Tag Archives: Broadsheet Movie Barometer


KrampusPick of the week

KRAMPUS (97 minutes, 15A) Directed by Michael Dougherty. Starring Adam Scott, Toni Collette, David Koechner.

Krampus opens with a nice little montage of store security tasering a mob of feral Black Friday shoppers with Bing Crosby’s “It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas” playing over the top. This gleefully dyspeptic attitude towards the festive season runs through writer/director Michael Dougherty’s home invasion monster movie like arsenic icing in a Christmas cake.

The ever so middle-class Engel family are steeling themselves for the annual redneck in-law invasion. The arrival of Howard (David Koechner), Linda (Allison Tolman) and their vulgar kids brings bickering and bullying, and these bad vibes are sufficient to summon the demon spirit of Krampus. With a supernatural blizzard outside, the Engels find themselves cut off from the outside world and under siege from anti-Santa and his little helpers.

Krampus never takes itself too seriously. With carnivorous Christmas cookies and an eight-foot hairy goat antagonist, it’s a film that is fully aware of its own absurdity. Dougherty has taken more than a little inspiration from Joe Dante’s classic, Gremlins, with black comedy and cartoon violence occasionally giving way to moments of surprising brutality.

The effects team utilise a commendable amount of puppetry and practical effects. Results are mixed (the Krampus creature itself is noticeably inanimate), but charming nevertheless and it’s a welcome antidote from endless CGI borefests. Of course Krampus is ridiculous, but it’s ridiculous fun.

TLDR: It’s a Not-So-Wonderful Life.

Victor Frankenstein

VICTOR FRANKENSTEIN (109 minutes, 12A) Directed by Paul McGuigan. Starring Daniel Radcliffe, James McAvoy, Jessica Brown Findlay.

For this “reimagining,” Chronicle Screenwriter Max Landis takes Mary Shelley’s novel, chops it up and stitches the bodyparts together with a glut of other references and influences.

Daniel Radcliffe starts out as a nameless hunchback working as circus freak. Wee Daniel also happens to be a wiz at anatomy, and is rescued from a life of servitude by mad genius Victor Frankenstein (James McAvoy). After a vomit-inducing bit of boil-lancing and the quickest Queer Eye makeover in cinematic history, he’s given a new name (Igor) and a new job as Frankenstein’s apprentice. Victor’s discovered how to animate things with biological energy and a magical fork, and he needs Igor’s anatomical talents to further his research. Meanwhile, bible-thumping DI Turpin (Andrew Scott) is trying to fit Frankenstein to a murder, and there’s something cooking in the basement.

Radcliffe is slowly overcoming the burden of growing up in front of the camera. As an actor, he gets better with each role and is by far the best element in this unholy mess. His enthusiasm and commitment is hard to resist. On the other hand, McAvoy knows far better than to take any of it seriously and overacts with every fibre in his being (say it, don’t spray it James).

Spotting where the various elements have been lifted from – a taste of Tim Burton here, a slice of Guy Richie there, and a healthy dollop of David Cronenberg body horror over the top – is entertaining for a while but eventually becomes distracting. It is instantly forgettable. Just like the monster, Victor Frankenstein is not built for longevity.

TLDR: IT’S ALIVE! But only just.

The Night Before

THE NIGHT BEFORE (101 minutes, 16) Directed by Jonathan Levine. Starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Seth Rogen, Anthony Mackie.

After satisfying his inner thespian in Steve Jobs, Seth Rogen ingests a selection box of narcotics and reverts to type.

The story of The Night Before is basic bromance comedy formula no. 1, involving a night on the town with best buds Ethan (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) Isaac (Rogen) and Chris (Anthony Mackie) and their quest to find “The Nutcracker Ball” – the holy grail of Christmas parties. Hijinks ensue, lessons are learned, values are reassessed, and we all grow up just a little bit. Et cetera. But nobody’s watching this stuff for story.

In all fairness to Rogen, most of the laughs on offer are down to his ad-libbed paranoid hophead schtick. Elsewhere, the jokes amount to lazy riffs on other, better movies and crude pop culture references. Most miss the mark – even the actors look mortified trying to sell “Wrecking Ball” like it’s something off Pet Sounds, but the penny drops when Miley Cyrus makes a late appearance. And sings. Hurrah.

In a nutshell, The Night Before is “The Twelve Pubs of Christmas: The Movie.” If bongs, novelty jumpers and al fresco urination crack you up, then you’ll love this.

TLDR: Ho Ho No.

Christmas with the Coopers

CHRISTMAS WITH THE COOPERS (106 minutes, 12A) Directed by Jessie Nelson. Starring Diane Keaton, Tom Goodman, Alan Arkin.

It’s clear that Christmas with the Coopers started life as a bog standard family melodrama, but at some point the cracks in Steven Rogers’ (P.S.I Love You) flimsy script were papered over with Christmas wrapping and the film is now being sold as this year’s Love Actually (one was more than enough, actually).

Diane Keaton and John Goodman play Charlotte and Sam Cooper. After 40 years of marriage, the couple have decided to go their separate ways, but Charlotte wants to spend one last Christmas with their family before dropping the bombshell. So we jump from one member of the extended Cooper clan to another as they make their way home on Christmas Eve.

What was intended as an anthology of character studies amounts to no more than thumbnail sketches, without any organic flow or connection between the individual parts. Alan Arkin’s melancholy grandfather is the film’s sole redeeming factor, but the rest of the characters are either underdeveloped (Marisa Tomei’s flaky sister) or utterly charmless (Olivia Wilde’s immature, needy daughter).

By the time they arrive at the nonsensical, happy-clappy resolution, every member of the (admittedly impressive) cast is covered in the stink of mediocrity. The festive setting is a blatant excuse to corral a collection of half-cooked, mismatched ideas into a cohesive whole. It doesn’t come close to working. Like sticking antlers and a Rudolph costume on a dog, it’s still a dog underneath.

TLDR: A real turkey.

Also on release from Friday 4th December: SUNSET SONG, THE LESSON, 11 MINUTES


It’s Thursday, 3.37pm.

Time for a review of this weekend’s cinema releases from ‘sheet movie critic Mark Ryall.



THE GOOD DINOSAUR (100 minutes, PG) Directed by Peter Sohn. Starring Raymond Ochoa, Jack Bright, Sam Elliott.

Perhaps it was too much to expect two classics from Pixar in one year. So it’s not entirely unexpected that The Good Dinosaur seems mundane in comparison to the wonderful Inside Out. Peter Sohn’s movie is sadly lacking in the humour, charm and the big ideas we have come to expect from the studio.

It’s a relatively small story. A young dinosaur, Arlo (voiced by Raymond Ochoa) is separated from his family and tries to find his way back home. The world he wanders through is practically deserted, with only the occasional supporting character popping up to break the monotony. Arlo carries the movie, but the voice acting is sub-par and the character design is ugly – too clumsy and angular in all the wrong places.

This is Pixar-lite. Younger viewers will be entertained, but it doesn’t hold the all-ages appeal of future classics like Wall-E (2008) or Up (2009). It also lacks any emotional heft, with a by-the-numbers resolution that feels inorganic and tacked on. It’s hard to come away without feeling a little disappointed, but at least there’s no singing.

TLDR: Underwhelming

CAROL (118 minutes, 15A) Directed by Todd Haynes. Starring Cate Blanchett, Rooney Mara, Sarah Paulson.

Todd Haynes returns to the classic melodrama of Far From Heaven (2002) for his adaption of “The Price of Salt,” Patricia Highsmith’s 1952 novel.

Therese Belivet (Rooney Mara) is a shy New York shopgirl with a dull job and a fiancé she doesn’t really like. Therese is practically invisible to the outside world, but when she meets sophisticated housewife Carol Aird (Cate Blanchett) she senses a deep connection. Companionship eventually develops into love, but the affair – and Carol’s pattern of “aberrant behaviour” – could result in her losing custody of her daughter.

The film manages to reproduce the confusion and woozy excitement of first love. Mara plays Therese as a sort of cipher swept along in Carol’s slipstream. It’s an appropriate choice given the inherent risk of conducting a lesbian relationship in a repressive society, but it does leave the restrained character as rather hard to read. Blanchett is the opposite, an expressive combination of strength, poise and elegance.

Haynes’ meticulous replication of 1950s Hollywood is truly remarkable. Every detail – from the costumes and sets down to the expressions of the extras in the background – captures the mood of the era.

Carol addresses themes that Douglas Sirk might have tackled were it not for the repressive Hay’s code. It calls attention to the rarity of a mainstream Hollywood movie carried by two strong female leads. The result is profoundly beautiful.

TLDR: Affecting

Pick of the week


BRIDGE OF SPIES (141 minutes, 12A) Directed by Steven Spielberg. Starring Tom Hanks, Mark Rylance, Amy Ryan.

The release of a new Steven Spielberg movie is quite rightly seen as an event. The tedium of his recent historical awards bonanza Lincoln (2012) notwithstanding, what the director has achieved in a remarkable 45-year career is more than enough to warrant the anticipation.

This Cold War thriller, set during the “Duck and Cover” Red scare paranoia of 1957, is a masterclass in suspense executed by one of the finest visual storytellers of our time.

James B. Donovan (Tom Hanks) is an insurance claims lawyer handed the poisoned chalice of defending Soviet spy Rudolf Abel (Mark Rylance). The Government and the Court want to hand Abel a quick death sentence, but Donovan’s by-the-book tenacity sees the spy’s life spared. When the pilot of an American U-2 spy plane is captured by the Soviets, Abel becomes a handy bargaining chip, and Donovan is entrusted with the task of facilitating a prisoner swap in Berlin just as the GDR have started building the wall.

Bridge of Spies is a proper old school spy thriller, with microfilms, tense border crossings, bluffs and double bluffs. It’s a film of two halves, and they’re both fantastic. The two strands of narrative fit together like a jigsaw, and Spielberg knows exactly where to find the substance in the story.

The director’s affinity for sentimental manipulation is averted until the closing scenes, where the beatification of Donovan becomes more than a little cloying. Donovan is the kind of all American boy scout role that Hanks can pull off in his sleep. He doesn’t, but is still outclassed by Mark Rylance in every scene that the two share. With a mix of laid-back serenity and sardonic resignation, Rylance is simply superb.

TLDR: Gripping

Also on release from Friday 27th November: BLACK MASS, RADIATOR.

Find Mark at WhyBother.ie

MovieHeader9(1)Black Mass

BLACK MASS (122 minutes, 15A) Directed by Scott Cooper. Starring Johnny Depp, Joel Edgerton, Benedict Cumberbatch.

Johnny Depp can’t resist another dip into the dress-up box for this Boston crime drama, but the results are far more impressive than any of his recent output would lead us to expect.

Black Mass spans the 25 year-period when James “Whitey” Bulger (Depp) headed the notorious Winter Hill gang. Beginning in 1975, Bulger forges a mutually beneficial alliance with his childhood friend and FBI agent James Connolly (Joel Edgerton), whereby Bulger feeds information on rival gangs to the FBI, and in return his illegal activities are overlooked. Bulger takes out his competition and Connolly gets promoted, but there’s trouble ahead, naturally.

Scott Cooper (Crazy Heart) finds some inventive ways of presenting shots and transitions with a creative flair that keeps things interesting. There is however a noticeable slump in the final act. The factual basis of the material often ties the film down and prevents it from realising the dramatic potential of The Departed or The Town.

It must be said that as Bulger’s powerful diplomat brother, Benedict Cumberbatch fails to convincingly pahk his cah in hahvahd yahd, but the rest of the supporting cast (including Kevin Bacon and Jesse Plemons) are terrific. Besides, this is Johnny’s gig, and he is utterly terrifying. He brings an unpredictable, savage intensity to the role that is mesmerising. It’s a pleasant surprise to see Depp acting again, because he’s rather good at it. With sequels to Alice in Wonderland and Pirates of the Caribbean on the horizon, perhaps we shouldn’t get used to the idea.

Note: Black Mass is currently on limited release. It will be on general release from 25th November.


LOVE (135 minutes, 18) Directed by Gaspar Noé. Starring Aomi Muyock, Karl Glusman, Klara Kristin.

With films such as Irréversible and Into the Void under his belt, we should be well accustomed to Gaspar Noé testing our levels of patience and endurance, but here the filmmaker crosses the line from provocation to outright trolling.

Love is essentially two hours of unsimulated sex – in 3D – with 15 minutes of story wedged in-between the cracks (fnar). Murphy (Karl Glusman) receives a phonecall informing him that his ex-girlfriend, Electra (Aomi Muyock) is missing and possibly suicidal. He then eats some opium and reminisces about all the weird sex they had together. And that’s an awful lot of sex… sex in parking garages, sex in niteclubs, and a 10-minute threesome that’s like watching snakes fighting on a bed with Harold Faltemeyer’s Top Gun Anthem playing over the top.

Yes it’s shocking, but for all the wrong reasons. Clunky dialogue such as “I’m just really in my head right now” and a risibly pretentious voiceover give the impression of a bad student film. The first-time actors are fine at standing still, staring and autoerotic activities such as ejaculating, but their inexperience is woefully apparent in scenes where speaking (or actual acting) is required.

It’s all very tiresome. The 3D sex is a gimmick, and can’t disguise the fact that Noé has nothing to say. Tommy Wiseau should watch his back. Love may yet displace The Room’s reputation as the “Citizen Kane of bad movies.”



STEVE JOBS (122 minutes, 15A) Directed by Danny Boyle. Starring Michael Fassbender, Kate Winslet, Seth Rogen.

Steve Jobs is not your average biopic. It dumps the hackneyed tropes of the genre, and the result is thrilling. Opening with the launch of the Macintosh in 1984 (and Jobs consequent ousting as CEO of Apple), and concluding with the introduction of the iMac in 1998, Danny Boyle confines the action to a simple three-act structure that works beautifully.
By his own admission, Jobs (Michael Fassbender) is a “poorly made” human being. The film doesn’t attempt the impossible task of trying to humanise the man, but instead focuses on what makes the character so compelling. This shark in a turtleneck is a mass of contradictions; manipulative yet charismatic, arrogant and needy. Unlike the technology he was hawking, Jobs isn’t subjected to a relaunch with minor improvements every few years. And Fassbender completely nails it.
That’s not to say that the movie is without problems. Seth Rogen is distractingly out-of-place as Steve Wozniak, and Kate Winslet’s role as Jobs’ “business wife” Joanna Hoffman functions mainly as a source of exposition. Curiously, Winslet seems to get more Polish as the movie progresses. But this is nitpicking. Few can pull off behind-the-scenes drama like Aaron Sorkin, and the backstage pressure cooker environment is the perfect canvas for the scriptwriter’s trademark walk-and-talk dialogue. Boyle knows exactly where the dramatic pressure points are, and doesn’t waste a single opportunity.

Lady in the Van

THE LADY IN THE VAN (103 minutes, 12A) Directed by Nicholas Hytner. Starring Maggie Smith, Alex Jennings, Frances De La Tour.

Some might say that one Alan Bennett is more than enough, but The Lady in the Van gives us three. This semi-fictional account of the 15-year period Bennet spent with a homeless woman living in his driveway opens with the disclaimer, “mostly a true story.” This waiver allows director Nicholas Hytner to take frequent reveries into fantasy territory and avoid the problematic realities of homelessness. So Bennet the writer bickers and argues with Bennett the person (both played by Alex Jennings) about what to do about the ever-present Miss Shepherd (Maggie Smith).
The Lady in the Van is an urban fairy tale. It’s all very slight and inoffensive, but with the air of a made-for-TV movie. Fans mourning the loss of Downton Abbey will find some comfort in Smith’s performance. With her barbed putdowns and bon mots, Miss Shepherd is essentially the Dowager Countess in hand-me-down clothing.


FATHERS AND DAUGHTERS (116 minutes, 15A) Directed by Gabriele Muccino. Starring Amanda Seyfried, Russell Crowe, Aaron Paul.

Russell Crowe plays a father coping with depression in this mawkish melodrama. After his wife is killed in a car accident, author Jake Davis (Crowe) checks himself into a psychiatric institution. Meanwhile, his young daughter, Katie (Kylie Rogers) is sent to live with his wife’s wealthy family. When Jake returns seven months later, His wife’s sister decides she wants to keep her.
Gabrielle Muccino’s film ping pongs back and forth between Jake struggling with the seven-year-old Katie and her adult self (played by Amanda Seyfried). Big Katie is troubled. We know this because she tells her psychiatrist that she’s troubled and sleeps with a lot of guys (well, three). The cause of Katie’s trauma is obviously intended to be a source of narrative tension, but from the very beginning it is abundantly clear where things are going to end up.
Fathers and Daughters draws characters in the broad strokes of a soap opera, and dresses mental illness in the simplistic trappings of a Hallmark Channel movie-of-the-week. Katie’s promiscuity is cured through the healing power of a Michael Bolton power ballad, while the scheming alcoholic aunt wouldn’t be out of place on The Bold and the Beautiful. Crowe fails to convince as either compassionate father or tortured author, and the film never threatens to connect on an emotional level.

Also on release from Friday 13th November: A CHRISTMAS STAR, THE HALLOW, THE FEAR OF 13, TANGERINE

(Mark blogs about film, TV and other stuff at WhyBother.ie)


BROOKLYN (112 minutes, 12A) Directed by John Crowley. Starring Saoirse Ronan, Domhnall Gleeson, Emory Cohen.

The take-home message from this adaption of Colm Tobin’s emigration narrative is that opportunities for Ireland’s young have not improved in 60 odd years. Beginning in 1951, Ellis Lacey (Saoirse Ronan) leaves her family and friends behind in no-hope rural Ireland in pursuit of the American dream. She spends the first few weeks weeping into her bacon and cabbage; homesick, desperately lonely. But when Ellis falls for twinkly-eyed Italian plumber Antonio (Emory Cohen), life in America doesn’t seem quite so bad after all. A sudden tragedy sends Ellis back to Ireland and into the arms of wealthy, charming Jim Farrell (Domhnall Gleeson). With two lovers in two countries, Ellis is faced with the choice of staying at home or returning to her new life.
Heavily indebted to the work of Douglas Sirk, Brooklyn is a charming homage to a simpler age of filmmaking. John Crowley’s hands-off directional style allows source material to speak for itself. Ronan and Gleeson are two of our finest young actors, and each delivers a performance of understated, subtle dexterity. But the true standout of Brooklyn is Cohen. It’s occasionally prone to cliché (with emerald green coat and red hair, Ellis is the epitome of the stereotypical cailín). The DVD will fly off the shelves at Bunratty Castle gift shop.


He Named Me Malala

HE NAMED ME MALALA (88 minutes, PG) Directed by Davis Guggenheim. With Malala Yousafzai, Zaiuddin Yousafzai

A bullet in the head could never be described as a gift. Yet when the Taliban shot 15 year old Malala Yousafzai for having the temerity of wanting an education, she was given an opportunity. Just as she herself chooses not to dwell on this act, Davis Guggenheim’s documentary focusses instead on what Malala has managed to achieve with the global spotlight. Since 2012 she has addressed the UN as an advocate for the 60 million children without access to education and is the youngest recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize. The documentary also reveals the private aspects of Malala’s personality. Courageous, modest and witty, it is easy to forget that this influential world figure is still a teenager crushing on Brad Pitt. Education is the best defence against ideological fanaticism, and He Named Me Malala is an inspirational lesson in the value of constantly kicking against the pricks.



KILL YOUR FRIENDS (103 minutes, 18) Directed by Owen Harris. Starring Nicholas Hoult, Craig Roberts, James Corden.

The makers of this turgid Britflick were probably hoping to ride the current wave of 90s nostalgia, but the novelty wears off quickly. Adapted by John Niven from his own novel, Kill Your Friends is set during the Britpop years when a pre-Napster record industry was hoovering up money and Colombian marching powder in equal measure. Nicholas Hoult plays the preposterously named Steven Stelfox, a talentless A&R man whose only qualification is a prodigious capacity for cocaine and owning his own copy of “The Art of War.” But what he lacks in talent, he makes up for with blind ambition. Stelfox is the type who thinks nothing of (literally) urinating on his colleagues to get ahead. It’s like a “how-to” guide for sociopaths, or an episode of The Apprentice (same thing, I suppose). For all its edgy credentials and satirical aspirations, Kill Your Friends is ultimately quite boring. It has more in common with How to Lose Friends and Alienate People (2008) than with American Psycho (2000). At this stage, to-camera monologues indicate the inability to tell a story, and should be consigned to the past along with Menswear’s second album. Drug-taking isn’t a spectator sport, and the endless scenes of debauchery become wearing. Kill Your Friends feels like being trapped at a stockbrokers Christmas party. Unpleasant.


Scouts Guide
SCOUTS GUIDE TO THE ZOMBIE APOCALYPSE (93 minutes, 15A) Directed by Christopher Landon. Starring Tye Sheridan, Logan Miller, Joey Morgan.

If Shaun of the Dead (2004) is the high water mark of zom-rom-coms, then Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse is the sludge at the bottom. Any and all creative development for this project was wrapped up when someone came up with the elevator pitch of “Scouts fighting Zombies.” Because this has nothing else to offer. Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse is like an AC/DC-themed episode of Scooby Doo. With boobs. The three short-pants-and-woggle-wearing leads are far too old for this nonsense, as they point, squeal and bump their way to the 90-minute mark. Director and co-writer Christopher Landon lifts segments from Edgar Wright’s film wholesale, strips them of all wit, and replaces actual set-ups and pay-offs with genital references. This isn’t Scary Movie (2000) bad; it’s Meet the Spartans (2008) bad.

Also on release from Friday 6th November: BURNT.

(Mark blogs about film, TV and other stuff at WhyBother.ie)


SPECTRE (148 minutes, 12A) Directed by Sam Mendes. Starring Daniel Craig, Christophe Waltz, Léa Seydoux.

Ever since Casino Royale (2006) achieved the impossible feat of making James Bond relevant again, the franchise has never been in ruder health. This eagerly awaited follow-up to the monumentally successful Skyfall (2012) is going to make more money than Microsoft, but it’s a case of two steps forward, one step back.

Picking up immediately after the events of the last film, Spectre sees Bond (Daniel Craig) fighting a war on multiple fronts. First up is the task of hunting the shadowy Franz Oberhauser (Christophe Waltz), head of a multinational criminal organisation with links to the baddies from the previous three chapters. There’s also trouble at home, with oily new MI6 boss Max Denbigh (Andrew Scott) threatening to mothball the Double O program. Business as usual then.

Let’s start with the positives. Four movies in and Craig’s rough diamond has grown into the quintessential Bond. If this is the actor’s last hurrah (and it’s probably not), then Spectre provides a satisfying resolution to his story arc. Returning director Sam Mendes hits all the necessary beats, from kinetic action sequences in exotic locations to a spectacular set-piece every 30 minutes or so. But the realism of the previous movies has been lost in the quest to make the spectacle bigger, and Spectre starts ticking boxes best left as “optional”.

The action is far too slick, and any sense of genuine peril has all but disappeared. Signs of Brosnan-period cheesy humour are beginning to creep back in, along with the clichéd gimmickry of exploding watches and pimped-out supercars with ejector seats and machine guns. Spectre is still a decent popcorn flick that will please fans of “old” Bond, but those of us who have become accustomed to the new, gritty era will come away disappointed.

(Mark blogs about film, TV and other stuff at WhyBother.ie)

MovieHeader7Queen of Ireland

THE QUEEN OF IRELAND (15A, 85 minutes) Directed by Conor Horgan. With Rory O’Neill, Niall Sweeney, David Norris.

The Queen of Ireland has been in the works since June 2010, but when Pantigate hit the fan last January, director Conor Horgan must have thought that all his Christmases had come at once.
Without that brouhaha and the ensuing fallout, Horgan’s documentary on Rory O’Neill would still be a fascinating insight into one of Ireland’s most glamourous outsiders. And O’Neill is every bit as witty and erudite as you would expect (“You lesbians and your good skin – it must be all the hillwalking”). He’s also remarkably candid about his reluctance to be seen as a LGBT figurehead. But Horgan’s film has of course taken on added significance in the wake of the changes of the last 12 months.
The Queen of Ireland isn’t just about O’Neill/Panti. It’s about us. It’s about where we are as a society in 2015. We have a proud history of getting stuff wrong – from The Voice of Ireland to careerist politicians – and we’re quick to put ourselves down before someone else does it first. But when we do get something right, like the monumental marriage equality referendum, then we should celebrate it. Horgan’s film marks an end and a beginning. It’s a gravestone over the bigotry and closemindedness that blighted past generations, and the tentative first steps towards a more enlightened period of compassion.
If RTÉ have any sense, this will be scheduled against that other queen’s annual Christmas message. But whether you watch The Queen of Ireland on TV, at the cinema or download it, just watch it. Your Nan is going to hate it though.


MISSISSIPPI GRIND (108 minutes, 15A) Directed by Anna Boden & Ryan Fleck. Starring Ben Mendelsohn, Ryan Reynolds, Sienna Miller.

The main selling point of this old-fashioned road movie is a superb turn from Ben Mendelsohn. As chronic gambler Gerry, the chamois-faced Mendelsohn combines the look of a homeless Martin Short with the barely-concealed desperation of Paul Giamatti. Gerry is one of life’s losers, never knowing when enough is too much. A sustained losing streak ends unexpectedly when he meets the chatty Curtis (Ryan Reynolds) at a fleapit poker tournament. The two form an unlikely friendship and, with his new good luck talisman in tow, this odd couple travel from Iowa to a life-changing poker tournament in New Orleans. For the most part, Mississippi Grind is a modestly satisfying character study, but some elements of Boden and Fleck’s script don’t scan. What the handsome, charismatic Curtis sees in Gerry is never entirely clear, and Mendelsohn’s honest portrayal of an insidious addiction to gambling is undone by an implausibly disingenuous resolution.


THE LAST WITCH HUNTER (12A, 106 Minutes) Directed by Breck Eisner. Starring Vin Diesel, Rose Leslie, Elijah Wood.

Logic or credibility isn’t really to be expected in a Vin Diesel vehicle about a flame sword-wielding 800-year old witch assassin named Kaulder, but any decent fantasy should at least try to convince you of its absurdity. The writers of this nonsensical drivel can’e even convince themselves, seemingly adopting a roll-your-own adventure approach to plot with some eight-sided dice. The Last Witch Hunter has the unmistakable whiff of making stuff up on the fly.
A fairly major plot point involves assembling the ingredients for a recipe, and it feels like sitting through the technical challenge segment of Bake Off. Rose Leslie and Elijah Wood provide nothing but exposition as they compete for sidekick status. Leslie wins, but it’s a hollow victory. Ólafur Darri Ólafsson is a placeholder villain with the charisma of a non-speaking extra, and Michael Caine seems to have reverted to picking projects based on the paycheck. Still, this one might have paid for a swimming pool, and he does get to sleep through most of the movie. I was quite envious. The Last Witch Hunter is the sort of guff that Arnold Schwarzenegger was coming out with back in the 1980s, and that’s exactly where it belongs.

SPECTRE is released on Monday 26th and will be reviewed over the weekend (Mark is watching it this afternoon).

Also on release from today, Friday October 23: THE LEGEND OF LONGWOOD; MAYA THE BEE.

(Mark blogs about film, TV and other stuff at WhyBother.ie)

MovieHeader6(1)The Lobster2

THE LOBSTER (15A, 118 Minutes) Directed by Yorgos Lanthimos. Starring Colin Farrell, Rachel Weisz, Ben Whishaw.

Those familiar with the work of Yorgos Lanthimos, pioneer of the Greek weird wave, are unlikely to be fooled by the current marketing campaign suggesting that The Lobster is a black comedy.. The Lobster is a hard sell. Lanthimos presents an absurdist vision of reality where nameless singletons are forced to find a mate within forty five days, after which they are transformed into an animal of their choosing. It’s impossible to describe without using the term, Kafkaesque. But anyone expecting a version of Logan’s Run (1976) with jokes is likely to be either disappointed or mildly traumatised
At its best, The Lobster is a warped mirror held up to the banality of existence. It reflects the universal truths that we all suspect but don’t say out loud; single people are looked down on, everything is easier for couples, and children are often used as a temporary solution to irreconcilable problems. At its worst it’s a gruelling exercise in endurance, offering a thought-provoking but fairly grim vision with moments of extreme violence. Its value lies in the discussions it will provoke rather than as a source of escapism. Much respect to Colin Farrell for choosing the road less travelled. If he keeps this up, the rest of his career will be extraordinary.

Crimson Peak

CRIMSON PEAK (15A, 118 Minutes) Directed by Guillermo del Toro. Starring Mia Wasikowska, Jessica Chastain, Tom Hiddleston.

At the end of the 19th Century, penniless toff Thomas Sharpe (Tom Hiddleston) woos wealthy heir Edith Cushing (Mia Wasikowska) away from her affluent New Jersey home and whisks her off to his crumbling Cumbrian estate. Crimson Peak is the sort of gaff that an estate agent would describe as a “desirable fixer-upper,” and would appear to be the most haunted house in England (ghosts in the bath, ghosts in the attic, ghosts in the porridge etc.). But far more terrifying than the mansion’s supernatural occupants is Edith’s new sister-in-law, Lucille (Jessica Chastain). Oh, she’s a bad ‘un and no mistake.
Although the premise and setting of Crimson Peak is archetypally gothic, del Toro’s execution is pure melodrama. Surprisingly, there are precious few scares, and the gore is of a distinctly cartoon variety. Much like Tim Burton’s recent output, it looks beautiful but there’s nothing hidden under the surface. Hiddleston hams it up with relish, but the normally dependable Chastain is burdened with a British accent that really hurts. There are precious few alarms and no surprises in this competent but predictable homage to mid-period Hammer horror. Ultimately, it’s a bit of a let-down.

The Program

THE PROGRAM (15A, 103 Minutes) Directed by Stephen Frears. Starring Ben Foster, Chris O’Dowd, Guillaume Canet.

This dramatisation of David Walsh’s exposé of the Lance Armstrong doping scandal is heavy on Armstrong (Ben Foster) and surprisingly light on Walsh’s (Chris O’Dowd) side of the story. Given the amount of documentaries already dealing with this subject, it seems like a missed opportunity. If there is any distance left in this story then focussing yet again on Armstrong isn’t the answer. Stephen Frears’ movie might have worked better if it dealt with Walsh’s experience, or examined how Armstrong’s competitors felt about being consistently beaten by a cheat. As it stands, The Program is a run-of-the-mill biopic full of trite, “C’mon Johnny, I’m Jonesing real bad and I know you got the stuff” style dialogue and leaving the impression that Armstrong and his team were ploughing up the Alps high-fiving each other with syringes sticking out of their arses. The Program is a passible TV movie, but it’s hardly worth a trip to the cinema.


PAN (PG, 111 Minutes) Directed by Joe Wright. Starring Levi Miller, Hugh Jackman, Garret Hedlund.

What the hell is with Hugh Jackman and the endless showtunes? At any given moment, the man is no more than a pair of jazz hands away from donning a top hat, getting down on one knee and bursting into “Surrey with the Fringe on Top.” In this slightly steampunk reimagining of the prehistory of J.M. Barrie’s Peter Pan, Nirvana and The Ramones get Luhrmanised. “No Fun” by The Stooges would have been more appropriate, because this is just dreadful. In fairness, the art direction and set design are impressive, but there’s a distinct fug of apathy hanging over every other aspect of Pan, from the script and performances to the big set-pieces. Even the most forgiving child is likely to be bored rigid by this bloated, overlong mess. It’s hard to fathom that this is the same Joe Wright who directed Pride and Prejudice (2005) and Atonement (2007). Jackman must be positively stuffed after chewing so much scenery. Utter Pan-ts.

Also on release from Friday 16th October: TALKING TO MY FATHER; HOTEL TRANSYLVANIA 2.

Mark blogs about film, TV and other stuff at WhyBother.ie

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SICARIO (15A, 121 minutes) Directed by Denis Villeneuve. Starring Emily Blunt, Benicio Del Toro, Josh Brolin.

Denis Villeneuve’s follow-up to the marvellously surreal Enemy (2013) is a much tamer beast altogether. But like a weird hybrid of Seven and Heat (both 1995), Sicario still manages to unsettle and excite with some brutal, unnerving imagery and kinetic action sequences (captured by the peerless Roger Deakins). Kate Macer (Emily Blunt) is an idealistic FBI agent coerced into a cross-departmental drug task force, headed by Matt Graver (Josh Brolin), a dodgy government agent with questionable ethics and Alejandro (Benicio del Toro) a Colombian “consultant” with his own agenda.
Morality disappears when Macer crosses the Mexican border and an increasing sense of unease displaces her naiveté. Regardless of the quality of material she’s given to work with, Blunt is never less than exceptional and it’s heartening to see her perseverance rewarded with meatier leading roles. It’s impossible to come away from Sicario without speculating on where Villeneuve will take the forthcoming Blade Runner (1982) sequel. Whether or not that long-gestating project is advisable, on this evidence it’s an enticing prospect.


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RED ARMY (84 minutes, 12A) Directed by Gabe Polsky. With Slava Fetisov, Vladislav Tretiak, Scotty Bowman.

Global politics and sport make for unlikely bedfellows in this engaging documentary on the undefeated Russian Olympic team of 1980. From Ronald Reagan’s opening salvo to the break-up of the Soviet Union in 1991, Gabe Polsky’s film is like a microcosm of life during the Cold War. The legendary Slava Fetisov makes for a delightfully truculent interviewee (kicking off proceedings by giving Polsky the finger). His refusal to be painted as a victim, in spite of appalling treatment at the hands of his coach, country and fellow teammates, is commendable. Red Army is worth watching for the archival footage and none-more-Eighties video indents alone, and the off-guard moments between set-ups often reveal more than the interviews proper. Fascinating stuff.

Also on release from tomorrow, Friday October 9: REGRESSION; TANA BANA.

Mark is enforcing a social media blackout until he’s caught up with last night’s Bake Off final. See WhyBother.ie for a closer look at some of this week’s new releases.

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THE MARTIAN (12A, 141 Minutes) Directed by Ridley Scott. Starring Matt Damon, Jessica Chastain, Kristen Wiig.

Left for dead on Mars, without any hope of rescue or method of communicating with Earth, botanist astronaut Mark Watney (Matt Damon) gets stuck in to the business of not dying one problem at a time. Worse still, the only playlist available on the laptop is all disco. Bugger indeed.
Alternately titled “The Loneliness of the Long Distance Astronaut” (or “Mars… What is it good for?”) Damon is flawless as the can-do all-American Watney. He carries the bulk of the movie through sheer charisma; there’s a refreshing lack of wacky robots and mawkish communiques to teary Earth-bound relatives (I’m looking at you, Interstellar). Ridley Scott doesn’t try to force his trademark style onto the film, because there’s simply no need. The narrative is compelling enough to sustain the two-plus hours. The Martian is that rare case of a big-budget blockbuster that successfully manages to mix science fiction and science fact. It’s wholly satisfying and, more so than any of Scott’s movies in recent years, it works.

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MACBETH (15A, 113 Minutes) Directed by Justin Kurzel. Starring Michael Fassbender, Marion Cotillard, Paddy Considine.

Macbeth is essentially a story about a man who kills a king, becomes king then goes off his nut. It’s definitely not for fans of Shakespeare’s early funny ones. Director Justin Kurzel takes an anti-Luhrman approach to this adaption, remaining largely faithful to the source.
Things get off to a very promising start with an intensely kinetic battle sequence rendered in a haunting, balletic slow motion. Thereafter Macbeth adopts a distinctly set-bound quality that leaves us with a creeping suspicion that we’re watching a play, albeit a very good one. It must be said that some familiarity with the source is essential or the plot will be lost amid reams of mumbled iambic pentameter. Macbeth is one of the better Shakespeare adaptions of recent years. The cast are impressive, and Fassbender is utterly mesmerising throughout, but it might leave you with unwelcome memories of a leaving cert English class.

The Walk poster

THE WALK (PG, 123 Minutes) Directed by Robert Zemeckis. Starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Ben Kingsley, Charlotte Le Bon.

This dramatisation of Philippe Petit’s highwire wire walk across the towers of the World Trade Centre in 1974 is part bizarre heist movie, part “Christ, I can’t look” scenes of nausea-inducing vertigo. The third act is undeniably thrilling with some exhilarating heart-in-mouth wire-work sequences, but the problem is getting to it. The back story of Petit (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) is fairly unengaging, and attempts to vitalise it with some Jean-Pierre Jeunet-style flourishes come off as cloying instead of charming. As the charsmatic, slightly arrogant Petit, Gordon-Levitt is a disappointment; more Pepé Le Peu than Alain Delon. The Wire isn’t terrible, but it is slightly redundant for anyone already familiar with the sublime Man On Wire (2008).

Also on release from tomorrow (Friday October 2): Ghosthunters: On Icy Trails and The Intern.
Mark will criticise movies for food. See WhyBother.ie for a closer look at some of this week’s new releases.