Reviews

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Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb

  • Currently 4/5 Stars.

NIGHT AT THE MUSEUM: SECRET OF THE TOMB (USA/UK/PG/97mins)
Directed by Shawn Levy. Starring Ben Stiller, Owen Wilson, Robin Williams, Mickey Rooney, Ben Kingsley, Steve Coogan, Ricky Gervais, Rami Malek, Rachael Harris, Dan Stevens, Rebel Wilson, Rami Malek.
THE PLOT: The magic tablet that brings the inhabitants of New York's Natural History Museum is becoming corroded and weak, so Larry (Ben Stiller) must take Ahkmenrah (Rami Malek) to London to find out the history of the ancient magic from his parents. Of course, Teddy Roosevelt (Robin Williams), Jed (Owen Wilson), Octavius (Steve Coogan) and the gang tag along for the ride, and they make friends with Sir Lancelot (Dan Stevens) along the way.
THE VERDICT: When I cast an eye back over the favourite movies of my childhood - BACK TO THE FUTURE, INDIANA JONES, THE GOONIES - they are invariably ones filled with magic, adventure and a little chaos. It feels like this ‘magic' formula has been missing from kids' movies of late, but NIGHT AT THE MUSEUM: SECRET OF THE TOMB has come along just on time to save the day.
Ben Stiller, Robin Williams, Steve Coogan, Crystal the monkey and Owen Wilson are all back, along with Ricky Gervais and newcomers to the franchise Rebel Wilson and Dan Stevens. As always, this Night at the Museum film is one that lives and dies with the ensemble, but there are some outstanding performances therein. The chemistry between Coogan and Owen Wilson is fantastic, and they bounce off one another incredibly well, there is tons of adventure and of course, some incredibly touching moments including the late, great Robin Williams. Dan Stevens obviously has a whale of a time as the over the top romantic hero Sir Lancelot, and Rebel Wilson brings her awkward brand of humour to the whole affair. There are also some great cameos, including ones from Ben Kingsley and Hugh Jackman.
The script, to be fair, is exceedingly simple, but then this is the case with the best adventure movies aimed at kids. The clever concept - which still feels as though it was stolen from TOY STORY - is still one of the best parts of the film, and is sure to get kids interested in visiting museums. As well as this, the concept gives rise to plenty of comedy surrounding characters finding themselves in a time they don't understand, and being faced with mythical and dangerous beasts.
Director Shawn Levy has finally captured the right kind of essence for the NIGHT AT THE MUSEUM trilogy; mixing sentiment with adventure, magic with friendship and over the top characters with cynical ones. There are some fantastic set pieces - including one inspired by MC Escher - although at times it feels as though the movie is moving from one action sequence to another, story bedamned. Oh, and the last five minutes is complete unnecessary and takes a bit of the shine off the movie as a whole.
In all though, NIGHT AT THE MUSEUM: SECRET OF THE TOMB is by far the best film in the franchise, and is filled with that spark of wonder that was so well done in the 1980s. Dan Stevens shines, Robin Williams brings the sentiment and the entire affair is, for the most part, fun and magical. That is, of course, if you can wipe the last five minutes from your memory.
RATING: 4/5
Review by Brogen Hayes 

Dumb and Dumber To

  • Currently 2/5 Stars.

DUMB & DUMBER TO (USA/15A/109mins) 
Directed by Bobby Farrelly, Peter Farrelly. Starring Jim Carrey, Jeff Daniels, Kathleen Turner, Rob Riggle, Laurie Holden, Rachel Melvin, Steve Tom, Don Lake, Patricia French, Bill Murray.
THE PLOT:
 It's been twenty years since we last saw sweet knuckleheads Lloyd Christmas (Carrey) and Harry Dunne (Daniels), and, as anyone who has even walked past the trailer will know, the former has been faking a coma for pretty much all of that time. Which is pretty much the best gag in the movie. After that, Lloyd and Harry are soon on the road again, the latter informing the former that unless he gets a new kidney soon, the double act will be well and truly buried. And so they hit the road, in the hope of tracking down Harry's old flame, and the child he never knew he had. Cue some dead-in-the-water puns, such as "She's the fruit of your loom, Harry!".
THE VERDICT: 
Considering just how truly wonderful those three early Farrelly brothers films were - 1994's DUMB & DUMBER, 1996's KINGPIN and 1998's THERE'S SOMETHING ABOUT MARY - it's been pretty painful to see their slow, steady, increasingly unfunny decline. What was beautifully twisted and outrageously funny suddenly just came across as gross, as the brothers tried to wring laughs from such unfunny subjects as incest (Say It Isn't So), schizophrenia (ME, MYSELF & IRENE), obesity (SHALLOW HAL), conjoined twins (STUCK ON YOU), the Special Olympics (THE RINGER) and good ol' infidelity (HALL PASS). Even when it came to the safer and more commercially sound remake, the Farrellys found themselves falling short, with 2007's return-to-form - and sequel-of-sorts to MARY - THE HEARTBREAK KID and 2012's THE THREE STOOGES failing to turn a profit, or a corner, for the fading Farrellys.
So, it's not all that surprising that the brothers have returned to their breakthrough debut, hoping to find that reignite that early creative, and commercial, spark. That DUMB & DUMBER TO is a far superior film to 2003's much-derided prequel DUMB & DUMBERBER: WHEN HARRY MET LLOYD is hardly surprising. That Dumb & Dumber To is far inferior to the 1994 original is also undeniable though, the Farrellys reunion with Carrey and Daniels being, initially at least, a pale carbon copy of their comic masterpiece. The plot set-up, the characters and even the soundtrack is largely the same - which leaves you with the need for Very Funny Gags. Of which there are about 8 here. We're still firmly in Marx/Zucker brothers territory, and there are times when Carrey (also in desperate need of a hit, and a hug) and Daniels are clearly enjoying themselves, but DUMB & DUMBER TO ultimately feels like a 20-years-later sequel, where the gleeful shock of the new has long gone. 
RATING: 2/5 
Revire by Paul Byrne 

The Green Prince

  • Currently 4/5 Stars.

THE GREEN PRINCE (Germany/USA/UK/Israel/IFI/101mins)
Directed by Nadav Schirman. Starring Mosab Hassan Yousef, Gonen Ben Yitzhak, Sheikh Hassan Yousef, Yassar Arafat.
THE PLOT: 
When the 17-year-old son of one of the founders of Hamas is picked up by Israeli intelligence, after having just bought himself his very first gun, it doesn't take long for his handler to realise that he may have struck gold. For Israeli intelligence always ask any Palestinian prisoners if they would consider working for them. And either answer has repercussions. In prison, if you tells your fellow Hamas fighters that you said "No" to the Israelis, they automatically assume that you're lying. And it was in prison, when Mosab Hassan Yousef informed his fellow Hamas fighters that he said "Yes" as a ruse to reek revenge, the son of party leader Sheikh Hassan Yousef recognised the brutality of his comrades against Israeli occupation of Palestine that "We were living a lie". For the next ten years, Mosab would work for Gonen Ben Yitzhak, the Shin Bet agent who invited him to spy for Israeli secret service. That the two would become friends triggers another twist in Mosab's story... 
THE VERDICT: 
Based on Mosab Hassan Yousef's 2010 memoir SON OF HAMAS, director and co-writer Nadav Schirman (here following up THE CHAMPAGNE SPY and IN THE DARK ROOM) uses talking heads and archive footage to tell this spy-behind-enemy-lines true-life tale to deliver this thriller of a documentary. Or documentary of a thriller. As the relationship between Mosab and Zonen develops over the years, there are tensions, especially when Mosab threatens to walk. His true desire for the violence to end would normally have caused trouble within Hamas for Mosab, but being his father's right-hand man - and gatekeeper when it came to public appearances and secret meetings - meant immunity from such suspicions. That Mosab and Zonen would end up in THE LIVES OF OTHERS territory makes for a surprisingly upbeat ending to this inside glimpse into an ugly war. 
RATING: 4/5
Review by Paul Byrne

Electricity

  • Currently 4/5 Stars.

ELECTRICITY (UK/IFI/96mins)
Directed by Bryn Higgins. Starring Agyness Deyn, Lenora Crichlow, Christian Cooke, Paul Anderson, Tom Georgeson, Alice Lowe, Ben Batt.
THE PLOT: 
Having been thrown down the stairs by her drunken mother as a child, seaside arcade worker Lily O'Connor (Deyn) suffers from epilepsy. When her mother passes, Lily get in touch with her older brother, Barry (Anderson), insisting the proceeds from selling the old family home should also be split with younger brother Mikey (Cooke), who had always protected her, and was later taken into care. Heading to London in the hope of finding Mikey through an ex-girlfriend, but there be shysters in the big city. And a very angry Mikey, as it turns out...
THE VERDICT: 
The Brits are a dab hand at making these touching but tough little dramas centred on people living between the cracks. The sort of people who might just earn themselves an hour-long documentary on Channel 4. Here, director Bryn Higgins finds some new sensations to play with, giving us a visceral journey inside the eye of the epileptic fits that strike at such random points in Lily's story. Dop Si Bell does a fine job taking the audience out of their comfort zone, as does leading lady, model-turned-actress Agyness Deyn. If the film's momentum wanes slightly towards the end, it is still, nonetheless, an engrossing affair. Based on Ray Robinson's 2007 debut novel, ELECTRICITY has the spark. 
RATING: 4/5
Review by Paul Byrne

Tinkerbell and the Legend of the Neverbeast

  • Currently 3/5 Stars.

TINKERBELL AND THE LEGEND OF THE NEVERBEAST (USA/G/76mins)
Directed by Steve Loter. Starring Mae Whitman, Ginnifer Goodwin, Mel B, Lucy Liu, Pamela Adlon.
THE PLOT: Pixie Hollow is threatened when a green comet streaks through the sky, awakening the mythical NeverBeast. Fawn (Ginnifer Goodwin), a fairy with responsibility for caring for animals, encounters the NeverBeast and, despite his fearsome appearance, soon learns that there is more to the creature than what meets the eye. When danger looms on the horizon, however, Fawn must face the possibility that she was wrong about her new friend.
THE VERDICT: Ah, the TINKERBELL franchise. Fans of JM Barrie's feisty fairy may as well take a seat now; your outrage over how Tinkerbell has been changed is not needed at this stage, since the Tinkerbell juggernaut seems to be grinding to a halt, with THE LEGEND OF THE NEVERBEAST seeming to be the final film in the franchise. That said though, there are some great moments in this new cinematic outing, and a rather sweet message for the little ‘uns in the audience.
The voice cast is made up of Ginnifer Goodwin, Mae Whitman, Mel B, Rosario Dawson, Lucy Liu and Pamela Adlon, making this a seriously female led film, and a film full of vocal talent that has been proven time and again.
In terms of story, LEGEND OF THE NEVERBEAST is a classic tale about not judging a book by it's cover, and standing up for those who don't have a voice. The relationship between Fawn and the NeverBeast is sweet and warm; one of friendship, acceptance and curiosity. Of course everything in Pixie Hollow is super sweet and all about fluffy bunnies and the like, but this is still a strong message for kids, and something they can learn from. That said, there are sequences that drag on a little too long, some of the fairies are still unfunny airheads, and the super sweet, religious allegory filled ending may just make the film a little too long for the tiny kids in the audience.
The animation is incredibly pretty, and in creating the NeverBeast, Disney opened up a whole new colour palette for the film, and added a little more mystery and magic to the franchise. Of course, it doesn't need to be in 3D, but these things rarely do.
In all, TINKERBELL AND THE LEGEND OF THE NEVERBEAST is a pretty film with a sweet message. The NeverBeast - a perfect mix of dog, cat and Stitch - is a lovely addition to Pixie Hollow, and this is perhaps the best Tinkerbell film of the lot. This is the second TINKERBELL film released in Ireland this year, but it is a huge step up from TINKERBELL AND THE PIRATE FAIRY in almost every way, but as to whether this film could reinvigorate the franchise remains to be seen.
RATING: 3/5
Review by Brogen Hayes 

The Hobbit The Battle of The Five Armies

  • Currently 3/5 Stars.

THE HOBBIT: THE BATTLE OF THE FIVE ARMIES (New Zealand | USA/12A/144mins)
Directed by Peter Jackson. Starring Martin Freeman, Ian McKellen, Orlando Bloom, Aidan Turner, Evangeline Lilly.
THE PLOT: In the final instalment of THE HOBBIT trilogy, Bilbo (Martin Freeman) finds himself dealing with a Thorin (Richard Armitage) driven mad with greed, the people of Laketown flee from the fearsome Smaug, and the entire company faces threats from within, and without.
THE VERDICT: By now, if you have seen a HOBBIT film, you will know what to expect; loads of spectacle, lots of talking, and a ruddy great fight at the end, and to this end THE HOBBIT: THE BATTLE OF THE FIVE ARMIES does not disappoint.
Once again, Martin Freeman is the heart and soul of the film as Bilbo; not only is he the voice of reason, but he is the only one without a familial loyalty, and perhaps the only one who can see things as they truly are. Freeman proves, once again, that he has a talent for playing the relatable everyman, and this is exactly what he does here. Richard Armitage gets a small chance to show off his acting chops as he delves deep into the role of Thorin, a dwarf whose greed consumes him, Luke Evans plays the hero as Bard, Evangeline Lilly, Orlando Bloom and Aidan Turner make up the ass-kickin' love triangle, and manage both with ease, and Ian McKellen brings some weight to the entire affair with another stellar turn as Gandalf the Grey. Once again, this is a film that lives and dies with the ensemble and as a whole, the cast are on fine form.
As we know from the HOBBIT films that have gone before, Jackson, Walsh and Boyens and Guillermo Del Toro have stretched out the original book to fill three incredibly long films. For the first time, however the pacing in this HOBBIT film does not suffer as a result. Yes, there are some times when individual fight sequences go on a little long - Aidan Turner reliably informing me that there are 55 minutes of battle in this movie - but this is more a question of editing, than scripting, it seems. The dialogue heavy scenes work well too, with the interactions between Bilbo and Thorin coming out on top. That said, however, some of the more comedic moments feel a little out of place, tonally, with Stephen Fry as the Master of Laketown coming out worst of all. Billy Connolly head butting Orcs while carrying on chitchat, however, is a touch of comic genius. Speaking of comedy, the deus ex machina moment, which had to arrive, is rather unintentionally funny, and quite ludicrous, even by THE HOBBIT's standards.
As mentioned, director Peter Jackson keeps the pace zipping along - sometimes to the film's detriment, as Smaug and other storylines are wrapped up in what seems like the blink of an eye - although his attempt to focus on the more dramatic elements of the battle does slow things down from time to time. As with the rest of the films in THE HOBBIT franchise, THE BATTLE OF THE FIVE ARMIES is never quite sure where it should end, although when the film finally does wrap up, there is a nice nod to what's to come. The Battle is a battle in a Peter Jackson film, meaning that if you have seen one before, you know what's to come. The feeling of familiarity does damage the film at times, as does the knowledge of who will survive and who will not. The 3D, as usual, is rather useless, apart from a couple of moments with Smaug and the HFR, while making the film look like a bad sitcom, seems less intrusive than in the past. Perhaps we are getting used to it after all?
In all, THE HOBBIT: THE BATTLE OF THE FIVE ARMIES is a fitting end to THE HOBBIT trilogy. It's still action heavy with some moments of unintentional comedy, but fans of the series will be satisfied with the resolution, and the rest of us will have to find another franchise on which to hang our Christmas tradition. Until, that is, Jackson gets his hands on The Silmarillion...
RATING: 3/5
Review by: Brogen Hayes 

St. Vincent

  • Currently 4/5 Stars.

ST. VINCENT (USA/12A/102mins)
Directed by Theodore Melfi. Starring Melissa McCarthy, Bill Murray, Terrence Howard, Naomi Watts, Chris O'Dowd.
THE PLOT: 
Newly single mum Maggie (Melissa McCarthy) moves into a Brooklyn house with her son Oliver (Jaeden Lieberher), and immediately catches the attention of her grouchy neighbour Vincent (Bill Murray) by accidentally damaging his property. When Oliver is locked out of his home, however, he calls on Vincent, and soon an unlikely friendship grows between man and boy.
THE VERDICT: 
Bill Murray seems to have a sense of humour about himself, both as a person and as an actor, and this - coupled with the knowledge that he made great friends with the young cast of MOONRISE KINGDOM - makes him the obvious choice for the title role of ST. VINCENT. Murray makes Vincent a man with a good heart, who is plagued by demons including grief and alcohol. The good heart remains, however, and it is through his friendship with Oliver, and his frequent visits to a patient in a nursing home, that the audience gets to see the softer, more caring side of the man.
Melissa McCarthy has spent a lot of time since Bridesmaids, creating kooky, larger than life characters on the big screen, with varying degrees of success, so thank god for her role in ST. VINCENT. McCarthy gets the chance to tone everything right down, and to play a woman that we recognise on screen. McCarthy is warm and relatable on screen, and brings her strong on screen presence and charisma with her. Jaeden Lieberher is warm and sweet as Oliver, and it is through his eyes that we see the world, and the spark of kindness in Vincent. The chemistry and connection between Lieberher and Murray is wonderful, and together they form the emotional heart of the film. Elsewhere, Naomi Watts turns up as a mouthy and gruff but caring stripper, and Chris O'Dowd plays perhaps the best on screen teacher since Robin Williams in DEAD POETS' SOCIETY.
The story, written by Theodore Melfi is one that immediately feels familiar, as though we have been down this road many times before. That said, for all the films' predictability, it still has some surprises to offer, and makes up for the familiar ground it treads through wonderful on screen chemistry, touching dialogue and laugh out loud scenes. As director, Melfi allows Murray and Lieberher to rule the screen, and coaxes strong performances from his entire cast, even those with the smaller roles. There is something of GARDEN STATE, THE STATION AGENT and IS ANYBODY THERE? about ST. VINCENT, which makes it familiar, but it's a treat nonetheless.
In all, ST. VINCENT is a familiar film, but a sweet, heartwarming and surprisingly funny one. Bill Murray shines, as is his wont, and a star is born in young Lieberher. Theodore Melfi directs competently, and has created a familiar, warm and safe world for the film.
RATING: 4/5
Review by Brogen Hayes 

The Grandmaster

  • Currently 4/5 Stars.

THE GRANDMASTER (Hong Kong/China/15A/130mins)
Directed by Wong Kar-wai. Starring Tony Leung Chiu-wai, Zhang Ziyi, Chang Chen, Wang Qingxiang, Zhang Jin, Zhao Benshan, Song Hye-kyo, Yuen Woo-ping.
THE PLOT: 
We begin with true-life martial arts legend Ip Man's early years, being initiated into the ancient combat practice by his teacher Chen Heshun (Yuen), whilst we also see Ip's happy domestic life with his wife (Song). His first notable duel arrives when northeastern Chinese martial arts master Gong Yutian (Wang) sets out for a last fight, hoping to establish his school's superiority over southern rivals. Ip wins the fight, and soon Gong's daughter, Er (Zhang) is demanding a second fight, so she can restore her family's name. It's during their close physical struggle that the two manage to fall in love, but the two go their separate ways, as we then follow Gong Er's story. The two will meet again though...
THE VERDICT: 
There's so much to love, cherish and obey about Wong Kar-wai's unsurprisingly lush and beautiful historical martial arts epic, but there are also a handful of elements that make you want to punch kittens. Such as the wildly-varying tone. On the plus side though, as I said, it's beautiful, it's lush, and - thanks to choreographer Yuen Woo-ping (Crouching Tiger, The Matrix) - it kicks ass so very, very beautifully.
And talking of beautiful, Wong is once again so very right when it comes to portraying long-distance longing, his two romantic leads Leung and Zhang offering up the perfect lump-in-the-pants counterbalance to all that lump-in-the-throat violence.
Inspired by real-life martial arts legend Ip Man, and first announced by director Wong Kar-wai in 2002, The Grandmaster is every bit as grand and masterful as you might expect from the director of In The Mood For Love (2000) and 2046 (2004). Given that Wilson Yip's Ip Man (2008) and Ip Man 2 (2010) have been and gone since that first announcement for The Grandmaster 12 years ago, Wong Kar-wai moves beyond the simple biopic here to deal with how Hong Kong become the retirement ground for many of the fighters exiled from China, as well as his old favourite, unrequited and repressed love. And he does so with style. Buckets of style. And blood. 
RATING: 4/5 
Review by Paul Byrne

The Pyramid

  • Currently 2/5 Stars.

THE PYRAMID (USA/16/89mins) 
Directed by Gregory Levasseur. Starring Ashley Hinshaw, Denis O'Hare, James Buckley, Christa Nicola, Amir K, Faycal Attougui.
THE PLOT: 
Egypt is going through some major civil unrest, but a group of archaelogist explorers have more important things to deal with when they unearth a mysterious three-sided pyramid. It's father and daughter Egyptologist team Holden (O'Hare) and Nora (Hinshaw) who discover the unique structure, and when their explorer robots goes AWOL inside, they decide to follow - with eager TV journalist Sunni (Nicola) and her Brit cameraman (Buckley) chronicling their every move. Once inside, the foursome find themselves trapped, and facing a series of strange and ancient devices. Oh, and some shaven, nutter cats. Think THE CUBE meets THE MUMMY. Meets Simon's Cat. On acid.
THE VERDICT:
 If Dan Brown made horror movies, they'd probably be this. Your very run-of-the-mill, standard-issue schlock horror offering, the only remotely interesting thing about The Pyramid is wondering what the hell INBETWEENER James Buckley is doing running around in the middle of it all. I can understand Jay Cartwright saying yes to this, but Buckley? He's got a career, hasn't he?
Bringing the found-footage schtick to a very jaded subgenre of horror, first-time feature director Levasseur makes no real attempt to make his mark here, plainly hoping that, as with so many so-so horror movies, this one will reach its devoted audience, and he'll live to fight a proper fight some day. 
RATING: 2/5
Review by Paul Byrne

Get Santa

  • Currently 2/5 Stars.

GET SANTA (UK | USA/G/102mins)
Directed by Christopher Smith. Starring Jim Broadbent, Rafe Spall, Warwick Davis.
THE PLOT: 
Steve (Rafe Spall) is released from prison after two yeas, and wants nothing more than to reconnect with his son Tom (Kit Connor). Tom, however, discovers a man claiming to be Santa Claus (Jim Broadbent) hiding in his shed to recover from a sleigh crash, and begs his dad to help him reunite Santa with his reindeer and save Christmas.
THE VERDICT: 
Jim Broadbent is well able to play Santa, and does so with aplomb. There are times where the character is a little cringeworthy, but when he gets back into his red suit and regains the twinkle in his eye, then all is right with the world. Rafe Spall plays Steve as an earnest and caring, but rather messed up father. Spall also creates a warm and gentle relationship with Connor, and it is obvious that the two had fun creating their characters. The rest of the cast is made up of Warwick Davis, Stephen Graham, Ewen Bremner and Jodie Whittaker.
GET SANTA obviously has good intentions, but is completely let down by a weird tonal mix created by Christopher Smith. The idea of Santa needing ordinary people's help to get Christmas back on track is theme that recurs again and again, so immediately GET SANTA feels a little unoriginal and uninspired. Couple this with Santa thrown in jail for trying to rescue his reindeer and the film quickly becomes a mess. As well as this, much of the humour comes from toilet jokes and, while these may impress the tiny ones at first, there is only so much poop that can be flung before the audience mentally checks out. The cast do what they can to rescue the film from disaster, but they are fighting a losing battle.
As director, Smith fails to marry the two strains of the story together and, while the performances are fine and when the magic of Christmas truly kicks in, it's charming, Get Santa takes far too long to get where it's going. As well as this, there is a feeling of inevitability about the whole thing, since Christmas will surely be saved like it always is. Smith has made his name as a horror director and, while he is to be admired for trying to stretch himself as a filmmaker, this is a challenge that well and truly fails.
In all, GET SANTA is a film that tries to run on British charm and the connection between an estranged father and son, but there are two sides to this coin, and they never truly connect. The poop jokes get old, the prison scenes are odd and try as the cast might, they can't rescue this film from feeling a weird sentimental mish-mash that never truly feels coherent.
RATING: 2/5
Review by Brogen Hayes

Penguins Of Madagascar

  • Currently 4/5 Stars.

PENGUINS OF MADAGASCAR (USA/G/92mins)
Directed by: Eric Darnell & Simon J. Smith. Starring Tom McGrath, Benedict Cumberbatch, John Malkovich, Chris Miller, Ken Jeong.
THE PLOT: 
This time, the penguins from the beloved MADAGASCAR franchise are out on their own, and have to stop an evil villain bent on revenge against all penguin-kind. The trouble is that the penguins may have more help than they need, and certainly more than they want.
THE VERDICT: As is often the case with big, successful franchises, MADAGASCAR is a series of films that lives and dies with its supporting cast. Thankfully the makers of the franchise have realised this, and sent Kowalski (Chris Miller), Skipper (Tom McGrath), Rico (Conrad Vernon) and Private (Christopher Knights) off on an adventure of their own. The gang find themselves at the heart of a conspiracy that forces them to team up with the secret organisation The North Wind, to take down the evil Dr Octavius Brine.
The voice cast are on fantastic form in PENGUINS OF MADAGASCAR, and they inject the heart and much of the comedy into the film. As well as the long standing voices of the four penguins, Benedict Cumberbatch - who still can't say ‘penguin'... Aww - Ken Jeong, John Malkovich, Annet Mahendru and Peter Stormare join the fun. Malkovich brings the fantastically evil Dr Octavius Brine to life, and obviously has a great time bringing the evil, but the standout role has to be Werner Herzog in an inspired cameo as a documentary filmmaker. Not only is Herzog screamingly funny, but he manages to take the mick out of himself, and send up the documentary genre as a whole, all in the space of one short scene. Well done, sir.
Many times, when a film is written by several screenwriters, the result is a mess, but John Aboud, Michael Colton, Eric Darnell and Brandon Sawyer have worked together to create a cohesive story that sends up the spy thriller, brings the laughs and is in keeping with our previous encounters with the penguins. Running gags abound here - including a spectacular one concerning actor's names - as well as sight gags and silliness. Irish fans of the franchise will delight in the Dublin gag, but the film also has a sweet and warm message of acceptance and family.
Directors Eric Darnell and Simon J. Smith direct their cast, and the action, to cinematic brilliance, while managing to strike a balance between sight gags and dialogue, and allowing each character a moment of brilliance. No mean feat. As well as this, they keep the film rattling along at a great pace - which often leads to madcap antics on screen, and jokes landing several seconds after they have been realised - but this is all part of the fun. As always with the MADAGASCAR films, the animals and scenery may not be animated as photo realistic, but they are warm and have a style all of their own.
In all, PENGUINS OF MADAGASCAR was a brilliant move from filmmakers, since the penguins as beloved from the franchise. In bringing supporting characters to the fore, the film could well have fallen flat, but PENGUINS OF MADAGASCAR is consistently funny, action packed and has a whole lot of heart. Hear that!? That's the sound of a new franchise forming, and if its half as good as this film, then I can't wait.
RATING: 4/5
Review by Brogen Hayes 

Black Sea

  • Currently 4/5 Stars.

BLACK SEA (UK/15A/115mins)
Directed by Kevin Macdonald. Starring Jude Law, Scoot McNairy, Ben Mendelsohn, Michael Smiley.
THE PLOT: Robinson (Jude Law) is a submarine captain who has devoted his life to his job. When he is unceremoniously fired, he receives word that the location of a legendary Nazi submarine that was carrying several million dollars in gold when it sank, has been found. Robinson is hired to round up a crew and salvage the gold for a cut of the money, but the company that hired him may have different ideas. 
THE VERDICT: Sporting a rather chewy accent, Jude Law plays the captain of the submarine, and thus the leader of a band of misfits whose work in submarines has dried up. Law plays Robinson as a reasonable man, so when the situation on the sub starts to change, the audience looks to him for tone and sanity. Law does well with the role, and becomes the heart and soul of the film. Scoot McNairy takes on the role of the manipulator, and creates many of the twists and turns by whispering in peoples' ears. Ben Mendelsohn plays another unreasonable but engaging character, and Michael Smiley brings a lot of humour to the incredibly tense proceedings.
The script, written by Dennis Kelly, feels as though it could have been made as INDIANA JONES 5. The rumour of the occult being a fascination in the Third Reich is never explicitly mentioned, but the idea that this treasure is cursed is a thread that runs through the entire film. The dialogue is smart and the characters are rounded enough that we know and understand who they are. The Russian cast members suffer a little due to the English language actors being given more prominence, but they are still integral to the story and the film as a whole. Kelly seems to have run with the idea that whatever can go wrong, will go wrong, but manages to keep the audience on the characters' side through clever development and insights into their lives.
Kevin Macdonald has created a film that runs with tension. As soon as the submarine dips below the surface of the Black Sea, the tension is raised, and keeps going up from there. The film lives and dies with the relationships between the characters and, although they are not always fleshed out, there is enough of a bond formed on screen to keep the audience gripped and under the sea with the cast. The Nazi gold is lovely touch as well, giving the film an air of the occult, without ever needing it to be explicitly said. That said, there are times when the teeth gritting tension becomes almost unbearable, and any reprieve feels like set up for another disaster. This gets stressful and tiring at times, and a moment's relief would have done wonders for the film.
In all, however, BLACK SEA is a gripping, thrilling and incredibly well made film. Led by an impressive and unglamorous performance from Jude Law, the cast have the audience immediately on their side and they work incredibly well together. Macdonald's direction keeps the feel of claustrophobia and tension rising and rising, and although a moment's breathing room would perhaps have made the film more bearable, this is a film where the audience is in the thick of the action with the characters; a rare and often terrifying thing.
RATING: 4/5
Review by Brogen Hayes 

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