Reviews

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The Love Punch

  • Currently 2/5 Stars.

THE LOVE PUNCH (France/12A/97mins)
Directed by Joel Hopkins. Starring Emma Thompson, Pierce Brosnan, Tuppence Middleton, Timothy Spall, Laurent Lafitte, Celia Imrie, Louise Bourgon, Marisa Berenson, Christopher Craig.
THE PLOT: 
Having failed to recover his company's pension from nasty banker Vincent Kuger (Lafitte), London businessman Richard Jones (Brosnan) and his ex-wife Kate (Thompson) decide they'll simply take the money they're owed. By stealing the million-dollar diamond Vincent has just bought his fiancee, Manon (Bourgoin). And so Kate befriends Manon, and on the big day, manages to convince her that Vincent is not the man for her. Which proves just enough of a distraction to swap the real diamond with a fake...
THE VERDICT: 
There's something very familiar about The Love Punch, and it's not just the plot. The characters too are pretty much standard-issue, as is the pretty French setting, and the abundance of smiling and acting on display. It makes for a very predictable little film - which is perhaps understandable, given that Pierce and co. are plainly chasing the grey pound. They just didn't have to make such a grey film. In the end, this is nowhere near the Ealing-for-OAPs it so desperately wants to be, and what you're left with is a movie that belongs on ITV on a Tuesday night. Feet up, teeth out, and get ready for a deep nap.
RATING: 2/5
Review by Paul Byrne 

Magic Magic

  • Currently 3/5 Stars.

MAGIC MAGIC (Chile/USA/15A/97mins)
Directed by Sebastian Silva. Starring Michael Cera, Juno Temple, Emily Browning, Catalina Sandino Moreno, Agustin Silva, Luis Dubo.
THE PLOT: 
Arriving in Chile a little worse for wear and tear, Alicia (Temple) is travelling outside the US for the first time. And it shows. Visiting her cousin Sara (Browning), her boyfriend Agustin (Silva, the writer/director's brother), his sister Barbara (Moreno) and his American friend Brink (a typically slippery Cera). Alicia's travelling soon turns to unravelling though, being a stranger in a very different land unearthing deep paranoias and phobias. When everyone else is going cliff-diving, Alicia refuses. When Agustin hypnotizes her, Alicia puts her hand in the fire. And was it merely the hallucinations that inspired Alicia to push her vagina in the sleeping Brink's face? This particular looking glass would appear to be cracked...
THE VERDICT: 
A strange little beast of a film, like an early Polanski, as we join our young female protagonist on her dizzying descent into madness. Silva's got his voodoo working here, and you can never be quite sure where reality ends and Alicia's increasing craziness begins. All credit to young Juno (daughter of Julien) Temple for going that extra mile into madness here, whilst Cera (reuniting with Silva after the very recent Crystal Fairy & The Magical Cactus) once again is happy to play it unlikeable. That's one way to get over bad US box-office, I guess.
It all makes for an unsettling watch, and one that's not always enjoyable. But it will stick with you afterwards.
RATING: 3/5
Review by Paul Byrne

The Sea

  • Currently 2/5 Stars.

THE SEA (Ireland/UK/12A/86mins)
Directed by Stephen Brown. Starring Bonnie Wright, Ciaran Hinds, Natasha McElhone, Charlotte Rampling, Rufus Sewell, Sinead Cusack, Ruth Bradley, Matthew Dillon, Missy Keating, Padhraig Parkinson.
THE PLOT: 
Having lost his wife to cancer, art historian Max (Hinds) heads to a quiet seaside resort in the wilds of Ireland, staying at the guest house run by Miss Vavasour (Rampling). Max has history here.
Jumping back to 1955, we see the same house was rented by the Grace family, led by wacky Carlo (Sewell) and loving Connie (McElhone), and their children, twins Chloe and Myles. The 11-year-old Max (Dillon), falls in love with Chloe (Keating), and has a crush on Connie, and Myles (Parkinson) is happy to make fun of him for it. The only one who seems to have any true understanding is Rose (Wright), the twins' nanny...
THE VERDICT: 
Adapted by John Banville from his own novel, THE SEA has everything going for it - much-loved book, a fine cast, and a hungry young director making his feature debut. So, why the hell is it so dull? 
Proof that the author doesn't always know best when it comes to their work being adapted to the big screen, whatever magic Banville's original book may have weaved on its readers, it's hard to get any sense of it here. Which is a shame, because Hinds and Rampling are both as watchable as ever, whilst the likes of Bonnie Wright and the younger cast all rise to the occasion. It's just not that great an occasion, The Sea ultimately comes across as a in-between Go-Between. 
RATING: 2/5 
Review by Paul Byrne 

Locke

  • Currently 4/5 Stars.

LOCKE (UK, USA/15A/90mins)
Directed by Steven Knight. Starring Tom Hardy, Andrew Scott, Olivia Williams, Ruth Wilson.
THE PLOT:
 As he drives home from a construction job, Ivan Locke (Tom Hardy) gets a phone call that throws his job, marriage and future into jeopardy. As he journeys to right the major wrong of his life, we learn more about the character through his interactions with the people in his life.
THE VERDICT: As Ivan Locke, a man whose life comes crashing down around his ears as he drives to London, Tom Hardy gives a rare performance. It is unusual for a lead character to spend the entirety of a film alone in his car, and it is even more rare for the audience to invest with such a character. Tom Hardy succeeds on both counts, with a rich Welsh accent that is soothing and delicious to listen to. Hardy makes Locke a good, gentle, devoted family man, but the actor is not afraid to allow the veneer Locke has built around himself to slip. First his job, then his wife and then... Who knows. Locke is a man who is guided by his father's neglect of him, and who has vowed not to make the same mistakes his father did. Hardy is strong yet vulnerable and utterly compelling on screen.
Hardy is backed up by the voice talents of Ruth Wilson as his wife Katrina, Andrew Scott as his work colleague Donal, Olivia Williams as Bethan, the woman with whom he made the mistake that is costing him everything and Tom Holland as his son Eddie; each give remarkable vocal performances, which enrich Locke's world and the world of the film. It is through his interactions with the people in his life - not least his absent and neglectful father - that we get to know Locke, and the reasons why he makes the choices that he does. After all, the whole crash of Locke's life - and therefore, the film - could have been avoided by turning right instead of left.
Steven Knight has made a rare film in LOCKE, and one that should be applauded. It is a rare thing for the world of a film to be reduced to the inside of a car, and yet here it is, and the film is utterly engaging. So much is learned through phone conversations with the people in Locke's life, and with those that influence him as a person. That said, however, there are times where the intrusion of the outside world feels unrelenting, and it would have been a welcome break for Locke to just sit in the car, and ruminate on where his life is going - if only for the sake of giving the audience a breather - for a moment.
LOCKE is an unusual, engaging and compelling film. Tom Hardy is on top form as the central character, and those who play voices at the other end of the phone make the world of the film deeper and richer. There are times where it feels as though we are learning too much - and too little - too quickly, but Locke is a worthwhile film, if even to remind ourselves of how strong an actor Tom Hardy truly is.
RATING: 4/5
Review by Brogen Hayes 

We are the Best

  • Currently 5/5 Stars.

WE ARE THE BEST! (Sweden/15A/102mins)
Directed by Lukas Moodysson. Starring Mira Barkhammar, Mira Grosin, Liv LeMoyne.
THE PLOT: 
In Stockholm in 1982, Bobo (Mira Barkhammar) and Klara (Mira Grosin) are best friends, in the way that only pre-teen girls can be. When hanging out at their local youth centre, they become annoyed at the rock music being played and decide to set up their own punk band. The trouble is that neither of them can play an instrument, so they recruit Hedvig (Liv LeMoyne) to teach them.
THE VERDICT: WE ARE THE BEST! is not really about the punk music scene - although this is what brings the characters together - instead, it is about the relationships between three teenage girls as they waver on the cusp of adolescence.
The performances of the three lead actresses depend on one another in a truly remarkable way; the chemistry between Barkhammar, Grosin and LeMoyne is wonderful and they allow the power to shift between them, leaving room for jealousies, arguments and ultimately, resolutions. Each of the three is adorable, and the struggle that each goes through in their family lives is utterly relatable. There are times when they turn on one another for no other reason but pettiness - or so it seems - but this only serves to underline how young these kids really are.
WE ARE THE BEST!is based on a comic book by Coco Moodysson, who just so happens to be married to the film's director; Lukas Moodysson. Before you call shenanigans, however, it has to be said that the film is an acutely observed portrait of youth and the transition between childhood and adolescence. The dialogue never feels forced or fake, making these three characters feel real and nuanced.
As director, Lukas Moodysson has coaxed warm and gentle performances from his central actresses, and these are the heart and soul of the film. It feels as though there was a lot of room left for improvisation, and the warmth that radiates from the screen is truly the relationship between these three girls. The story may be slightly unstructured and messy, but this merely adds to the chaotic charm of the film. There is also something to be said for the peer pressure that these three girls put one another under, as they change their musical styles, fashion sense and hairstyles in order to stay friends with one another; friendship is not always about acceptance, and this is clearly marked in the film.
WE ARE THE BEST!is a careful and precise observation of the journey between childhood and adolescence, and the friends who last us a lifetime. Barkhammar, Grosin and LeMoyne are wonderful in their roles, and utterly support one another. In the end, WE ARE THE BEST! is charming, warm and a whole lot of fun.
RATING: 5/5
Review by Brogen Hayes 

The Amazing Spider-Man 2

  • Currently 4/5 Stars.

THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN 2 (USA/12A/143mins)
Directed by Marc Webb. Starring Andrew Garfield, Emma Stone, Sally Field, Jamie Foxx, Dane DeHaan.
THE PLOT: 
As he graduates from high school, and prepares to move on with the next phase of his life, Peter Parker's (Andrew Garfield) world is turned upside down when a freak accident turns a man he once helped into a violent, electricity charged killer. As well as this, Parker's relationship with Gwen (Emma Stone) is not what it once was, and his old friend Harry Osborn (Dane DeHaan) returns to New York with an agenda that will have a huge impact on both Peter Parker and Spider-Man.
THE VERDICT: Andrew Garfield seems much more comfortable in Parker and Spider-Man's skin this time out, and has dialled back the annoying cockiness that marred the first film. Garfield does well with both the comedy and the tragedy in the film, bringing sweet touches to the character. Emma Stone has a little more fire this time, thankfully, and she proves that she is a woman who is more than able to stand on her own and support Spider-Man through her own strengths. Jamie Foxx obviously relished his chance to play a beaten down loner and a electrified villain in the same film, and is fantastic in both roles. Dane DeHaan proves that his outstanding performance in Chronicle was no fluke, as he brings the troubled and troubling Harry Osborn to life.
The story, as we may expect from a superhero film, is a lengthy and rather complicated one; as Parker finds out more about his parents, a new threat rises, sworn to take him down. The personal side of the story - Peter Parker's side - is filled with emotion and nuance, and could almost stand alone, apart from the action and superhero story, as a film in it's own right. As far as Spider-Man's story goes, it is still a personal one, as both villains take personal umbrage to Spider-Man's actions, but since Parker disguises himself in the Spider-Man suit, this gives a layer of distance between Parker and Spider-Man's foes. That said, however, many of the film's events are foreshadowed so strongly that it is hard to forget what we have been told will happen. As well as this, there is so much exposition and establishing of plot and characters that the film is a lot longer than it needed to be.
Marc Webb has made a well-paced film - even if it is the longest Spider-Man film to date at 142 minutes - where the set pieces and emotion are carefully balanced. The set pieces are striking and exhilarating, with many of New York's most famous landmarks being thrown into the fray. The music by Johnny Marr, Pharrell Williams and Hans Zimmer complements the film wonderfully.
THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN 2 is a vast improvement on its predecessor; there is little doubt that the action packed set pieces and rounded characters will push the franchise in a new and exciting direction. The film is far too long, but just about gets away with it thanks to some good pacing and a nice balance between action and emotion. Foreshadowing and exposition take up too much time, but once the action kicks in, we are reminded of how great a character Spider-Man is, and how strong his stories really are.
RATING: 4/5
Review by Brogen Hayes 

Half of a Yellow Sun

  • Currently 2/5 Stars.

HALF OF A YELLOW SUN (Nigeria/UK/IFI/111mins)
Directed by Biyi Bandele. Starring Chiwetel Ejiofor, Thandie Newton, John Boyega, Anika Noni Rose, Joseph Mawle, Hakeem Kae-Kazim, Rob David, O.C. Ukeje.
THE PLOT: 
Nigeria, 1960s, and sisters Olanna (Newton) and Kainene (Rose) are living in the afterglow of their country's freshly-minted independence, Kainene dating British journalist Richard (Mawle) and Kainene radical academic Odenigbo (Ejiofor). When the latter impregnates his mother's servant, Olanna takes revenge by seducing Richard. Nonetheless, the two sisters decide to raise Odenigbo's baby girl, but that's when life in Nigeria starts getting a little complicated.
THE VERDICT: 
Based on the eponymous novel by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, HALF OF A YELLOW SUN is, like its source material, rich in detail, both on the surface and in the many undercurrents that come with one of Nigeria's most troubled decades and the complicated lives of two headstrong sisters surviving the madness, mayhem and, for a while at least, matrimony. It's all a little too much for director Biyi Bandele, as HALF OF A YELLOW SUN rattles along through so many exclamation marks that you're soon not sure which story to follow. Perhaps it was the budget constraint, or the eternal struggle for filmmakers to reduce a bulging novel to a slimline movie, but Bandele never truly finds traction here, just tracks of what the novel left on the script pages. In the end, you can't help feel that Nigeria's chaotic decade would have been better served by archive footage than this soap opera. 
RATING: 2/5 
Review by Paul Byrne 

The Last Days of Mars

  • Currently 3/5 Stars.

THE LAST DAYS ON MARS (UK/Ireland/15A/98mins)
Directed by Ruairi Robinson. Starring Liev Schreiber, Elias Koteas, Romola Garai, Olivia Williams, Johnny Harris, Goran Kostic, Tom Cullen, Yusra Warsama, Patrick Joseph Byrnes, Lewis Macleod.
THE PLOT:
 There's only 19 hours and 59 seconds left on their six-month mission to try and find life on Mars when we meet this international eight-man crew, and all is routine. Too routine. Bordering on cabin fever. For one though, the mission has only just begun, Marko Petrovich (Kostic) reluctantly taking Richard Harrington (Cullen) along with him for a last minute repair job outside. Only, this is no repair job, Petrovich having found bacteria that suggests that there is indeed life. And he's none too keen to share this exciting new discovery with his co-explorers. This bacteria doesn't come in peace though, and soon a rescue mission is on the way, hampered somewhat by the fact that anyone who gets infected turns into a raving zombie. Pretty soon, when not busy fending for their lives, the survivors are having to figure out who the next Ian Holm might be.
THE VERDICT: 
THE LAST DAYS ON MARS is a taut, twisted and teasing little sci-fi thriller.  If not quite as perfectly formed as Duncan Jones' MOON, but THE LAST DAYS ON MARSs certainly shares that 2009 hit's Carpenter-esque less-is-more potency, whilst the presence of such high-calibre actors as Schreiber, Koteas, Garai and Williams here nicely balances the undead thrills and spills with some grit and spit in the characters. Robinson should be happy. And proud.
RATING: 3/5 
Review by Paul Byrne 

Calvary

  • Currently 4/5 Stars.

CALVARY (Ireland/UK/15A/100mins)
Directed by John Michael McDonagh. Starring Brendan Gleeson, Chris O'Dowd, Kelly Reilly, Aidan Gillen, Dylan Moran, David Wilmot, Isaach De Bankole, M. Emmet Walsh, Pat Shortt, Killian Scott, Orla O'Rourke, Marie-Josee Croze.
THE PLOT: 
When Father James Lavelle (Gleeson) is told in the confession box by a man exacting revenge for a childhood spent being abused by a now-dead priest that, come Sunday week, he's going to kill him - arguing that killing a good priest rather than a bad one will have much more of an impact on the world - he's left with, he's told, enough time to get his house in order. Only there isn't all that much order in this small Sligo town, Father James having to contend with open infidelities, cocaine use, abusive language and a barely concealed hatred towards the Church. And that's on a good day.
The arrival home of his heartbroken and suicidal daughter, Fiona (Reilly), has Father James pondering his life even more, having joined the priesthood shortly after Fiona's mother passed away. He might just be the only sincere man in town, but that doesn't stop his growing sense of despair. Most of that despair directed at the often hateful fools around him, many of them, it would seem, capable of casual cruelty...
THE VERDICT: 
John Michael McDonagh's follow-up to THE GUARD is a surprisingly moving film. Eventually. Before that, we have all the usual black noir, state-of-the-nation humour that we've come to expect from the McDonagh brothers. As Gillen's sardonic surgeon quips, this is one-part humanism and nine parts gallows humour. Only, to be fair, the humanism is pretty strong here, with the swelling wave of tenderness a major blow to anyone who might want to dismiss the McDonaghs' work as Tarantinoesque.
Which is just a lazy way of pointing out that a filmmaker is very aware of how cinema works, and where it's been, and who isn't afraid to make a few in-jokes about it. Gleeson's stoic priest quips with his daughter after a tear-filled declaration of love, "How's that for a third act revelation?", the two having previously expressed a concern that their heartfelt conversation might turn into "one of those s***e plays at the Abbey".
It may, at times, play like Glenroe On Acid, but there's a surprising calm running through CALVARY. And most of it emanates from Gleeson, who gives a towering, moving performance in a role that could have so easily been tragically comical. As opposed to comically tragic. Just like the Church, in fact.
Great-looking movie too - not quite Roger Deakins, or Jack Cardiff, but much is made of the beautiful Sligo landscape and the wonderful light that comes with stormy weather. 
RATING: 4/5
Review by Paul Byrne

The Lunchbox

  • Currently 3/5 Stars.

THE LUNCHBOX (India,France,Germany,USA/PG/104mins)
Directed by Ritesh Batra. Starring Irrfan Khan, Minrat Kaur, Nawazuddin Siddiqui, Lillete Dubey, Nakul Vaid, Bharati Achrekar, Yashvi Puneet Nagar.
THE PLOT: Thanks to the long-running tradition of dabbawallahs - a network of white-capped, bicycle-wielding delivery men who bring husbands at work the lunch their wives have prepared - two strangers are brought together by a one in a million chance. Yep, one wife's lunchbox ended up being delivered to the wrong man. By chance, the wife in question, the pretty Ila (Kaur), has been struggling to garner any real attention from her constantly distracted husband, Rajeev (Vaid), whilst the man who gets the surprise lunchbox is lonely widower accountant Saajan (Khan), on the verge of retirement. Both are ripe for someone to confide in, and they are soon passing notes back and forth through the dabbawallahs. Helping this budding romance along is Saajan's trainee replacement, Shaikh (Siddiqui), who is determined that his teacher join him on the sunny side of life...
THE VERDICT: One of those films whose very slightness is its strength, The Lunchbox is more than just an exotic snack. There's real sadness and sorrow just below the deceptively sunny surface, real pain beneath the pretty cinematography and peppy soundtrack. Much of it comes from first-time writer/director Batra, but the cast here are impeccable - expected with Khan (Slumdog Millionaire, Life of Pi), but relative newcomers Kaur (more known for her stage work) and Siddiqui (a festival favourite, thanks to Bombay Talkies and Monsoon Shootout).
There's much to savour here... 
RATING: 3/5
Review by Paul Byrne 

The Raid 2

  • Currently 4/5 Stars.

THE RAID 2 (Indonesia, USA/18/150mins)
Directed by Gareth Evans. Starring Iko Uwais, Julie Estelle, Very Tri Yulisman.
THE PLOT: I
mmediately after the events of THE RAID, Rama finds himself drawn into an elaborate police plan, which will involve him going undercover to find and destroy those in the underworld responsible for his brother's murder.
THE VERDICT: 
This time out, the story is much more personal for Rama, as he fights to save himself and uncover police corruption and collusion with the Indonesian underworld. The more complex story, which spans years, is both a welcome change to THE RAID and THE RAID 2's greatest weakness. In trying to make the story bigger and wider there are times when Evans' story almost collapses under the weight of numerous characters and multiple betrayals.
Iko Uwais has certainly grown as an actor since THE RAID and easily conveys the mood and motivations of his character. Arafin Putra brings the menace and unpredictability as Uco, Alex Abbad makes the evil Bejo just as slimy and corrupt as we could hope, and Julie Estelle and Very Tri Yulisman bring some comic relief - and tons of blood - and hench people Hammer Girl and Baseball Bat Man.
The fight scenes, as we may expect, are nothing short of breathtaking. Uwais and his opponents show off their speed, strength and skill throughout the movie, and the choreographed set pieces not only develop the characters, but also serve to remind us that Rama is truly fighting for his life here. Unlike THE RAID, which took place in one building, THE RAID 2 spans an entire city, so there are tons of great locations for epic and bloody fights to take place in; all of which are brutal, violent and utterly exhilarating.
It seems that Evans relished the change of setting, as the cinematography not only highlights colour - especially red - but also the scope of the battle that Rama is fighting. The car chase in particular, goes to show off the skill of Matt Flannery and Dimas Imam Subhono behind the camera, and many seamless shots give the audience the feel that we are racing along with these characters.
THE RAID 2 is an incredibly worthy follow up to THE RAID, and does the characters' struggles and battles complete justice. The cinematography is gorgeous, the music soaring, and Evans's nods to the films that inspired him are both subtle and graceful. That said, however, the sweeping scale of the film means that THE RAID 2 lacks the beautiful simplicity of THE RAID, and there are times when it is difficult to keep up with who has double crossed who. That said, if you like your martial arts movies epic and brutal, there is tons to love here. 
RATING: 4/5
Review by Brogen Hayes

Khumba: A Zebra's Tale

  • Currently 2/5 Stars.

KHUMBA (South Africa/G/85mins)
Directed by Anthony Silverston. Starring Jake T. Austin, Liam Neeson, Catherine Tate, Richard E. Grant, Steve Buscemi.
THE PLOT: 
When zebra Khumba is born only half covered with stripes, his superstitious herd believe that he is curse on their way of life, and it is he who has caused the drought that befalls them. When he grows older, Khumba sets out to find a magical water hole, break the supposed curse and literally earn his stripes. This is easier said than done however, as Khumba has always lived in a secure enclosure and has little experience of life, and the creatures, that await him outside the fence.
THE VERDICT:
 The cast of KHUMBA is filled with great actors who bring their characters to life, Liam Neeson channels his inner evil as the tiger Phango, Richard E. Grant plays a vain ostrich, Steve Buscemi voices an opportunistic wild dog and Catherine Tate plays a slightly mad, lonely sheep. The cast does their best with the characters, and there are moments of comedy but this stellar cast is let down by over the top direction from Anthony Silverston and an uninspiring story.
Principally written by Raffaella Delle Donne and Anthony Silverston, Khumba is a morality tale in which the title character overcomes adversity and realises that the things that make him different are actually the things that make him special. So far, so familiar, and little is done throughout the film to make Khumba stand out from the pack. Although there is some clever observational humour and a couple of wise cracks, the characters feel so over the top as to be melodramatic, and it is difficult to relate to characters who are clownish with little depth.
The animation of the film is stylised, with many of the animals sporting unusual patterns and exaggerated colours. The desert setting of the film is beautifully realised, but there are moments where the animation slips, leaving the film feeling a little cheap and a little underdone.
In all, KHUMBA is just distracting enough to keep the little ones quiet for an hour or so, but with an uninspiring, familiar story, overdone characters and over the top voice performances, there is little here for anyone over the age of seven.
RATING: 2/5
Review by Brogen Hayes 

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