any romance, and though the characters never lose sight of why they’re there (as drug smugglers in it for the money) the fact they become a family of sorts – and what is a family these days anyway? – is satisfying and believable.

 

James Bartlett

Rated 16 (see IFCO website for details) 

109 mins
We’re the Millers is released on 23rd August 2013

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