Review: Bait

 

DIR/WRI/DOP/ED: Mark Jenkin • DES: Mae Voogd • PRO: Kate Byers, Linn Waite • MUS: Mark Jenkin• DES: Sam Hobbs • CAST:  Morgan Val Baker, Georgia Ellery, Martin Ellis

Sometimes it’s best to keep things simple in your movie. Not every film needs to have a hero on a race against time to save the world before it’s too late. Nor does it need to have a romance for the ages. Cinema is often at its finest when it strips away all the Hollywood themes to tell real stories. You’d be forgiven for thinking that a real story must be about a famous person’s life, based on the number of biopics that are being released lately. Every so often a film sneaks up that tells the story about real-life issues. Issues that don’t have to be relatable to every single viewer. Bait is set in a small fishing town in Cornwall that is brimming with tension due to tourism taking over everyday life. It’s a story that is simple, low-key and real. Yet, this is a film that is not only the best of the year but perhaps one of the best this decade has provided.

If you’ve ever lived in a rural area you’ve met every single character in Bait. Martin Ward (Edward Rowe) is a small-time fisherman dreaming of gathering the funds to buy his own boat. His brother Steven (Giles King) hasn’t ever managed to move on from their mother’s death, the brothers are at odds on what is best for their family. Do you do what you love and struggle to afford everyday life or do you work a job that is against everything you stand for? To add to the brother’s conflict, Steven’s son Neil (Isaac Woodvine) has agreed to work with his uncle in an act of defiance against his father. As summer and the tourists roll in, a family that is the opposite to the Wards take their annual residency in the Ward’s childhood home. 

The Leighs have everything that the Ward’s have lost;  money, togetherness and, most importantly, security for their future. Sandra (Mary Woodvine) and Tim Leigh (Simon Shepherd) are together possibly only because of their wealth. Sandra may be in a position of high status but she is never cold or unforgiven, meanwhile her husband is in one scene described as “a prancing lycra c**t”. Their children are always at odds with each other. Katie (Georgia Ellery) strives in her summer habitat where she makes friends and falls in love, her younger brother is a snivelling coward, who is beat for beat like his father. Every single character in this Cornish town resembles a real rural community. Bar Owner Liz (Stacy Guthrie) knows every single piece of gossip that oozes from the town. Wenna (Chloe Endean) is a rebellious teen who is determined to live a carefree life. There are no heroes in Bait. Every single character has their own unique flaws. No one on this planet is the epitome of perfection. Bait, in the characters it showcases and the way is presented, puts all out on the table for the world to see. 

Every single aspect of this film comes from the mind of Mark Jenkin. Jenkin is the director, writer, composer, editor, and cinematographer of Bait. It’s hard to determine which one of the jobs he took is executed better. Jenkin’s direction is that of a madman. Scenes from different stages of the film are intercut to add a sense of dread to the plot. Characters will be undergoing a simple task like fishing with intense flashes of hands being put into handcuffs. Separate conversations will intertwine with no coherent reason as to why. It shouldn’t work at all. Yet Jenkin doesn’t want to stray away from his insane vision. Bait is an angry film made by a man who is clearly angry about how rural communities are being given no resources for locals to survive. Traditions can’t stay alive if the only way of earning money is to modernise your town. Filmed in black and white on a 16mm camera, the film feels akin to a 1920s picture. The vintage camera that Jenkin used to shoot the film makes the already unique film, unlike anything you’ve seen on screen before. The future of rural communities may be uncertain at this moment in time, but one thing is for sure. Mark Jenkin is here to make films that contain messages that need to be heard in films that are nothing short of groundbreaking. 

Bait is a flawless film. You’ll feel as if you witnessed a classic as the credits begin to roll. Featuring a cast that most audiences, myself included, have never heard of in their lives, the films leading man, Edward Rowe, deserves endless plaudits for his truly special work in this film. For a cast with minimal acting experience, the work they do in Bait is phenomenal. When a group of people come together to make a film that demands to be seen with a director who doesn’t know what the easy route is, something truly special can be made. Bait will remind you why we all love cinema.

Liam De Brún

@liamjoeireland

88′ 56″
15A (see IFCO for details)

Bait is released 30th August 2019

Bait  – Official Website

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Review: Abominable

DIR: Jill Culton, Todd Wilderman • WRI: Jill Culton • DOP: Robert Edward Crawford • ED: Susan Fitzer • DES: Max Boas • PRO: Suzanne Buirgy, Peilin Chou, Dave Polsky • MUS: Rupert Gregson-Williams • CAST: Chloe Bennet, Albert Tsai, Tenzing Norgay Trainor

The past year of animation has seen the beloved genre soar to new heights. Spider-Man Into the Spider-Verse reinvented the comic book genre in a way that die-hard fans had been dreaming of for decades. Dragon Ball: Super Broly reminded those who unfairly ignore the genre that its presence is stronger than ever. Toy Story 4, How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World and The Lego Movie2: The Second Part were worthy successors to their magical previous films. Love it or loathe it there is no denying that the technical achievements in The Lion King remake were some of the finest ever seen on screen.

There arguably hasn’t been a better time to be a kid obsessed with film. One of the weirder things to emerge from the current animation renaissance is that in the past 12 months there have been not one, not two but three animated features about a human befriending a large mythical creature. Towards the end of last year Channing Tatum and Zendaya, as Mechee no less, starred in Smallfoot as Yetis who befriend a little boy that gave James Corden an excuse to be childish. Fast forward to April of this year to the release of Missing Link. A film that saw hunter Hugh Jackman becomes best friends with a Sasquatch voiced by Zach Galifianakis. A film that if you were one of the hoards of people that skipped it you need to make amends for that now! Surely that was a simple coincidence, nothing more. Yet, somehow another film has entered the fold with an almost identical concept to the other two. 

Abominable tells the story of a young girl called Yi (Chloe Bennet), who, like any other animated character, is coming to terms with her father’s death. Yi pushes her mother (Michelle Wong) and grandmother (Tsai Chin) away as she spends next to no time at home, choosing to take on any job she can in an attempt to have enough money to embark on an adventure. As fate would have it Yi doesn’t need money to go an adventure as a mythical creature stumbles into her life. Aided by her mischievous cousin Peng (Albert Tsai) and the school’s popular kid Jin (Tenzing Norgay Trainor), the trio embark on an adventure to bring Everest back to his home, which, yes, is obviously Mount Everest for those wondering.

Abominable ticks all the boxes in the “How to Make a DreamWorks Movie Manual”. The relationship between Yi and Everest is identical to Hiccups and Toothless from How To Train Your Dragon. Everest’s mission to return home is straight from 2015’s Home. Peng is, at first glance, an irritable little sidekick in the same vein as Donkey, Bob or any of the characters from Trolls. Eddie Izzard’s villain is an evil businessman who wants to capture Everest for financial gain. Hell, even the films ‘save the environment’ message was already done in Bee Movie. It’s a shame that the plot of the film is so formulaic considering that Abominable is the first film from DreamWorks new sub-studio Pearl. Despite Abominable being the same animated adventure you’ve seen a million times before there’s a charm to be found that makes this a worthwhile trip to the cinema for younger and older audiences. 

Despite the generic feel of the movie, the characters elevate the material further than it should really go. Chloe Bennet gives an impressive lead performance as Yi. Bennet allows her character to be swept away by the fantasy elements of the story instead of making her character deny what’s going on around her. Yi is intelligent, funny and relatable, a perfect role model for any young kids watching. Jin’s storyline of going from a kid obsessed with social-status to mini warrior is one of the film’s funnier plots. One sequence involving Yi is a wonderful homage to First Blood.

Peng is slightly annoying as the younger sidekick, yet he never has enough to do or say to derail the story. Eddie Izzard and Sarah Paulson make a terrific double act as the villainous Burnish and his assistant Dr. Zara. Izzard and Paulson bounce off each other with ease, their running joke involving a whooping snake leaves an impression. While Everest isn’t as fleshed out as Toothless, an over-reliance on burping and farting is grating, the young Yeti is able to gain a relationship with the audience with his big blue eyes.

Everest is basically a younger Chewbacca, sure the older version is easier to spend time with, but we still want what’s best for the kid. Everest also has magic powers that could end the film inside the opening ten minutes, as this is a kid’s film fighting to hit the ninety-minute mark this option is not once discussed.

As it is written and directed by Jill Culton it’s clear that she wanted to put as much care as possible into the film. The Chinese setting of the film must be applauded, children of every background should be allowed to have their world represented on screen. Unlike Big Hero 6, which presented an American/Japanese hybrid city, Abominable is not afraid to delve into Asian culture. The animation of the locations is gorgeous, whether it’s the city lights or the fields of green, the Asian landscape is portrayed in a way that western filmmakers tend to get wrong. Culton put a female lead into her film without ever thinking that she must comment on it. It’s amazing that we finally live in a world where female lead characters don’t have to justify that they are as good as male leads.

Yi is an interesting character from start to finish, her love of violin leads to heart-warming moments. Rupert Gregson-Williams’ score is up there with his work on Hacksaw Ridge and Wonder Woman; it’s a shame that in a key emotional scene the film plays Coldplay instead of a Williams’ piece. With a story that we’ve seen time and time again, it’s a testament to the talents of Jill Culton and her crew that Abominable is a film brimming with positivity. 

Abominable is fun for all the family. While there is little in terms of originality to be found, it doesn’t matter when the film is this charming. Considering the last two big animated features were the dreary Playmobil Movie and the shambles that was Ugly Dolls, it’s a relief to see that Abominable is fit to be viewed alongside some of the genre’s biggest hits of the year. Just please, let’s give the mythical creature friendship a break until at least 2022. Wait, what? Onward is out next year?

Liam De Brún

@liamjoeireland

97′ 13″
G (see IFCO for details)

Abominable is released 11th October 2019

Abominable – Official Website

 

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Review: Ready or Not

DIR: Matt Bettinelli-Olpin, Tyler Gillett • WRI: Guy Busick, Ryan Murphy • DOP: Brett Jutkiewicz • ED: Terel Gibson • DES: Andrew M. Stearn • PRO: Bradley J. Fischer, William Sherak, James Vanderbilt, Chad Villella, Tripp Vinson • MUS: Brian Tyler • CAST: Samara Weaving, Adam Brody, Mark O’Brien

Weddings are supposed to be the happiest day of your life. The day when you get to become one with your life partner. Surrounded by your friends and family you make a promise to love and protect one another until the day you die. Words can’t comprehend how beautiful of a moment it is. There’s only one problem. Weddings don’t end with the newlyweds riding into the sunset. This is a wedding day after all. What occurs after the ceremony is the stuff of nightmares. People who have never spoken in their life are sitting beside each other while eating a meal which they have limited say in. The in-laws each want their family to be in the limelight. The groom must pray that his best man doesn’t deliver a speech that sends the couple on a honeymoon to the divorce office.  Your weird uncle Jim is busting moves that belong on no dancefloor in the world. Your wedding day no matter how much planning you do will feel like a wedding lifetime.

Ready or Not tells the story of wedding day unlike any other. Yes, all the awkwardness above still takes place. Yet, this wedding ends on a note that no wedding has ever ended on. A game of hide and seek where if you lose, you die. 

Grace (Samara Weaving) and Alex (Mark O’Brien) tie the knot in the garden of the groom’s family estate. The Le Domas family, who built quite the fortune in the boardgame business, don’t feel that a “lower-class” woman belongs in the family. Grace is similar in every way to the Le Domas family. Grace is funny, like best man/brother-in-law Daniel (Adam). She’s sympathetic, like her mother-in-law Becky (Andie MacDowell). She’s determined, like her father-in-law tony. She’s impulsive, to a much lesser degree than her new sister-in-law Emily.

The one thing that separates Grace from the Le Domas family is wealth. If she had an endless amount of money she would be as irrational as them. After all, the Le Domas family are so irrational they stick to their strict tradition of having whoever is entering the family play a game with them on their wedding night. When Grace draws the hide and seek card it quickly becomes clear that she would have been safer with a game of Monopoly. What follows is the blood thirstiest round of hide and seek you’ll ever witness. 

Every second of the game is glorious. This is a film that blends the horror elements of You’re Next with the comedy of Shaun of the Dead. Two films which belong in any horror fans top ten list. Ready or Not is destined to become a cult classic. Samara Weaving leads the screen with a performance that her uncle Hugo would be proud of. Weaving is charming, funny and electric in every scene that she’s in. Following up her scene-stealing performance in Three Billboards… and her ’80s feel performance in The Babysitter with acting that cements her as a star. Horror has been lacking in female stars for most of the decade. Samara Weaving joins Happy Death Day’s Jessica Roth in showing film fans that comedy-horror can be as thrilling as regular horror. The image of Weaving in her blood-drenched wedding dress is instantly iconic. In a way Grace is to wedding nights what Carrie is to Prom nights. 

Often in cat-and-mouse horror films, the villains are one-dimensional killing machines. Ready or Not excells thanks to its vibrant supporting cast. Every single member of the Le Domas family is ridiculous. Adam Brody as Daniel spends the entire film without a filter. Watching Brody call out his family members for the garbage they are is delightful; he’s the only member of the family who knows how awful they are.

Henry Czerny has a blast as a father who is in over his head. No spoilers to what the family’s motives are but it’s amazing to see how Czerny tries to justify their murderous behaviour. Melanie Scrofano is outstanding as the drug-fuelled Emilie. Scrofano’s character is the most unbelievably ludicrous, yet she makes it work by committing to her character’s wild range of emotions. In the space of ten seconds she can go from hysterical laughter to hysterical sobbing. Emilie’s husband Fitch, played by Kristian Bruun, deserves a mention for being a comic relief who never grows infuriating.

The star of the Le Domas family is the mother played by Andie MacDowell. MacDowell has struggled to land memorable roles following her insanely successful nineties. In Ready or Not she reminds the world how talented she is. MacDowell manipulating everyone around her would feel fake if the actress didn’t commit to the role. The Le Domas family is horror’s version of the Bluth family. They even have their own Lucille Bluth in the form of Aunt Helene played by Nicky Guadagni with just the right amount of bitterness. 

When looking at the previous work from directors Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett, it’s a miracle that Ready or Not is as good as it is. The directing duo’s previously worked on segments from the underwhelming anthologies V/H/S and Southbound. The only feature they had made in full before Ready or Not was the atrocious Devil’s Due. Yet, with Ready or Not the duo commit to making the most of their brilliant premise. While no one is going to come out of this film thinking about the direction, Olpin and Gillett deserve praise for making a film that they can both be proud of.

The film was written by Guy Busick and Ryan Murphy. Murphy is known for making content that is in your face. From Glee to American Horror Story, everything that Murphy has created has never been afraid to be exactly how he imagined. Ready or Not is at the higher end of insane ideas that Murphy has had, yet it never goes off the rails. Busick may have been there to stop Murphy from going too crazy with his ideas. While always out there, Ready or Not doesn’t jump the shark. Keep in mind that Ryan Murphy is the man who managed to put aliens, the pope and an evil therapist into a single episode of American Horror Story

Ready or Not puts the fun back into horror. Midsommar, The Witch and A Ghost Story have all recently terrorised audiences by taking them on a mental trip. It’s wonderful to see an ’80s-esque horror back on our screens. A key element of horror is to entertain your audience as much as you try to scare them. You’ll struggle to find a film as entertaining as Ready or Not this year. From Samara Weaving’s star-making performance to the brilliant final 10 minutes, this is pure insanity. You just need to ask yourself. Are you ready or not? 

Liam De Brún

@liamjoeireland

95′ 14″
16 (see IFCO for details)

Ready or Not is released 27th September 2019

Ready or Not – Official Website

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Review: Judy

DIR: Rupert Goold • WRI: Tom Edge • DOP: Ole Bratt Birkeland • ED: Melanie Oliver • DES: Kave Quinn • PRO: David Livingstone • MUS: Gabriel Yared • CAST: Renée Zellweger, Jessie Buckley, Finn Wittrock, Rufus Sewell

When watching The Wizard of Oz for the first or hundredth time you’ll be blown away by the magic of it all. A yellow brick road that will lead you to where you are meant to be. A tinman, lion, and scarecrow who despite having nothing physically in common with you’ll relate to their emotional complexity.  A witch who is among the dastardliest villains to ever grace the screen. A wizard who hides behind an illusion to mask his deepest insecurities. A score that will remain immortalised until the end of time. Everything about the film is perfect. Yet, it would all fall apart without Judy Garland. Garland at the age of 16 delivers a beautifully innocent performance that no other actor in the world could ever come close to performing. The innocence in Garland’s eyes adds layers of depth to the story. When she begs to go home there is never a dry eye in the house. The world has never had a talent quite like her. Without Judy Garland the magic of Oz would never be the same. 

Judy tells the story of the final chapter in Judy Garland’s (Renée Zellweger) legendary career. Struggling to make ends meet and fearing the prospect of losing her children to her ex-husband (Sydney Lufet), Garland agrees to perform in a series of concerts in London. From the prologue, it’s clear that Judy is going to break your heart into a million little pieces. The scene which sees a young Judy (Darci Shaw) being pushed into taking the role of Doherty by Louis B. Mayer (Richard Cordery) is nothing short of devastating. Seeing a mogul full of power essentially threaten a young girl into taking a role hits harder considering all the awful things that have come out from the industry in the last few years. A horrible event that takes place on the set of Oz shows us from the start that Judy’s life was all but magic. 

As the film continues and we spend time with adult Judy, it’s clear that this is the role that Renée Zellweger was born to play. Zellweger is spectacular as Judy Garland. She possesses the charm that wowed audiences for decades in bucketloads. It’s the side of Garland that many may be unaware of where Zellweger makes this her career-best performance. Considering the turbulent rise that Garland had, she was never going to have a normal life. Seeing her Garland cope with such an abnormal life is painful. Turning to booze and drugs as a comfort, Garland is wearing a mask to the public. It’s almost as if the actress regressed into a childlike state in her later years, which is understandable considering that she was robbed from ever having one.

Judy is isolated in the world, with no real friends to love and care for her. Everyone wants her to perform and put on a smile, but no one wants to be there when she needs them the most. Zellweger’s performance is one of an actor whose worst fear is to have the same fate as Garland. In a heart-wrenching rendition of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” Zellweger pours her soul into every single word of the song. There won’t be a dry eye in any cinema once the credits of Judy begin to roll. In an age where biopics are being released at a rapid pace, Renée Zellweger may have delivered the most beautiful performance of them all. 

What makes Judy riveting is the decision not to stray away from the actor’s struggles. Biopics often stray away from the truth as they try to sanitize their subject matter in order not to cause offense. A major issue that plagued Bohemian Rhapsody. Judy does not shy away from showing the hardships that Garland endured. From being forced to take pills at a young age to attaching herself to men who don’t deserve her in an attempt to feel loved, there isn’t much happiness to be found in the film.

Director Rupert Gold was never going to lie to his audience. The final few months of Garland’s career were emotionally exhausting. Gould’s honesty behind the camera would have made Garland proud. His direction is low key, which is exactly what the film required. The only major moment of direction is when Garland is on stage. Instead of filling her numbers with background dancers and vivid images, Gould chooses to have only Judy and her band on stage. A decision which makes the viewer feel as if they are at one of her shows. At times the script from Tom Edge can feel like it came straight from a soap opera, there are a few moments involving her love interest Mickey (Finn Wittrock) that you’d see down in the Queen Vic. Edge makes up for these moments with an all-timer final line. No spoilers here but it will break you as a human being. 

Judy more than does justice to the legacy of Judy Garland. Aided by rising star Jesse Buckley as her tour assistant, Rosalyn, Zellweger gives the performance of a lifetime. At the very least she’ll be waiting to hear an Oscar result in the Dolby Theatre come February. Darci Shaw as the younger Judy is as convincing as the legendary child actor. Shaw has a bright future ahead of her and will have all the support systems around her to make sure she’s comfortable every step of the way. It’s important for younger audiences to know what the world used to be like for rising stars. It’s up to us to ensure that Hollywood never regresses back to its former state. Even though she is no longer with us we can get justice for Judy Garland. Somewhere over the rainbow she’ll be watching down on us with a smile. 

Liam De Brún

@liamjoeireland

117′ 42″
12A (see IFCO for details)

Judyis released 4th October 2019

Judy– Official Website

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Review: It Chapter Two

DIR: Andy Muschietti • WRI: Gary Dauberman • DOP: Checco Varese • ED: Jason Ballantine • DES: Paul D. Austerberry • PRO: Roy Lee, Dan Lin, Barbara Muschietti • MUS: Benjamin Wallfisch • CAST: Jessica Chastain, James McAvoy, Bill Hader

There is nothing quite like reading a Stephen King novel. King is a master of his craft; no one on this planet can inject tension into words like King. The acclaimed author’s books have sold over 350 million copies to date. Without his novels, the world of film would be without classics. It’s easy to forget that masterpieces such as The Shawshank Redemption, Carrie, The Shining, Stand by Me and The Green Mile all stemmed from the pages of King’s novels.  Notice anything about those films? They all came before the 21st century. Film adaptations of King’s novels from 2000 onwards were almost entirely missed; hands up if you’ve seen Dreamcatcher or Hearts in Atlantis? Out of nowhere in 2017 It arrived.  Not only was the horror a revival; for King’s work on the big screen, but it was one of the finest horrors of the decade. Combining the heart of Stand by Me with a cannibalistic clown was the perfect formula that no one could have predicted. From there, King’s work began to get justice on the big screen; Gerald’s Game, 1922 and Pet Sematary have continued the author’s hot streak. It Chapter Two arrives with a huge task on each shoulder. On one shoulder it’s faced with the task of keeping the reputation of the novel alive. On the other, the film must deliver a worthy sequel to one of the finest coming-of-age films you’ll ever see. 

It Chapter Two continues the story of The Losers Club as they deal with the trauma that comes with being terrorised by a sadistic clown (Bill Skarsgård). Whereas most sequels would follow up directly on from the events of the previous films, like the book and TV movie, the second part of the film takes place 27 years later.  Over the course of those 27 years, The Losers Club have gone their separate ways. Bill (James McAvoy) is a struggling screenwriter who can’t find the perfect ending for his film a la Stephen King. Beverly (Jessica Chastain) is suffering from emotional and physical abuse from her husband. Richie (Bill Hader) has progressed from making fun of his friends as a kid to making fun of his audience as a stand-up comedian. Ben (Jay Ryan) is a successful businessman who still reminisces about what could have been. Eddie (James Ransone) has taken his irrational fears in his stride by becoming a risk assessor. Stanley (Andy Bean) is the loser who has been affected the most by their childhood trauma.  All but one of the losers have moved on with their lives. Mike (Isaiah Mustafa) has spent his adulthood investigating the mythology of Pennywise. Following a brutal homophobic attack that finds the victim seeking help from Pennywise, Mike realises that it’s time to get the gang back together to put an end to Pennywise’s reign of terror.

From a horror perspective, there are lots for fans of the genre to take from the film. This is a big-budgeted horror flick that doesn’t shy away from being bloody. Any sequence that involves Pennywise stalking a victim is guaranteed to unleash fear into its audiences. What makes these sequences special is that the build-up to Pennywise’s kills are as terrifying as the actual murders he commits. Bill Skarsgård manages to sell Pennywise’s negotiation methods in a way where you don’t feel that any of the victims are being idiotic. A magnificent funfair sequence allows Skarsgård to run wild with the horrific nature of his character.

With Pennywise, Skarsgård has arguably outdone Tim Curry and created a horror icon who belongs on the top of any best villain lists. A scene that hints at Pennywise’s origin delivers an image that will be embedded in the minds of the audience for weeks to come. Skarsgård deserves plaudits for turning Pennywise into a character who justifies the need to be dealt with for two films. It’s easy to forget that the second part of the original TV special is shambolic. Thanks to Bill Skarsgård, It Chapter Two is a worthy successor to the 2017 film.

It Chapter Two is perfectly cast from top to bottom. It’s hard to think of another sequel that has to replace its entire cast. It’s hard enough for directors to cast characters that fit a role in the first place. When you have to cast actors that must deliver performances that match the flawless performances from the first film, odds are you’re going to end up with a dud of a film. It Chapter Two pulls off an impossible task with ease through its impeccable casting. Every single one of the adult losers feels authentic. While their story may not be as strong as the one their child versions got to star in, each actor delivers the goods. James McAvoy is as reliable as ever as Bill. Even when McAvoy is in a bad movie, looking at you Dark Phoenix and Glass, the Scotsman always delivers the goods. One of the highlights of the film is his relationship with a young child who reminds him of Georgie.

Jessica Chastain as Beverly is unfortunately underused. Instead of investigating the psychology of a woman who has suffered from immense trauma the film opts to throw her into an unnecessary love triangle. When Beverly is given something to do Chastain nails the character. Beverly’s meeting with a suspicious old lady is the scariest scene in a film in recent memory. Jeremy Ray Taylor as Ben in It Chapter One was the most sympathetic character in the film. Seeing him dismissed by everyone due to his weight was heartbreaking. Jay Ryan as the adult iteration of Ben certainly feels like the same heart is in him, but the film chooses to ignore his characteristics and focus on his looks. A large portion of the film is wasted by pitting Bill, Beverly, and Ben into an unnecessary love triangle. When there is a killer clown on the loose it’s probably a good idea to put your rivalry on standby. 

When scholars look upon genius moments in film history in a thousand years their heads will turn to the direction of It Chapter Two. Casting Bill Hader and James Ransone was a stroke of magic by Andy Muschietti. In the lead up to the release of the film much has been said of Bill Hader’s performance as Richie. It’s a pleasure to say that all the hype surrounding Hader’s performance is more than justified. Hader is electric as Richie. Every joke he delivers lands effortlessly, all the more impressive when you consider just how many of them there are. Casual Hader fans who know him from the likes of Superbad and Trainwreck will be floored by the raw emotion he brings to the film. James Ransone who plays Eddie may not give as dramatic performance as Hader, but it can’t be underplayed how perfect he is as the germaphobe. Ransone’s facial expressions capture every single fear that his character is feeling. Actors often fail to sell the fear their character possess, yet one look into Ransone’s eyes will showcase how terrified his character is. Finn Wolfhard and Jack Dylan Grazer use their minimal screentime to move each of their character arcs forward to the point where the adult actors can make the audience sob in the final act. Wolfhard and Grazer are both proving on a regular basis that they are going to be stars. With any luck they will be as gifted as Bill Hader and James Ransone. 

With a runtime that falls just under the three-hour mark, It Chapter Two gives director Andy Muschietti free reign to leave his audience with goosebumps. With only three films under his belt Muschietti is relatively a newcomer to directing. Saying that, he is proving himself to be a future master of his craft. Instead of following the recent trend of over-relying on jumpscares. Muschetti is interested in creating monsters that will haunt the dreams of both young and old. Even though Pennywise is the main monster of the film, there are plenty of other creations that are unnerving. As mentioned earlier a scene involving Beverly meeting an old lady is chilling. This is down to Muschetti installing subtlety into his direction. Not every scare needs to be big and in front of the camera. Sometimes the scariest things are the images you capture in the background. The film falls short is justifying its lengthy runtime. The overuse of flashbacks to the original cast is the film’s biggest flaw. Instead of focusing on what happened after the events of the first film, the flashbacks show sequences that happened during the timeframe of the film but were never mentioned previously. It ends up feeling like deleted scenes from the previous film were installed just to capitalise on the talent of the younger cast. While it’s nice to see them again it feels like filler for the sake of filler.

It Chapter Two is written solely by Gary Dauberman, both Chase Palmer and Cary Joji Fukunaga failed to return. Losing two of the three writers of the first film messes with the flow of the sequel. Dauberman has to create compelling dialogue for a cast that has doubled since the first film. It’s a task too big for anyone and as a result the dialogue of the film doesn’t flow as naturally as the first. Moments of humour where they should never be stick out like a sore thumb. One scene that is meant to be scary installs an odd musical cue that will have the audience thinking of Deadpool 2 instead of what’s on the screen. 

It Chapter 2 is a miracle. While it just falls short of the heights of the first film, this sequel manages to spin a record amount of plates in a china shop without breaking anything. To replace your entire cast, terrify your audience and come up with a satisfying ending is miraculous. In a world that is filled with mediocre horror film after mediocre horror film, it’s therapeutic to watch a big-budgeted horror film that takes risks. Andy Muschietti is a name you need to familiarise yourself with quick. This is a director who does not want to follow the norm. In an age where it’s becoming harder and harder to find directors who make every movie their own. Muschietti is here to show the world that horror is a genre that deserves to be respected. No risk is too big for Muschietti. After all he did just manage to make six-hours of compelling content that revolves around an evil clown. 

Liam De Brún

169′ 11″
16 (see IFCO for details)

It Chapter Two  is released 6th September 2019

It Chapter Two– Official Website

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Review: Good Boys

DIR: Gene Stupnitsky • WRI: Lee Eisenberg, Gene Stupnitsky • PRO: Lee Eisenberg, Evan Goldberg, Seth Rogen, James Weaver • DOP: Jonathan Furmanski • ED: Daniel Gabbe • DES: Jeremy Stanbridge • MUS: Lyle Workman • CAST: Jacob Tremblay, Keith L. Williams, Brady Noon

Growing up is one of the hardest things you’ll have to do in your life. Following the carefree comfort of childhood where everything is sunshine and rainbows you are thrown into the real world without any warning. Once you hit the pre-teen stage of your life everything becomes complicated. You’re expected to do things independently without your parent’s help, who said that was part of the life package? The cute little annoying traits you possessed for years are now considered childish, no more puppy eyes to get off the hook. Not to mention the horrifically confusing changes you’re going through emotionally and psychically. The thing that no one tells you is that this period of your life lasts from when your twelve right through your twenties and possibly beyond. Coming of age is defined as the “transition between childhood to adulthood “. What a terrifying concept. One day you’ll wake up to find that you’re not a child anymore. You now have responsibilities and people who depend on you.

Movies that try to show this period of life have gifted the world with some of cinemas finest pieces.  Films such as Dazed and Confused, The Perks of Being a Wallflower, Lady Bird, The Edge of Seventeen and Stand by Me show those who are going through this tricky period of their life that they are not alone. It may be the most important genre of film out there. Good Boys on paper may not seem like it has anything in common with the previously mentioned film. How can a Pre-Teen Superbad that leans on gross-out jokes teach kids a valuable lesson? Suspend your disbelief because Good Boys is oddly one of the sweetest films of the year.

Good Boys tells the story of three boys The Beanbag Boys. Max (Jacob Tremblay), Lucas (Keith L. Williams) and Thor’s (Brady Noon) whose lives change when they get invited to their first party. The trio ditch school and set upon their adventure in hope of climbing the popularity ranks. It’s safe to say that their day off doesn’t run as smoothly as Ferris’ as they face run-ins with teenage girls seeking their stolen drugs, a vicious frat house and a cop who just wants to go home.

Produced by Evan Goldberg and Seth Rogen, if you’re not a fan of the raunchy humour of Superbad, Pineapple Express or any of their other collaborations then Good Boys isn’t for you. If, like me, you find their work to be uproariously funny then you’ll be treated to one of the fine comedies to emerge this lackluster year. The humour relies on kids saying things that every parent dreads the thought of. It’s kind of crushing to see the kid from Room dropping F-bombs for ninety minutes. Why does the film feel the need to rely on this style of humour? For starters, it works wonders. The language coming from the boys is the same ridiculous method of cursing that every boy uses when he begins to learn new words.  The escapades the gang gets themselves into is where the film’s biggest laughs run from. A running joke involving a childproof lid is a winner. Seeing how the boys interact with beer, drugs, an odd CPR doll and even odder weapons are hysterical. Even though the high jinks are far fetched the cast make it believable. The Beanbag Boys are played by three young men who all have bright careers ahead of them.

Had the film been miscast then there was a real possibility that the entire concept would have flopped. Putting a film into the hands of any young actor is a mammoth task, when you increase that number to 3 teenagers then making a great film is a minor miracle. Jacob Tremblay, Keith L. Williams and Brady Noon elevate this film by leaps and bounds. Each one of the three leads plays a vital role. Jacob Tremblay as Max is the only popular member of the group. Faced with a conundrum that many faces when growing up. How do you make everyone like your friends? Tremblay plays Max with a sincerity that is often missing from R-rated comedies. In one scene, a kid dismisses Lucas and Thor as “random”, to which Max beautifully responds “They’re not random. They’re specific.” Brady Noon gives what would normally be a one-note character in Thor layers of emotional depth. Thor is plagued by bullies who won’t allow him to pursue his dream of singing. As any man can tell you one of the hardest parts of becoming a man is that people try to limit who you can be to fit their perception of what’s masculine. Keith L. Williams steals the show as Lucas, a boy who just wants to be honest. Williams’ comic timing would be impressive for a comedy veteran. His realisation that his parents are getting divorced when he gets his favourite dinner and fizzy drink on a school night is wonderfully funny. The chemistry between the young actors makes you root and believe in their friendship. Beanbag Boys for life. 

First-time film director Gene Stupnitsky injects fresh energy into the comedy genre. The past few years of R-rated comedies have been brutally average. You’ll struggle to name five genuinely good comedies from the past twelve months off the top of your head. Universal put their trust in a man who hasn’t gotten many breaks in the industry. If you look at Stupnitsky’s work on television you’ll see that he’s clearly talented, he directed the all-timer Office episode “The Michael Scott Paper Company.”. Stupnitsky is aware that comedy can’t work on its own, you need to relate to the story. Good Boys is filled with a surprising amount of heart. The final ten minutes left me with an unexpected lump in my throat at how much I related to the story. Stupnitsky wrote the script along with his good friend Lee Eisenberg, who he wrote Bad Teacher and Year One with. While those films aren’t exactly stellar keep in mind that Eisenberg wrote the funniest scene of The Office in “Scott’s Tots”. The Good Boys’ script is filled with one-liners that keep hitting it out of the park and sequences that will leave you floored. The film’s major flaw is one that is continuing to clog recent films: unnecessary pop-culture references. This is another film that can’t resist making a Stranger Things and Game of Thrones reference. These jokes are unfunny now, what happens in twenty years when those not in the current zeitgeist visit these films for the first time?

Good Boys is fun from start to finish. As the summer season is winding down this is a perfect film to catch before it ends. Seth Rogen, who produces the film, is establishing himself as one of the sought-out men in Hollywood. Following the critically acclaimed Long Shot, the juggernaut Lion King remake and the most popular show of the summer The Boys, it seems that he can’t put a foot wrong. When you put people who are passionate about the comedy genre behind it you’ll get the results you deserve. Good Boys is a film that will become the first R-Rated comedy that many kids catch at 2am in the morning at a sleepover. It’s lovely to know that along with the raunchy humour they’ll get a film with a good message. 

 

Liam De Brùn

89′ 39″
16 (see IFCO for details)

Good Boys is released 16th August 2019

Good Boys Official Website

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Review: The Angry Birds Movie 2

DIR: Thurop Van Orman • WRI: Peter Ackerman  • DOP: Simon Dunsdon • ED: Kent Beyda, Ally Garrett • DES: Pete Oswald • PRO: John Cohen • MUS: Heitor Pereira • CAST: Jason Sudeikis, Josh Gad, Leslie Jones, Bill Hader. 

Video games movies never make it past the first film. Over the years we’ve seen them nearly all die at the first level. Max Payne, Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time, Need for Speed, Warcraft, Assassin’s Creed, Tomb Raider (2018) and two separate Hitman movies all came and went without anyone caring. For those who happened to catch these films, presumably playing in the background on a Sunday evening, we’re treated to boring films that spent their runtimes pandering to video game fans who deserved better. Outside of Mila Jovovich carrying Resident Evil to six films and Ryan Reynolds turning Pikachu into Deadpool, video game movies have been a genre with little success. Of all the games in the world that could have been a surprise hit, no one expected it to be one based on the Rovio Entertainment puzzle video game.

The Angry Birds Movie arrived in 2016 to claim the throne of the best video game movie ever made. Was it good? It was fine but you’ve got to remember that everything that came before it ranged from mediocre to atrocious. Can the Angry Birds unite to become the best video game movie sequel of all time? The answer to that is a resounding yes as its mere existence tops everything else that came before. 

The Angry Birds Movie 2 continues the story of our angry hero Red (Jason Sudeikis) and the rest of the flock. Following their triumphant victory over the Pigs in the previous film, Red is no longer an outcast. Red’s newfound sense of acceptance and the fame that comes with it is threatened when new foe Zeta (played by SNL’s Leslie Jones) makes her presence known. The birds must do the unthinkable and team up with the dastardly pigs before it’s too late.

What struck me most about this film is how in terms of plot it’s as basic as it comes. There are no major twists or obstacles that get in our heroes’ way from start to finish. Normally this would be the point in the review where I’d lay into another animated film that exists to distract its younger audiences with flashy colours for an hour and a half. This rant can’t be made against The Angry Birds Movie 2. The film relies on its characters and witty humour to entertain both adults and children. The jokes come at a relentless pace.  There’s no time to rue the ones that don’t land because the follow up will wipe the poor one out of your memory instantly. It’s admirable that the film chooses to focus on humour rather than plot. No one is going to an Angry Birds sequel for a story on par with The Dark Knight.

As with every kid’s film, there’s a lesson; a lesson of self-acceptance is essential for any kids or adults to learn. From a technical perspective, the animation feels exotic, it’s neither photo-realistic or cheaply made. It’s as if a wacky Sunday morning cartoon from the ’90s has been remastered.

The film ticks thanks to its leading cast. With a lot of animated films that aren’t Disney or DreamWorks it often feels that the cast is doing it for a paycheck. The leading cast members clearly had a great time making the film. Jason Sudeikis as Red is an unorthodox straight man, never afraid to deliver a killer joke despite being the rational member of the group. Danny McBride makes his, at first glance, one-note character work for a second film without ever becoming annoying. If you think Olaf from Frozen is annoying, you haven’t seen anything until you see Josh Gad as Chuck. The speedster bird is Olaf dialed up to the max. Whenever he was on screen, I could feel my blood boil. Leader of the pigs, Leonard, lets Bill Hader be Bill Hader, which is always welcome. Hader is the star of the show in most of his projects and here is no different. Sterling K Brown and Tiffany Hadish both turn their miniature roles into highlights. The two biggest new roles in the film are given to Rachel Bloom and Leslie Jones. Bloom plays Silver, an engineer who rivals Red for leadership. Bloom and Sudeikis’ chemistry make an almost forced romance feel genuine. Following the end of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend get ready to see a lot more of Bloom who is going to blow up. Leslie Jones finally finds a film that knows how to utilize her talents. Ghostbusters (2016) should have been the actor’s big break but she was held back by a limp script. Jones as the villain Zeta is hysterical; the comedian is given free rein to go wild with her character leading to the audience rooting for the villain.  It’s always refreshing to have a voice cast who want to act.

Directors of the first film, Clay Kaytis and Fergal Reilly, have opted not to return for the sequel. Sony has opted to give first-time director Thurop Van Orman a shot at directing a feature. Van Orman is no stranger to animation having written episodes of The Powerpuff Girls and creating The Marvellous Misadventures of Flapjack. Animated movies often feel different from the cartons we see on TV. Animated movies at times feel like they give up after they come up with their concept. While cartoons on TV aren’t afraid to embrace their weirdness. Thurop has clearly set out to make a film that is one of the more cartoonish you’ll see on the big screen. The oddness of the film makes it fresh as it never takes itself seriously.

A side plot involving baby birds would normally be released as a short film, Thurop sees no reason as to why his film can’t have a separate story that is as entertaining as his main plot. This wise decision was almost certainly from the mind of writer Peter Ackerman who previously wrote the first Ice Age film, in which Scrat, a character with no impact on the plot, became the series’ most famous character. The film’s only glaring fault is that it throws in references for the sake of it. The final act of the film crams in as many popular songs as possible for no particular reason.  No one on this planet ever wanted to hear the “Baby Shark” song in a film. 

The Angry Birds Movie 2 had no right being this entertaining. Not one person seeing this film expected it to be the best video game movie of all time. Yet against all the odds it is. It never takes itself seriously, its primary goal is to entertain. Had you no clue about what Angry Birds is, you would never even notice that this is a video game movie. The lesson to be learned here is that when making a video game movie, ignore the video game part and stick to making a movie. If it’s half as much fun as this one you’ve succeeded. Never in my life did I expect me to be clamoring at the prospect of a third film based off an app. 

Liam De Brún

@liamjoeireland

96′ 40″
G (see IFCO for details)

The Angry Birds Movie 2 is released 2nd August 2019

The Angry Birds Movie 2 – Official Website

 


 

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Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw

 

DIR: David Leitch  WRI: Chris Morgan, Drew Pearce • PRO:Hiram Garcia, Dwayne Johnson, Chris Morgan, Jason Statham • DOP: Jonathan Sela • DES: David Scheunemann • MUS: Tyler Bates • CAST: Dwayne Johnson, Jason Statham, Idris Elba, Vanessa Kirby

Has there ever been a franchise as odd as The Fast & Furious? From its humble beginnings as a Point Break rip-off to becoming the biggest non-superhero series in the world, nothing about the series makes sense. The first sequel that starred Vin Diesel didn’t arrive until the 4th film. The titles for each entry in the series haven’t followed a pattern; for example, the 7th film is called Furious 7 while the 8th film is called The Fate of the Furious. The series has been mocked by movie buffs for being nightmare fuel. Granted, the series hasn’t delivered an all-out amazing film,  it has come agonisingly close to delivering a film worthy of all the hype. Fast Five’s bank vault heist in Rio is glorious. The tribute to the late Paul Walker in Furious 7 is one of the most sincerely beautiful moments in cinema history. When The Fast & Furious movies want to be more than explosions and exploiting its female characters it strives. Even though the first film arrived 18 years ago it feels like The Fast & Furious franchise is only getting started. Hobbs & Shaw marks the series’ first foray into spinoffs. Can ‘The Rock’ and ‘The Stath’ team up to deliver a film worth toasting a cold Corona to? Or is this a sign that the wheels are beginning to come off?

Hobbs & Shaw tells the story of, surprisingly enough Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson) and Shaw (Jason Statham). The dynamic duo must put aside their differences, which, for the record, they already put behind them in the last film, in order to take down Brixton (Idris Elba) before he releases a deadly virus into the air changing the course of humanity forever. For a series that started with an undercover cop trying to infiltrate a group of street racers, you can’t help but feel giddy reading the plot synopsis. Dwayne Johnson and Jason Statham teaming up to battle an evil Idris Elba with superpowers is the film 2019 has been calling out for. Hobbs & Shaw is a welcome break from the relentless car action that the series is famed for. While, yes, there are still ridiculous chases, it takes a backseat in favour of more choreographed action. It’s refreshing to see Johnson and Statham use their action-movie experience instead of sticking them behind a car for 2 hours.  The duo bounce off each other with ease,;the film could have been 2 hours of them trading ribs and it would have been glorious. The film may rely on a MacGuffin like the rest of the series, but this never feels like a generic action film. What could have easily been a chase for a bottle of the superhero serum is avoided when Hattie (Vanessa Kirby) injects herself with it in the opening sequence. The dependency on the theme of family doesn’t feel forced for the first time in the series. The Shaws are clearly a tight-knit group who are always conjuring a plan, while Hobbs Samoan heritage is explored to its full potential. Those who turn their nose up at the film because it’s a Fast and Furious film are missing out on a film that is a thrill from start to finish. When the action and humour are this strong you need to put your hands up and applaud the boldness of a film which could have easily been a cash-grab. 

Hobbs & Shaw is a success thanks to the men playing the titular characters. While, together they are electric, it’s important to highlight the importance of their individuality. Dwayne Johnson as Luke Hobbs is the straighter of the 2 leads. Hobbs is a man who has always been presented as the ideal father, to see his strained relationship with his family outside of his daughter allows the character to feel ordinary and less perfect. Johnson is as charming as we’ve come to unfairly expect. It’s hard to distinguish if he’s ever acted or if he’s just a super nice guy. Following 2018, which saw the superstar stuck in the mediocre Rampage and the flat-out awful. Skyscraper, it’s nice to see Johnson strike back with another hit following Fighting with My Family earlier in the year.

Jason Statham has always been a somewhat underrated actor. While the films he takes on often centre around ridiculous premises, it’s hard to find an actor who can make them feel real. Statham carried The Meg on his back last year and gives one of the decade’s finest comedic performances in Spy. Hobbs & Shaw is another showcase for why we can’t take Statham for granted. As Shaw, Statham is the funnier of the two. Shaw’s frustration with what’s happening around him leads to brilliant comedic moments. A scene involving a door scanner will leave audiences in stitches.  Statham’s fighting style is more technical than Johnson’s brute force style. It’s always enticing to see how Shaw handles a fight against those who are bigger than him. Hobbs and Shaw are no odd couple. Both can fight, crack one-liners and take on anyone who comes their way. Together they have created a duo who fans will gladly watch  deliver more pulsating adventures for years to come.

What’s disappointing about the film is how they treat its side characters. Outside of Hobbs and Shaw, everyone else draws the short straw in terms of character development. Vanessa Kirby as Hattie Shaw had the opportunity to become as memorable as her fictional brothers played by Statham and Luke Evans. While Kirby shines in her action sequences, the film relegates her to a potential love interest for Johnson. Kirby is great in the sense where she’s allowed to show some personality and flare, but the film lets her down in another example of the series not caring about its female characters in the same way it cares about its men. If Kirby does return for the eventual sequel it’s only fair that they change the title to Hobbs and the Shaws.

Idris Elba as a supervillain is the type of casting that makes perfect sense. It’s clear to see the Elba is having a ball as Brixton. Whenever the actor gets to chew up the scenery it’s delightful. Brixton is bogged down by a needless mysterious evil group, but that can’t take anything away from how fun Elba is. The smirk on his face as he declares himself “black Superman” is delightful. Elba has served another reminder as to why he must be the next Bond. The actor commits to any project with an admirable degree of dedication. Who knows? Maybe Cats will be good?

Director David Leitch has wasted no time in delivering another blockbuster following his work on Deadpool 2 last year.  A film which I found to be a huge let-down following the brilliance of the first one. Thankfully, with Hobbs & Shaw, he brings a similar type of direction that he used for Atomic Blonde. The action sequences are amongst the series’ best. The final act is insane and glorious at the same time. Leitch has been given the creative freedom to deliver a film that mostly feels less like a Fast & Furious film and more like a David Leitch film. There are some sloppy moments that can’t be forgiven. There are plenty of nameless female characters that are viewed as nothing more than objects – in 2019 you’d have hoped that the series would move away from that direction. Leitch also seems eager to keep returning to a POV shot from Brixton’s perspective that is let down by subpar special effects.

Writers Chris Morgan and Drew Pearse may have written a film that makes next to no logistical sense, but they get a pass for coming up with dialogue that no other movie could pull off. Hearing Statham calling himself “a champagne problem” before fighting with a bottle is wonderful. Leitch fills the film with big surprises that no one saw coming. It’s odd that the typical Fast & Furious tropes are what let the film down. When Leitch focuses on making the film his own it’s clear to see that this is a director who could ascend to the top of the action pile sooner than we expected. 

Overall, Hobbs & Shaw is the finest Fast & Furious film to date. It’s bonkers from start to finish, not a minute goes by where the film attempts to be normal.  It arrives at a time where most summer blockbusters have been mediocre and repetitive. Nothing about Hobbs & Shaw feels like more of the same. This is a film that gets Dwayne Johnson his mojo back, gives us tier one Statham action and gives us hammy villainous Idris Elba. What’s not to love? If most of the series was like this then The Fast & Furious franchise would not be a mocked one. Go watch this on the biggest and loudest screen you can find. Soak up two hours of pure mayhem. You will not find a film this year as fun as this one. 

Liam De Brún

@liamjoeireland

135′ 43″
PG (see IFCO for details)

Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw is released 2nd August 2019

Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw – Official Website

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