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  • Currently 5/5 Stars.



Directed by Kenneth Branagh. Starring Lily James, Cate Blanchett, Richard Madden, Sophie McShera, Holliday Grainger,

 Derek Jacobi, Ben Chaplin, Hayley Atwell, Helena Bonham Carter.

THE PLOT: Sticking close to the 1950 animated version of the classic fairytale, we first meet the young Ella (Eloise Webb) living the life of a Edouard Manet painting - namely, Le Dejeuner sur l’herbe - mixed with Beatrix Potter’s dreams. This is a fairytale childhood, and therefore, tragedy is just around the corner. When Ella’s mother is taken fatally ill, she advises her young daughter to “Have courage, and be kind”. It’s a mantra that the teenage Ella (James) clings to when her loving father (Chaplin) marries the hard-nosed widow Lady Tremaine (Blanchett, cackling like Sybil Fawlty, so, we know she’s evil). When her father fails to return from a business trip, Ella soon finds herself becoming servant and slave to her wicked stepmother and her rude and uncouth daughters, Drisella (McShera) and Anatasia (Grainger). Banished to the attic, Ella tries to have courage and be kind, but her struggle to remain so is interrupted when she happens upon a young man on a stag hunt. Convincing this stranger to call off the hunt, Cinderella (a name given to her by her stepsisters after a night sleeping too close to the fire) fails to recognise that the man she is so readily admonishing is none other than the Prince. And once departed, he is determined to find this mysterious girl again... 

THE VERDICT: Shot in sweeping, swooning, glorious 2D, there’s something very familiar and comforting about Kenneth Branagh’s live-action take on the well-worn European folk tale that has been around at least as long as Rhodopis, the Greek slave girl, married the king of Egypt way back in 7 BC. Despite its long history, and its many, many tellings, for most people, Cinderella will always be the 1950s Walt Disney animated outing, and it’s undoubtedly the blueprint that our Ken is working from here. Which is all hokey-kokey with me, given just how classic a tale of oppresion and final act revenge Cinderella happens to be. And how much of an emotional punch can be wrung from this delicious tale of domestic abuse and very delayed gratification.

That’s not to put too arty a point on what is, bottom line, just a great big Cinemascopic kiss of a movie, from Blanchett’s wicked-but-troubled stepmother to Madden’s shining and shy Prince and lead Lily James’ wry beauty (somehow managing to suggest Cinderella may be good as gold but she’s also capable of being bold as brass). Think the truly enchanting Enchanted without the post-modern irony.

Sentimental, sugar-coated and soaked overnight in schmaltz, Cinderella is a triumph not because it tries to subvert its classic fairytale roots but because it embraces them. Spectacularly.

RATING: 5/5 

Review by Paul Byrne 

Wild Tales

  • Currently 4/5 Stars.

WILD TALES (Argentina | Spain/15A/122mins)
Directed by Damián Szifrón. Starring Ricardo Darín, Erica Rivas.
THE PLOT: Writer/Director Damián Szifrón pulls six short stories together as a feature; all distressing, all funny and all about revenge...
THE VERDICT: WILD TALES is an odd sort of film, and one that is both darkly comic and utterly engrossing. The tales are of love, hatred and most of all revenge, and while some of them feel familiar at times, there is a feeling of freshness about the entire film.
The cast do well in their short roles, managing to convey a wealth of emotion and back story in a short space of time. Erica Rivas stands out as a scorned bride pushed to the limits of her sanity, Ricardo Darín is wonderful as a man who is driven to extreme measures when his car is towed, and Rita Cortese is hilarious as an unscrupulous cook.
WILD TALES has a feeling of HOLY MOTORS about it, but is not as inaccessible as some found Leos Carax's film. There is a playfulness to the stories, and although all are incredibly dark and involve violence or death to some extent, all are completely over the top and at times, hilarious. Of course, some stories work better than others, and as a general rule, the shorter the tale is, the better it is. One story in particular feels out of pace with the tone of the rest and, as such, drags the pacing of the entire film down.
Damián Szifrón directs each story well, keeping motivations simple and clear. We learn more about some characters than others, but since this is part of the experience of the film, this doesn't feel as though it is a fault. As mentioned, there are times when the pacing of the film suffers, due to some stories being more on tone and better paced than others, but Szifrón always manages to claw the film back as a whole, reminding audiences that life is tragic and funny.
In all, WILD TALES is an anthology of weird, violent and funny stories about revenge. The tone is perfectly off-kilter and, although some of the tales work better than others, the film as a whole is funny, well observed and just the right amount of over the top.
Review by Brogen Hayes 

The Tale of The Princess Kaguya

  • Currently 4/5 Stars.

Directed by Isao Takahata. Starring the voices of Chloe Grace Moretz, James Caan, Mary Steenburgen, Darren Criss, Lucy Liu, Beau Bridges, James Marsden, Oliver Platt, Dean Cain, George Segal.
THE PLOT: It's 10th century Japan, and humble bamboo cutter Sanuki finds a new-born baby, arriving in a shaft of light. Within hours of bringing the little girl home to his wife, the baby grows before their very eyes. It doesn't take long before their little girl is busy playing with the local kids, one of them, Sutemaru, quickly become her favourite. When Sanuki also finds gold and fine clothes in the bamboo shoots, he vows that their little girl will live like a princess - and he soon whisks the entire family away to live in the city, in their shiny new mansion, complete with servants and a nanny to teach their little girl how to become a true aristocrat. Now officially named Princess Kaguya, news of the young girl's beauty soon spreads through the entire country. As the suitors come knocking on her door, Kaguya continues to pine for the simple, carefree life she led back in the forrest...
THE VERDICT: It seems pretty fair that veteran Japanese animator Isao Takahata should be described by his Studio Ghibli co-founder Hayao Miyazaki as "a real slugabed sloth". It has been 15 years since his last feature, after all.
The two old friends put Ghibli on the map 25 years ago, with the double-bill of Miyazaki's MY NEIGHBOUR TORTORO and Takahata's GRAVE OF THE FIREFLIES The plan here was to have them repeat that trick, with THE TALE OF PRINCESS KAGUYA originally planned to open alongside THE WIND RISES, supposedly Miyazaki's swan song. Despite a five-year headstart on Miyazaki, Takahata missed the deadline. By a year.
As is so very often the case with such artists, it's been very much worth the wait, THE TALE OF PRINCESS KAGUYA abounding and astounding with its lightness of touch, as Takahata employs water colours, seemingly hasty brushstrokes, woodblock and scroll art to tell this very ancient folk tale, the oldest recorded in Japan's history. There's a handmade quality to this stunning film that allows this slightly long and sometimes slightly bonkers old tale about a princess who was so much happier as a pauper. PRINCESS MONONOKO meets THE PRINCESS DIARIES, with just a hint of Princess Jasmine, THE TALE OF PRINCESS KAGUYA is truly beautiful and deeply beguiling, and surprisingly funny too. And it comes with a valuable lesson too - be careful what your parents wish for you. 
Review by Paul Byrne

Seventh Son

  • Currently 2/5 Stars.

SEVENTH SON (USA | UK | Canada | China/12A/102mins)
Directed by Sergei Bodrov. Starring Ben Barnes, Jeff Bridges, Julianne Moore, Olivia Williams, Alicia Vikander.
THE PLOT: Tom Ward (Ben Barnes) is the seventh son of a seventh son, and is apprenticed to Master Gregory (Jeff Bridges), who spends his life fighting evil. Tom's first challenge arises when the evil witch Mother Malkin (Julianne Moore) escapes from her prison of 10 years, bent on revenge and turning the world to ash.
THE VERDICT: The first reuniting of Julianne Moore and Jeff Bridges after THE BIG LEBOWSKI should be cause for celebration, but this CG heavy and story light affair is more of a disappointment than a triumph.
Jeff Bridges, in his third fantasy outing of recent years, chews his way through SEVENTH SON, and not just through the scenery. His performance feels as though bridges was channelling Ian McKellen as Gandalf the Grey, but somehow decided to give his performance while consistently chewing gum. As such, much of his dialogue is unintelligible and, while he is always a strong presence on screen, appears to be held back by the action heavy plot. Julianne Moore also suffers in her first role since STILL ALICE; Mother Malkin is beautiful and evil, but never given the chance to be beautifully evil enough. Instead, she seems much more of a pest than someone who could actually plunge the world into darkness. Perhaps evil lessons from Disney villains would have helped? Ben Barnes does not make much of an impression on screen, and neither does the normally great Alicia Vikander, who flits in and out of the action seemingly at random.
The story is based on the novel The Spook's Apprentice, by Joseph Delaney, and is written for the screen by Charles Leavitt and Steven Knight. The film jumps from set piece to set piece with little let up for the story to come through. Everything, it seems, is headed toward a confrontation between Bridges and Moore, and the road of the film is paved with bad dialogue, characters falling in love at will and clunky exposition.
Director Sergei Bodrov does little to allow the characters to develop on screen, and seems never sure who the focus of the film is. Sure, the title would imply that it is Ben Barnes' character, but the film flits between Moore and Bridges' camps with little concern for the heart of the film, and who the audience should root for. The pacing is lickety split, thankfully, and the film careens between set pieces at a rate of knots. The film is heavy with CGI and rendered dark and gloomy by the 3D, so although Julianne Moore's hair is beautifully contrasted against her black costumes, there is very little of beauty in this film.
In all, SEVENTH SON is a sloppily scripted film, which seems to try to make up for its missteps with breakneck pacing. Moore is not evil enough, Bridges unintelligible and the rest of the cast seem insipid and paper thin. This may be a camp film, but there is very little fun in it.
Review by Brogen Hayes 

The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out of Water

  • Currently 4/5 Stars.

THE SPONGEBOB MOVIE: SPONGE OUT OF WATER (USA | India | Malaysia | Canada | Australia/G/92mins)
Directed by Paul Tibbitt. Starring Antonio Banderas, Tom Kenny, Mr. Lawrence, Matt Berry,  Bill Fagerbakke, Rodger Bumpass, Mr. Lawrence, Jill Talley, Clancy Brown, Carolyn Lawrence
THE PLOT: When the secret formula for the Krabby Patty is stolen, all eyes in Bikini Bottom turn to the evil Plankton (Mr. Lawrence) , but SpongeBob (Tom Kenny) knows his nemesis is innocent, and sets out to reclaim the formula before the town descends into chaos. What SpongeBob doesn't know, however, is that the dread pirate Burger Beard (Antonio Banderas) is behind the theft, and to reclaim the formula, the gang will have to go where they have rarely gone before; dry land.
THE VERDICT: Eleven years after the first SpongeBob movie, our favourite underwater sponge is back on our screens, and the good news is that the film is as whacky and weird as you could hope.
Tom Kenny, Bill Fagerbakke, Rodger Bumpass, Mr. Lawrence, Jill Talley, Clancy Brown, Carolyn Lawrence and Sirena Irwin are all back as the voices of our favourite characters, and they do a wonderful job with the film, keeping the comedic timing tight and a sense of wonder and fun about the characters. Antonio Banderas is on wonderfully camp form as the pirate Burger Beard and is not above slapstick, silliness and mugging for the camera, and this is what makes his character work. Matt Berry also makes an appearance as the voice of a magic dolphin, in a piece of casting genius.
Glenn Berger and Jonathan Aibel's screenplay is in keeping with the world of the SPONGEBOB TV series - Plankton wants the formula for the Krabby Patty, and is willing to do the most harebrained things to get it - but then extends this into a world of wonder and sheer mayhem that includes journeys into SpongeBob's brain, dinosaurs and time travel. The dialogue is succinct and funny, with recurring gags from the TV show cropping up - ‘My legs!' - and references to cult classics of the past, including Sean Connery's ZARDOZ.
Director Paul Tibbitt keeps the film moving at a breakneck speed, which means the laughs keep coming, although sometimes the jokes don't land until after a scene has ended. Tibbett also keeps the energy of the film high, the characters as we remember them, but open to being embraced by a new generation of fans. No mean feat.
In all, THE SPONGEBOB MOVIE: SPONGE OUT OF WATER is as zany, madcap, fast paced, funny and sweet as we could hope from a SpongeBob film. Antonio Banderas and Matt Berry's cameos are fantastic and the story is just outlandish enough to keep in with the SPONGEBOB TV show, but there are times when the film is simply too fast, leaving the audience scrambling to keep up with some of the more throwaway gags. Still, it's great to have SPONGEBOB back, and on fantastic form.
Review by Brogen Hayes

Get Hard

  • Currently 4/5 Stars.

GET HARD (USA/16/100mins)
Directed by Etan Cohen. Starring Will Ferrell, Kevin Hart, Alison Brie, TI, Jon Mayer
THE PLOT: James King (Will Ferrell) has it all; a beautiful fiancée (Alison Brie), a wonderful home and a job that he is good at. Darnell Lewis (Kevin Hart) runs a car wash and dreams of being able to provide a better life for his wife and young daughter. When King is framed for fraud, however, he turns to Darnell - believing the poorer man spent time in prison - to help him prepare for his stint on the inside. Little does King realise, that while Darnell is turning his home into a makeshift prison, he is winging it, and has never been to prison, or even committed a crime.
THE VERDICT: It seems there have been a slew of mediocre bromantic comedies lately, and although GET HARD seems like it would be just another in this line of disappointments, it is surprisingly funny. The manic tendencies of Kevin Hart have been calmed down slightly, and pairing him with the comedically clever Will Ferrell is a touch of brilliance, as the two actors work well together to elevate the film and set it apart from those that have gone before.
Will Ferrell is as over the top and hilarious as we have come to expect from the actor, but he carefully manages his performance to be low energy, as he is technically playing the straight man to Hart's manic comedian. There are times at the start of the film where it seems Ferrell is erring a little to much on the side of caution, but he opens up when the film gives him space, and is as madcap and funny as ever. As mentioned, Kevin Hart is not as shouty and obnoxious as he has been in the past, even managing to give Darnell a touch of honest sincerity. Elsewhere, it's great to see Alison Brie play a selfish, gold digging bitch as it is such a change for the Community actress. Rapper TI turns up as Darnell's cousin, and Jon Mayer makes a cameo at a party.
Jay Martel, Ian Roberts and Etan Cohen's screenplay has a basis in reality, but soon swaps this for the ridiculous, and the comedically brilliant. It would be easy for the film to be racist or homophobic, but there is a careful balance created to show Darnell and Ferrell as reasonable men in an extraordinary situation. There are plenty of physical gags, and tons of dick jokes, but in the context of the film, these go from being cheap laughs to being a natural part of the fabric of the film.
First time director Etan Cohen has not only toned Kevin Hart down, but has made a well paced and funny film, that manages not to offend any one group of society, while being offensively funny. Cohen obviously allowed Ferrell and Hart the space to ad-lib, and the chemistry between the two actors is great. There are times when the pacing drops and legal wrangling gets in the way, but the film recovers well, and manages to be amusing right to the end, even if some of the jokes don't always land.
In all, GET HARD is silly, over the top and fantastically funny. Ferrell and Hart are a strong double act and Cohen's film is well paced, for the most part. There are some jokes that don't land, and some dodgy pacing in the middle, but GET HARD is one of the best bromantic comedies we have had the pleasure of seeing on screen in a while.
Review by Brogen Hayes

White Bird in a Blizzard

  • Currently 3/5 Stars.

WHITE BIRD IN A BLIZZARD (France | USA /16/91mins)
Directed by Gregg Araki. Starring Shailene Woodley, Eva Green, Shiloh Fernandez, Gabourey Sidibe, Mark Indelicato
THE PLOT: Kat (Shailene Woodley) is 17 when her mother disappears without a word and without a trace. Kat, however, seems hardly phased by this, since she and her mother have had a troubled relationship since she became a teenager. As Kat tries to continue with her life, with her boyfriend Phil (Shiloh Fernandez) and with her friends, the absence of her mother hovers over her like a cloud. As time goes on Kat begins to wonder whether she will ever find out where her mother has really gone.
THE VERDICT: WHITE BIRD IN A BLIZZARD is based on Laura Kasischke's book of the same name and, while it is an entertaining coming of age, sexual awakening tale, it also does nothing to dispel the idea that Shailene Woodley is either deliberately following in Jennifer Lawrence's footsteps, or there are no new ideas for young women in Hollywood.
Woodley is in her element here as Kat. Since first she caught our attention as Alexandra in THE DESCENDANTS, it has been clear that this type of awkward teen role is where the actress is most comfortable, and it shows. Woodley has no trouble playing the hormonal teen or the Lolita, and moves comfortably between both, reminding audiences as to why she is so captivating as an actress. Eva Green, as Kat's mother Eve, struggles slightly with the American accent, but embodies a woman on the verge of a nervous breakdown, with a manic gleam in her eye. Shiloh Fernandez plays the dim boyfriend well, Gabourey Sidibe and Mark Indelicato do fine as Kat's friends, and Angela Basset is wasted in a small role as a therapist.
The screenplay seems to differ quite substantially from Kasischke's book, and most certainly does not conjure up the same feelings of suspense and intrigue that are so praised in the book; Kat does not seem to care where her mother has gone, so why should the audience.
Gregg Araki, as director, allows Kat and her exploits to take centre stage, which means that the true heart of the book - the disappearance - falls by the wayside. Kat's sexual awakening, and growth as a person seems to be the focus of the film, so by the time everything cycles around, the mystery is solved and Kat gets her resolution, it seems strange that she would react so strongly to something she didn't seem to care about.
In all, Shailene Woodley carries WHITE BIRD IN A BLIZZARD with ease, but she is consistently hampered by an unfocused script. As a sexual awakening movie, WHITE BIRD IN A BLIZZARD is fine, but as a thriller it fails spectacularly, and never manages to adequately tie the two threads together. That said, Woodley is always a joy to watch on screen, and this low key indie is the perfect antidote to her high octane action flick, also released this week.
Review by Brogen Hayes

The Voices

  • Currently 4/5 Stars.

THE VOICES (USA | Germany /16/103mins)
Directed by Marjane Satrapi. Starring Ryan Reynolds, Anna Kendrick, Gemma Arterton
THE PLOT: Jerry (Ryan Reynolds) seems like a normal, but quiet and socially awkward guy, who is just trying to get through his workday at the candy coloured factory where he works, to get home to his pets. The truth is, that Jerry's pets talk to him - one evil, and one rather sweet - but this is not a problem until Fiona (Gemma Arterton) stands him up on their first date...
THE VERDICT: Ryan Reynolds reminds us that he is a strong actor with his role as Jerry in THE VOICES; combining sweetness and naivety with the desire not to make people unhappy means that Jerry has all the emotional tools to be an accidental killer and, combined with a history of mental illness in his family and an angry Scottish cat, Jerry takes a step over the edge. Reynolds keeps the audience on Jerry's side throughout the film, and even when he realises the depths of his illness, his contrition and fear is so strong that the audience stays with him throughout. Reynolds also does a great job with the voices of the various animals who talk with Jerry throughout the film; his Scottish accent is surprisingly passable. Gemma Arterton does a great job of playing the wholly unlikeable Fiona, making her just rude and fake enough for the people around her to believe she is a good person. Anna Kendrick is wonderful and Lisa, a character who is all sweetness and light.
Michael R. Perry's screenplay - which appeared on the Hollywood Blacklist in 2009 - treads lightly around the issue of mental illness, never judging Jerry for his actions and keeping audience sympathy with the lead character. Having the dog and cat as the angel and devil on Jerry's shoulders is a touch of brilliance, and leads to a lot of foul mouthed language from the cat - hilariously named Mr. Whiskers. Setting the film in a small US town allows the characters to be sweet and warm, and although the film falls apart slightly in the final act, it is the contrast between this and the blood soaked world that Jerry finds himself in that makes the film work.
Marjane Satrapi approaches the gory and violent subject matter with apparent glee, and creates a wonderful balance between the candy coloured public life and the dark personal life that Jerry leads. There is something of The Coen Brothers about Satrapi's direction, but she makes the film as darkly funny as possible, allowing the violence and comedy to keep the audience guessing throughout the film. The film does collapse in on itself slightly in the final act, but Satrapi has created a twisted and funny film that is reminiscent of The Coen Brothers and the dark comedies directed by Danny DeVito. As well as this, the use of colour throughout the film is a work of brilliance, making THE VOICES feel like a cross between CHARLIE AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY and CHEAP THRILLS.
In all, THE VOICES is violent, gory, twisted and messed up, but it is also a sweet and funny film that allows Kendrick, Reynolds and Arterton to shine. The final act is a bit of a mess, but the tone prevails, making THE VOICES the most stylish and violent comedy of the year.
Review by Brogen Hayes


  • Currently 4/5 Stars.

MOMMY (Canada/IFI/139mins)
Directed by Xavier Dolan. Starring Anne Dorval, Suzanne Clément, Antoine-Olivier Pilon, Patrick Huard
THE PLOT: Widow Diana ‘Die' (Anne Dorval) is trying her best to make it on her own, but when her violent and unpredictable son Steve (Antoine-Olivier Pilon) isthrown out of a care facility, Die struggles to bring him up on her own.
THE VERDICT: MOMMY is a compelling but frightening film, which underlines the strength and bravery it takes to become a parent. Anne Dorval is strong in the role of the titular ‘Mommy', Die. Dorval is not afraid to make Die less than perfect, and seemingly takes pleasure in showing the various sides of the character, and highlighting the fact that Die may well have had an influence on Steve's behaviour. Antoine-Olivier Pilon is fearless as Steve, making the character violent, horrible, unpredictable and seemingly irredeemable. As well as this, Pilon manages to show that the character has a kind heart, but this is buried so far down that it is often hard to locate. Suzanne Clément is quietly wonderful as Die and Steve's neighbour Kyla; afflicted with emotional issues that have taken a physical toll, Clément keeps Kyla understated but strong, with some incredibly powerful breakout scenes. Kyla often provides balance between Die and Steve, but never loses herself in doing so.
Xavier Dolan's screenplay tells the story of a struggle between two imperfect characters, and does so impressively. The emotion between the characters feels real and genuine and, although there are times where scenes and situations feel drawn out, and others rushed, there is a feeling of coherence to the film, especially with a fictional law hanging over the characters' heads. There are hints given to round out the characters back stories, but these are often left for the audience to put together themselves, which gives the film an inclusive feel.
As director, Dolan has coaxed moving and engaging performances from his actors; none of them are afraid to be ugly or unlikeable on screen, and all of them have the power to carry their roles. The trouble arises in the film's running time - 139 minutes - as there are times where the film feels drawn out, and too long for characters to change so little. There are a couple of misdirects, and storylines left hanging, which leaves the film feeling unfinished.
Dolan takes risks with MOMMY, and tells an unpleasant story on screen. Shooting the film in 1:1 aspect ratio adds to the claustrophobic feel of the film, although the audience becomes accustomed to this early on, and is only aware of the enforced aspect ratio when it briefly disappears. This is a strong moment, however, and plays a powerful part in the emotion of the screen. Dolan uses some of the most popular songs of the 90s on his soundtrack - Wonderwall, White Flag - but this is often to the film's detriment as it feels as though the audience is being given too much information through song lyrics.
In all however, MOMMY is a powerful and unsettling piece of work, which showcases the acting talents of the central cast. Not a lot changes in the lives of the protagonists, but for once it is a lack of change that keeps the film moving.
Rating: 4/5
Review by Brogen Hayes 


  • Currently 2/5 Stars.

INSURGENT (USA/12A/119mins)
Directed by Robert Schwentke. Starring Shailene Woodley, Kate Winslet, Octavia Spencer, Naomi Watts, Theo James, Ansel Engort.
THE PLOT: Having evaded Jeanine (Kate Winslet) and her hostile takeover of the factions, Tris (Shailene Woodley) and Four (Theo James) are on the run, and take shelter in Amity; the most gentle and forgiving of the factions that make up their world. When Jeanine's forces arrive at their door, however, a member of their shaky alliance turns on them, and Tris finds herself teaming with fellow outcasts to bring the system down from the inside.
THE VERDICT: DIVERGENT, the first film in the series on films based on Veronica Roth's books, was a fun and light fantasy adventure. However, with the departure of director Neil Burger, and the story getting more and more involved, it seems a lot of the fun has been removed from INSURGENT.
Shailene Woodley carries on her strong work from the first film, but seems a little less comfortable in the role of Tris than she was the first time out; perhaps this is because there seems to be a desperate attempt to make the character sexy, which doesn't sit well with the rest of the film. The rest of the cast pick up where they left off; Theo James as ‘scary boyfriend' Four, Miles Teller as the fickle Peter and Kate Winslet as the cold and overbearing Jeanine. Naomi Watts joins the fun as Evelyn, the leader of the Factionless, and is joined by Octavia Spencer and Daniel Dae Kim.
Brian Duffield, Akiva Goldsman and Mark Bomback's screenplay takes a very different path than the book, although both end up at roughly the same place in the end. This is where the trouble arises with the film; in trying to wrap up the loose ends from the first film, and set up the final instalment in the trilogy, INSURGENTt is stricken with ‘middle film' syndrome. Instead of telling its own story, INSURGENT gets too caught up in the setting up the finale, meaning the film drags its heels and, when the epic set piece finally does come, it's too little too late.
Robert Schwentke does what he can with INSURGENT, but never manages to drag the pacing out of the doldrums. There are plenty of stylish moments in the film, but making the film a 3D creation seems to have been to benefit the final set piece, which looks good, but this doesn't justify the choice, when the 3D is forgotten about during the rest of the film. As well as this, with so much focus given to the simulations that Tris finds herself in, INSURGENT begins to feel more like a video game than a movie.
In all, INSURGENT is a film made for the fans, and designed to wrap up Divergent before moving on to ALLIEGANT, the final film(s) in the franchise. There are worse ways to spend 2 hours - the film is stylish and thrilling at times - but INSURGENT is definitely one for the fans.
Review by Brogen Hayes

The Gunman

  • Currently 2/5 Stars.

THE GUNMAN (Spain/UK/France/16/115mins)
Directed by Pierre Morel. Starring Sean Penn, Javier Bardem, Ray Winstone, Idris Elba, Mark Rylance, Jasmine Trinca, Melina Matthews, Peter Franzen.
THE PLOT: "I recorded virtually everything," says Sean Penn's fugitive hitman, "and I'm going to throw it out where the world can see it." That's pretty much all you need to know about the plight of Jim Terrier (Penn), forced to go on the run when his past - assassinating a minister in the Democratic Republic of Congo some years earlier - comes looking for revenge. Having committed the assassination on the orders of his associate Felix (Bardem), Terrier soon realises that he has no one to turn to. Going underground, he turns to old mercenary days partners-in-crime (Rylance's Cox, Winstone's typically cor-blimey Stanley), before heading to Barcelona, where Felix is now living with Jim's old flame, Annie (Trinca)...
THE VERDICT: If not quite at the Robert De Niro stage of his career - having yet to cash in his credibility chips for some panto payola - nonetheless, these days, Sean Penn inhabits that strange world where he's rightly admired for the intensity and integrity he usually brings to his craft and yet, on a fairly regular basis, he squeezes out some very so-so movies (FAIR GAME, WHAT JUST HAPPENED, THE INTERPRETER, etc). The Gunman is one of those latter so-so movies, the stark title's promise of a nod to Leone or the gangster movies of the 1970s falling at the first hurdle - then again, it does share a director with TAKEN. Having co-written the script and produced here, Penn is taking a deliberate step into the revenge thriller schlock of box-office gold that Liam Neeson found at the end of the rainbow. Unfortunately, THE GUNMAN is never quite gritty and grimy enough to qualify as truly thrilling, nor is it silly enough to be Taken 4. 
One of those Euro-pudding, globe-trotting actioners that tries to beat Hollywood at its own game, THE GUNMAN falls considerably short on just about every front. Someone like Jason Statham can make this kind of bonkers Bond Bonzai work, but, being far too serious an actor for any fun and games, Sean Penn could never quite channel Chuck Norris the way Neeson does. 
Review by Paul Byrne


  • Currently 4/5 Stars.

HOME (USA/G/94mins)
Directed by . Starring Jim Parsons, Steve Martin, Rihanna, Jennifer Lopez.
THE PLOT: The Boov - a brightly coloured and so-ugly-they're-cute race of aliens - have been on the run from their mortal enemy for a long time. Running from planet to planet, they find themselves at Earth and relocate the humans to custom-built towns so they can settle into the cities. When Oh (Jim Parsons) accidentally lets the galaxy know where The Boov are, he finds himself on the run from his own people. Tip (Rihanna) is the last human left in the city, desperately trying to find her Mum, who was taken to one of the new cities. It's not long before Oh and Tip find each other, and realise they need one another to survive.
THE VERDICT: Based on the book The True Meaning of Smekday by Adam Rex, HOME is a beautifully animated film, featuring adorable creatures, and a strong message about what's important in life. Oh, and there's tons of adventure and silliness to keep the young ‘uns going, and the adults giggling.
Jim Parsons as Oh and Rihanna as Tip are the emotional heart and soul of the film, and they do well with their roles. Parsons' character talks a little like a LOLCat, so if you find this annoying, best to bow out now. Parsons makes this work for the character though, making Oh charming and curious and just enough of a misfit to be loveable. Rihanna perhaps gives the best performance of her short acting career as Tip, and fills the character with emotion and feistiness. Steve Martin brings the silly as Captain Smeck and Jennifer Lopez rounds out the cast as Lucy.
Tom J. Astle and Matt Ember's screenplay mixes action and adventure with a decent amount of humour and emotion, with great results. The film is smart and funny, with plenty of slapstick and LOLCat dialogue to keep the audience entertained. Tim Johnson's direction keeps the laughs coming and the adventure bright, but allows the film to pack an emotional punch when needed. The Boov are ugly cute creatures who change colour with their emotions, travel in bubbles and are clueless about human interaction. This sounds cute - and it is - but the film very cleverly points out that there is a lot about life that The Boov are missing. That said, the film suffers from using music - usually Rihanna songs - to underscore emotional moments, this is fine in the light hearted moments of the film, but when the emotion kicks in, the music feels manipulative and wholly unnecessary.
The look and feel of the film are superb; the design of the creatures is beautiful and unlike any cute little aliens we have seen before. The design touches, such as the use of circles and colour adds to the cartoon cute feel of the film, which works surprisingly well.
In all, HOME is a beautifully animated film with a lovely message about acceptance, fear and belonging. Parsons, Martin and Rihanna do well with their roles, giving the film warmth and humour, but the overuse of Rihanna songs that labour the emotion drags the film down from superb to very good. No mean feat, but a shame.
Review by Brogen Hayes

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