Hollywood rewrite: what the US ‘Pride’ DVD cover says about gay people in the movies
The US cover of UK film Pride has removed all references to gay men and lesbians
We’ve had Brokeback Mountain, Milk, A Single Man. Gay actors have been coming out left, right and centre. Hollywood’s no longer hung up on homosexuality, right?
Well, despite all that’s been achieved, it’s seems it’s still possible for gay themes to make the men in suits nervous.
Reports suggest that the covers of US DVDs of the movie Pride – yes, that’s Pride, a story about fighting for respect, without compromise or shame – have been straightwashed. A banner proclaiming “lesbians and gays support the miners” has been airbrushed out of the picture on the back cover, and the queer agitators are now simply “a group of London-based activists” in the blurb. Director Matthew Warchus says he “understands” the decision.
These changes, albeit a marketing, not a film-making decision, nevertheless stand in a time-honoured industry tradition of downplaying homosexuality. For years, film-makers in America were trapped by the motion picture production code, which banned “any inference of sex perversion”. As the brilliant 1995 documentary The Celluloid Closet sets out, screenwriters and directors snuck in gay themes where they could, with Gore Vidal memorably writing Ben Hur and Messala as though they were lovers turned rivals (Charlton Heston had no idea). But in general, gay storylines were box office poison.
Even after the code ceased to be enforced, film-makers were very tentative – and open homosexuality could never be anything other than arthouse niche (though that in itself encompassed some brilliant movies, like Bill Sherwood’s Parting Glances). This pink-tinted glass ceiling was arguably broken by Philadelphia, a belated nod to the Aids crisis. But then that wasn’t a rounded story of gay life, but a reason to feel sorry for a benighted minority. And there was grief, but no sex.
You would hope we had moved on. But the Pride story brings into sharp relief the sense that, as with society at large, though audiences may be broadly OK with being gay, it’s as well not to shove it in people’s faces. To take some fairly recent examples: the 2001 John Nash biopic, A Beautiful Mind, ignores the mathematician’s gay affairs. In 2004, the makers of Troy chose not to explore the homoerotic possibilities of the relationship between Achilles and Patroculus, one subject to much speculation through the ages, making them cousins instead. More recently, The Imitation Game has been accused of playing down Alan Turing’s sexuality. And in many parts of the world, straight-washing is practically mandated – as the Russian makers of a film about Tschaikovsky have found.
Having said all that, there’s also an age-old political conundrum that I think Warchus’s quotes capture well. He wants his work “to find a mainstream audience [and] broaden people’s minds”. If Pride reaches deep into the square states – subtly influencing parents, siblings, friends to be more accepting – isn’t that a good thing? It reminds me of the difference in tactics between Outrage – fans of direct action against, for example, bishops – and Stonewall, keener to make quiet political alliances in the service of long-term change.
I find it utterly bizarre that a movie called “Pride” is being pushed back into the closet in 2015. But at the same time, it would be wrong to pretend that there’s an easy answer to Warchus’s dilemma.
Mrs Brown’s Boys Movie Review 2014
The camera flies majestically towards Dublin, the credits announce a “fillum by Ben Kellett” and we get another chance to ponder one of the age’s more puzzling cultural phenomena.
Mrs Brown’s Boys, the vehicle that propelled Brendan O’Carroll to the top of the heap, is certainly no less old-fashioned than its many critics suggest. The big-screen version really does feature a comedy Oriental, frivolous use of Tourette’s syndrome, and characters who actually say “psst!” when they want to attract attention. One wouldn’t be surprised to hear a few supposedly topical cracks about General de Gaulle or the secession of Rhodesia. Heck, jokes about the Battle of Thermopylae wouldn’t seem out of time in this environment.
For all that, in both its TV incarnation and, now, on film, Mrs Brown’s Boys makes unexpected gestures towards postmodernity. (There you go, Brendan. You can have that one for free, the next time you’re taking a dig at pretentious, elitist critics.) The “fourth wall” is constantly broken as the foul-mouthed matriarch offers sly asides to an indulgent audience. The shots of lights, cameras and circling crew – heck, we’ve risked “postmodern”, so let’s drag in “Brechtian alienation” – suggest a broad cross-dressing sitcom as produced by the Berliner Ensemble around 1950.
Brendan O’Carroll: “Somewhere in the 1980s, comedy began to leave the people behind”
D’Movie takes this gag and contorts it into some arresting new angles. Painted backdrops are torn down as, now gifted a proper budget, Mrs Brown takes us to the physical locations that inspired the character. When magical things happen that only happen in cinema, Agnes makes sure to point up the fact. This may very well be the most promiscuously self-conscious meta-movie we have seen since the last Charlie Kaufman project.
None of which is to suggest that Mrs Brown’s Boys D’Movie is any good. It cannot be denied that, defying a wearisome tradition that extends from On the Buses right up to The Inbetweeners, the film-makers have ensured that, for her big-screen outing, Mrs Brown does not travel to the Costa del Packet and does not end up staying in a half-finished hotel.
Aside from that, the film suffers from all the ailments that plagued film adaptations of situation comedies throughout the 1970s. It is overstretched, underwritten, sluggishly paced and unsettled by the discombobulating move from studio to location.
We hardly need to say that the plot involves an evil developer who, assisted by mildly offensive Russian hoods, seeks to seize Mrs Brown’s stall on Moore Street and develop something large and hideous in its place. Meanwhile, Agnes needs to track down the receipt for an ancient tax transaction to prove that she does not owe the authorities some millions of euro. This process involves the deployment of deeply unamusing blind ninjas and moth-eaten jokes involving a barrister with the aforementioned Tourette’s. (Robert Bathurst does manage a convincingly tweedy King’s Inns drawl.).
For the first hour, raw energy and brazen goodwill holds the rickety construction aloft. But even the series’ most ardent fans may find the closing chase sequences absurdly overextended and exhaustingly pointless.
It’s all a terrible shame. The light entertainment traditions of the pre-alternative age are worth preserving. O’Carroll has heavenly timing and knows his way around grotesque drag.
Moreover, socially and politically, D’Movie does have its heart very much in the right place: eulogies to inclusion, tradition and open-mindedness pepper the dialogue. But, Jesus, Mary and Joseph, the gags are clunky, the dialogue is leaden and the story is threadbare.
It will be one of d’biggest fillums of d’summer.
Cinema whats on, The odd life of timothy green, Spring Breakers, Thursday till Sunday, Dublin cinema, Cineworld, odeon, movie review, Savoy Dublin
Movie Review, Film, Monsters University whats on in Dublin Cinema, the best movies in Dublin right Now.
Film Title: Monsters University
Director: Dan Scanlan
Starring: Billy Crystal, John Goodman, Steve Buscemi
Running Time: 104 min
Bringing all that is good about animation and film together, and when spherical green monster Mike Wazowski (Billy Crystal) meets professional child scarer Frank McCay on a school tour of the Monsters Inc factory, the outsized, discoloured golf-ball’s mind is made up: he wants to be a scarer when he grows up.
Many years later, Mike enrolls at Monsters University, where he meets the dweebish Randall (Steve Buscemi) and an arrogant jackass called James “Sulley” Sullivan (John Goodman). As the trailer and tagline informs us, the besties weren’t always thus.
Recommended Accommodation for Dublin Cinema:
The truth is, it’s the cocksure Sulley who lands hardworking academic Mike in trouble with tough-nut tutor Dean Hardscrabble (Helen Mirren), terrified that his lifelong dream is about to slip through his fingers, diligent student Mike teams up with the least cool fraternity on campus in order to impress the authorities.
Strange watching the third Pixar sequel in four years. When John Lasseter became the chief creative force at Disney Animation in 2006, he promised that the days of Cinderella 3 and Bambi 2 were over at the House of Mouse. It’s unfortunate that the Pixar head honcho has signed off on such unlovely follow-ons as Cars 2. It’s doubly unfortunate that he directed the damned thing himself and greenlit a third, spin-off instalment (Planes is already winging its way toward your local multiplex).
Movie Review conclusion
The triangulation of unfortunate comes when one considers the timing. Toy Story 3’s appearance in 2010 seemed to end the winning streak that gifted us WALL-E and Up, Pixar’s finest films to date.
Thank goodness, Monsters University is no Cars 2 travesty. Harking back to Mike and Scully’s time as campus frenemies, this light-hearted prequel may lack the emotional clout of Monsters Inc, but it’s fun and never feels as crassly merchandise- minded as the Cars movies. Technological advances ensure that the empty digital expanses of the 2001 original are now lively and populated. The humour is gentle and all-ages appropriate. The switch of focus to Crystal’s character proves a shrewd way of sidestepping Life Without Boo.
Movie Reviews, Renoir, Gilles Bourdos, Michel Bouquet, Christa Theret, Vincent Rottiers
Film Title: RENOIR
Director: Gilles Bourdos
Starring: Michel Bouquet, Christa Theret, Vincent Rottiers
Running Time: 111 min
The last time I checked, Pierre-August Renoir was still mildly unfashionable. Regarded as overly accommodating to the chocolate box, the impressionist didn’t seem as home to transcendence as did Manet or Monet. Indeed, it is fair to say that his son Jean, director of La Règle du Jeu and La Grande Illusion, now probably has the more formidable reputation.
This handsome study of Renoir in later years is unlikely to have much effect on the painter’s reputation one way or the other. It’s an attractive piece enhanced by fine performances from all concerned. There are some diverting meditations on the hoary old business of the muse. But director Gilles Bourdos doesn’t do much to explore the dynamics of Renoir’s art. This feels like a film made for the already converted.
Keeping in step with the current fashion, the film-makers wisely focus on a specific period in their subject’s life rather than attempting a hurried sprint through the entire career. (See The Iron Lady for an example of how that approach can backfire.) We are on the French Riviera in the later days of the first World War. Now 74, seriously arthritic, Renoir (Michel Bouquet) spends his time painting still lifes.
A fresh outburst of creativity is, however, triggered when a young woman, Dedée (Christa Théret), strolls into his life. Men being men and painters being painters, Dedée inspires a renewed interest in the nude. When Jean (Vincent Rottiers) returns from the war, he begins assisting his father and ultimately ends up in a relationship with the young woman.
Bourdos has stated that he wanted to examine “a woman who provides the bridge between painting and cinema”. It’s an interesting notion, but Renoir never really gets to grips with either medium. What we have, rather, is a fairly safe, sunny holiday in somebody else’s decrepitude. You would need a soul of potash not to savour the delicious fauna and flattering southern light. But the film never gets far beyond the decorative.
Which, come to think of it, is what the non-believers used to say about Renoir…
Film Title: Man of Steel
Director: Zack Snyder
Starring: Henry Cavill, Amy Adams, Michael Shannon, Diane Lane
Running Time: 143 min
And the campaign to make Superman cool continues. It wasn’t always this way. The most successful big-screen incarnation of the superhero – the Christopher Reeve flicks from the late 1970s – were happy portraying their protagonist as an intergalactic square for the Reader’s Digest demographic. Since then, various comic-book sequences have torn his shirt, corrupted his politics and looked sideways at his sexuality.
Then, in 2006, Warner Brothers reached for the most overused adjective in film marketing. Superman Returns would be “darker”. We all know what that means. At some point, Harry Potter, Spider-Man, James Bond or Bridget Jones will be asked to stand in the rain and shout: “Noooooo!” until he or she is hoarse with despair.
Man of Steel’s very existence confirms that the earlier effort has now been deemed a failure. In a shameless attempt to hog some of The Dark Knight’s shadow, the studio has asked Christopher Nolan, director of that Batman series, to produce and co-write one more attempt at hip reinvention. Zack Snyder, director of the inert Watchmen and the repulsive Sucker Punch, has somehow been entrusted with the megaphone.
Well, the team has certainly taken the call for even greater darkness literally. The opening scenes on Krypton play out in a stygian murk that risks propelling the audience into a premature burst of Seasonal Affective Disorder. Kansas, where the young Superman grows up, has rarely been so clouded over. And what’s up with his costume? Oily and grey, it looks as if it has been just plucked from the least inviting dumpster on Skid Row.
The cumulative effect is, however, less to make an existential anti-hero of Superman than to obscure all his key characteristics. Given lifeless life by (I’m guessing here) a former knitting-pattern model named Henry Cavill, the alien-turned-vigilante is in virtually every scene, but somehow contrives to be invisible throughout. For all that remains of the original creation, they may as well have done the dark on Betty Boop.
None of which is to suggest Man of Steel is without merit. Working with David S Goyer, his regular writing partner, Nolan has constructed an ingenious, temporally nested structure for the propulsive story. Many of the details will be familiar from the first two films in the Reeve sequence. Russell Crowe, doing his faux-Shakespearean, brown-voiced thing, turns up as the only wise being on the doomed planet of Krypton (all of whose architecture seems modelled on Philippe Starck orange squeezers). In an effort to preserve the species, he places his only son in a capsule and launches him towards a distant blue planet. At about the same time, the evil General Zod (Michael Shannon doing proper acting) is expelled for launching a coup. Sometime later, the child becomes Superman and Zod arrives on Earth to exact revenge.
Goyer and Nolan detail the early life of Clark Kent through a series of economic flashbacks. Kevin Costner and Diane Ladd explore their inner Norman Rockwell to good effect as his adoptive parents. Amy Adams does her best with the always slightly underwhelming Lois Lane who, working for some ancient entity called a “newspaper”, finds her investigations into an apparent alien landing nudging her towards the Kent family of Smalltown, KS.
There are, in short, sufficient narrative diversions to keep the average adult diverted for the first hour and a bit. It’s a shame that the supposed Man of Steel seems actually to be made of teak, but the classiness of the supporting cast just about compensates. Then, unfortunately, the film topples into the usual soupy, computer-generated morass of apocalyptic chaos. With none of the humour that alleviated similar catastrophes in The Avengers and Star Trek Into Darkness, the denouement only serves to confirm how unconnected Zack Snyder’s work is with the physics of the real world.
And, at the end of it all, Superman still doesn’t seem in the least bit cool. Here’s an idea. Put him in a black suit with pointy ears. Give him a sub-psychotic inner life. Surround him with Gothic battlements. Oh hang on a moment . . .end
Film Title: After Earth
Director: M Night Shyamalan
Starring: Will Smith, Jaden Smith , Isabelle Fuhrman
Running Time: 100 min
HHLord save us from Hollywood’s obsession with fathers and their sons. A recent poll I’ve just made up proves that some 40 per cent of mainstream American movies concern the renegotiation of bonds between gruff middle-aged men and their troubled offspring.
You have (not for the first time) to feel a bit sorry for director M Night Shyamalan. Once again, he brings icy panache to this strange, intimate space opera. The landscapes are lovely. The computer-generated creatures, though conspicuously computer-generated, swell and flow with impressive menace. Unfortunately, After Earth is dragged down by, yes, Will Smith’s apparent desire to share his boring concerns about parenthood with a blameless audience.
Jaden Smith, the great man’s actual son, plays a cadet named Kitai. In an outbreak of drab exposition that recalls the opening scenes of Oblivion, we kick off with the young man explaining various future truths about the death of the earth.
Never mind all that. What you need to know is that Kitai and his dad (Smith Sr, of course) have crash-landed on a hostile version of our planet. While father sits wounded in the remains of the vessel, the boy is forced to venture forth and do something or other before something else happens. Dad must shake off his proud fearlessness while son must gain a degree of confidence. You know how these things go. You’ve seen other American films.
There are some jolting hiccups in the film’s futurology. Why on earth is the poor boy equipped with a spear, rather than, say, one of these nifty ray-gun things? Why does everybody enunciate like Frasier Crane in the next millennium?
Such problems would be easy to ignore if the dialogue was less leaden and the story less flaccid. Imagine a denouement that hangs around the changing of a light bulb in the downstairs lavatory and you’ll get some sense of how thrillingly After Earth ends. Will and Jaden could have sorted this out more efficiently by uniting in a few verses of Harry Chapin’s Cat’s in the Cradle. A pretty waste of time.
Film Title: The Big Wedding
Director: Justin Zackham
Starring: Robert De Niro, Katherine Heigl, Diane Keaton, Amanda Seyfried
Running Time: 89 min
Gather your grandchildren to the knee and tell them of a time when the names of Diane Keaton and Robert De Niro on a film’s poster telegraphed quality. I suppose the distributors of this dreadful comedy are obliged to acknowledge that those two actors star alongside such reliable harbingers of catastrophe as Katherine Heigl and Robin Williams. They may as well have mounted shrunken heads at the entrance to the cinema. Joseph Conrad filled the long route to Mr Kurtz’s compound with less troubling omens.
Oh, it might not be so bad. Susan Sarandon is, these days, a tiny bit less at home to garbage than Keaton and De Niro. Somebody is bound to fall in the swimming pool. And that’s always hilarious.
As it happens, The Big Wedding – adapted from a French film I’m happy never to have seen – is every bit as atrocious as the portents suggest. It’s much more boring than you might expect. It contains a baffling vein of racism that seems channelled in from a distant decade. Robin Williams’s turn as an alcoholic priest is so unintentionally terrifying you find yourself trying to repress the memory even before he has exited the screen.
Oh, hang on. What’s it about? Keaton and De Niro’s adopted son, who’s originally from Colombia, is about to marry a corn-fed Irish-American gal. On the eve of the wedding, we learn that the boy’s birth-mother, a devout Catholic, does not know that Bob and Diane divorced many years previously. So poor old Sarandon, De Niro’s current partner, is dispatched to the out-house while the old lags pretend to be still happily entwined.
The film has the nerve to make the bride’s parents snobby racists. Meanwhile, they cast the unavoidably English Ben Barnes as the adopted son and present his Central American mother as a simple-minded halfwit and his birth sister as a “free-spirited” exotic strumpet. How do you want your hypocrisy?
Oh well, at least somebody does fall in the swimming pool. It’s Robert De Niro. Unfortunately, he resurfaces.
Film Title: The Hangover Part III
Director: Todd Phillips
Starring: Bradley Cooper, Zach Galifianakis, Ed Helms, Ken Jeong, Justin Bartha, John Goodman
Running Time: 100 min
Sister Act: Back in the Habit, Blues Brothers 2000, Look Who’s Talking Now, Son of the Mask, Son of the Pink Panther – it seems that the only thing harder to do than comedy is a comedy sequel.
Indeed, The Hangover Part III aims for bluster, dark jokes, shock value and even pathos. But despite its ambitions and lavish production values, it mostly reminded this reviewer of City Slickers 2: TheLegend of Curley’s Gold , a tired cash-in that also revolved around a treasure hunt.
To its credit, The Hangover Part III avoids yet another stag party-spiking storyline. It opens with the wild and amoral Mr Chow (Ken Jeong, in full throttle) escaping a Thai prison. We’re then reacquainted with the Wolfpack: arrogant, swaggering Phil (Bradley Cooper, coasting), nervous dentist Stu (Ed Helms), perpetual bit-player Doug (Justin Bartha) and unhinged man-child Alan (Zach Galifianakis).
This time the unifying event is the decision to commit the increasingly wild and dependent Alan to an institution. The trip to New Horizons is interrupted by a disgruntled gangster named Marshall (John Goodman), who kidnaps Doug and blackmails the friends into finding their old frenemy, Mr Chow. It seems Mr Chow, now a fugitive, has stolen some gold bullion from Marshall. A disorganised, decadent caper ensues.
Four years ago, The Hangover created at least two stars in the very different shapes of Bradley Cooper and Zach Galifianakis. Here the latter has been uncomfortably shoved into centre stage. Like an especially spicy seasoning, Galifianakis is effective in small doses and hard to take as a main course: it’s a fine line between spirited and shrill. Jeong fares better, but talented straight-men Cooper and Helms have even less to do than usual.
The Hangover Part III was always going to be a tough task.There are some bright moments, most of them in the first act and all of which feature in the trailer: a slapstick prison break, an awkwardly funny eulogy, and a perilous situation that becomes a photo opportunity.
Sadly, despite a mostly game cast and handful of chuckles, the film manages to be both bombastic and flat. This hangover offers little beyond headaches, fatigue and regret.
Film Title: The Great Gatsby
Director: Baz Luhrmann
Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio, Tobey Maguire, Carey Mulligan, Joel Edgerton
Running Time: 143 min
We worry too much about the faithfulness of adaptations. If the folk who made Forbidden Planet can, with such success, transplant The Tempest to outer space, then we can endure the occasional tweak to our Dickens and the odd poke at our Hardy. All we ask is that the film succeed on its own terms. You are prepared to be reasonable? Glad to hear it.
So what in the name of fudge is this thing? You don’t watch Baz Luhrmann’s detonation of F Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby ; you get beaten up by it. A glance at even a few seconds of the trailer will alert you to a jarring (if expected) shift in tone. Whereas the book was an elegantly structured exercise in social nuance, the film careers from excess to excess before toppling into another puddle of excess. The temptation to title it Gatsby!!! must have been close to overwhelming.
It would be most unfair – though satisfying – to suggest that Luhrmann has taken the book into the loo and wiped his bum with it. In fact, the script sticks reasonably close to Fitzgerald’s plot. A ludicrous, tacked-on framing sequence does, however, alert us to the impending war on subtlety.
Nick Carraway (Tobey Maguire), blank narrator of book and film, is resting in a sanatorium after being diagnosed as morbidly alcoholic. We know this because, within seconds of the film beginning, a stereotyped psychiatrist writes the phrase “morbidly alcoholic” at the top of his report. Perhaps, the doctor suggests, Nick might like to write his story down for us. Words appear on the screen and we drift back to Long Island of the Prohibition years.
Nick, of course, lives next door to a mysterious socialite named Jay Gatsby (Leonardo DiCaprio). Over the course of a dissolute summer, Nick parties at the enigma’s house, becomes his friend and ends up acting as an amateur Cupid. Jay has long been in love with a delicate socialite named Daisy Buchanan (Carey Mulligan), now married to a boorish polo player, and is delighted to discover that his new neighbour is the girl’s cousin. You know how this story goes, old sport.
What a bizarre project this is. Luhrmann and his team have immersed themselves in the source material for four long years. Catherine Martin, the film’s designer, has laboured over eye-popping sets constructed from spun sugar and drugged dreams. Jay-Z has supervised a soundtrack that, utilising collaborators such as Kanye West, Jack White and Beyoncé, ploughs aggressively through a staggering number of quasi-contemporary tunes that most of us were already sick of three years ago.
The end result of all this effort is a film that looks and sounds exactly as you’d expect a Baz Luhrmann enterprise to look and sound. The delayed reveal of DiCaprio exemplifies the folly very effectively. Unseen to this point, he twinkles towards the camera and smiles luminously as fireworks explode to the strains of George Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue . The scene tells us nothing about Gatsby or his time but, as a tribute to the continuing fabulousness of Baz Luhrmann, it works quite brilliantly.
The Luhrmann patent product, showcased most conspicuously here and in Moulin Rouge! , comes across as a class of bottled preserve that can be spread on any surface to deliver much the same taste and texture. The absurdly heightened digital landscapes – less naturalistic than those of Lord of the Rings – may attempt depictions of New York City and Long Island. But the film’s choppy rhythms, clean collars and pounding MOR sounds locate the action firmly in LuhrmannWorld. Smear this stuff on Jude the Obscure, The Great Escape or SpongeBobSquarePants and you’ll end up with much the same end product.
Does it work on its own febrile terms? Well, DiCaprio is nicely cast as a magnificent self-invention, but he has some trouble faking the fake accent. Carey Mulligan fails to make sense of a near-unplayable part. Joel Edgerton never comes close to capturing the patrician self-possession of Daisy’s husband.
Their efforts are irrelevant. So overpowering is Luhrmann’s style – particularly in the breathless first half – that the actors never get a chance to stand out from the furniture (which is very nice). It’s less a film than a compendium of Baz’s greatest tropes. His many fans will approve. Others will find the experience utterly suffocating.
Film Title: Star Trek Into Darkness
Director: J J Abrams
Starring: Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Zoe Saldana, Karl Urban, Simon Pegg, John Cho
Running Time: 132 min
JJ Abrams’s cosmically triumphant sequel to his own Star Trek reinvention begins with a gag that neatly establishes the film’s near-perfect blend of knowing allusion and breathless momentum.
Captain Kirk (Chris Pine) and his team are evading humanoids on a brightly coloured planet. The camera swerves towards their pursuers and invites us to duck as spears are flung directly into our nervous faces. That’s what 3D is for. The early pioneers of the medium knew it. Abrams confirms it. Get angry natives to chuck stuff at us.
The film is full of such knowing winks. But Abrams’s brilliance lies in his ability to fold the references to classic Star Trek – and to contemporary politics – into a thrilling, pulpy structure that demands no foreknowledge of the ancient franchise. It is hard to believe that Damon Lindelhof, who spilt too much nerd juice into Prometheus , had a hand in the zesty, funny screenplay.
It would be a shame to give too much away. We can, however, reveal that, after breaking the rules once too often, James T Kirk is smartly busted down to First Officer. It looks as if the Enterprise team is destined for dissolution to the four solar winds. But a surprise attack on London by John Harrison (Benedict Cumberbatch), a Machiavellian terrorist, upends all the Federation’s strategies, and Kirk finds himself back on the old tub with his menagerie of differently talented officers.
Mr Scott (the erratically Caledonian Simon Pegg) is the only one to refuse service on the Enterprise – Scotty adjudges the Federation’s gung-ho plan to annihilate Harrison too risky. Mr Spock (Zachary Quinto) is also wary, but the Vulcan blood in his veins persuades him to respect authority.
The conflict between Kirk’s impetuousness and Spock’s cerebral caution has always been at the core of Star Trek ’s appeal. The first TV series, conceived in the supposedly empathetic 1960s, tended to favour humanity over comical machine logic.
The new film is very much on Spock’s side. Whereas Quinto plays the science officer as a colder version of No-drama Obama – he even reasons his way towards humanistic morality – Kirk manages to combine the dissolute booziness of early George W Bush with the bellicose irresponsibility of the later version (though Pine’s brave Kirk would never have shirked military service). Peter Weller turns up as a version of Dick Cheney to urge Captain Jerk towards ever-greater outrages, before, inevitably, our Jim reconnects with his inner solidity.
Cumberbatch’s sinister Harrovian poise and endlessly twisty face scare up more than enough menace to justify Kirk’s headlong rush towards the nuclear option. The film may be at home to post-modern jokiness, but Cumberbatch is to be congratulated for embracing all the old-school, uncomplicated values of the English villain in Hollywood. We hope to see his Sheriff of Nottingham before the decade is out.
Dedicated Trekkers will greatly savour the way Harrison’s arc echoes those in earlier stories. Indeed, the neat conceit that drove the first film – we move through an alternative universe to the canonical story – allows Abrams to litter Into Darkness with creative inversions of themes from the franchise’s glory days. A sharp blow to the head still renders all enemies unconscious. Men in red shirts look worried. There is a welcome, significant appearance by a Tribble.
For all the jumble of quotations, this strain of Star Trek still manages to carve out its own distinctive area of space. The production design has a clinical sheen that fairly strips the moisture from your eyeballs. Abrams pushes his taste for lens-flare towards agreeable self-parody. The personal relationships have a weariness that contrasts markedly with the optimism that characterised the original series.
In short, it’s utterly familiar and absolutely original. We couldn’t have asked for more.
Film Title: chimpanzee
Director: Alastair Fothergill, Mark Linfield
Starring: Tim Allen
Running Time: 78 min
We love the idea of Disney-nature. The House of Mouse may own and manage everything from Pixar to Marvel Comics. But while there’s a boutique studio on the books, an imprint with the express purpose of continuing Uncle Walt’s passion for wildlife, then Disney, one feels, is still Disney.
There’s no room in contemporary theatres for anything like True-Life Adventures, the series of short nature reels produced by Disney between 1948 and 1960. However, there is, one trusts, a market for beautifully shot, smartly narrated, feature-length documentaries such as Disneynature’s 2010 flamingo epic, Crimson Wing.
To date, alas, two of Disneynature’s theatrical releases have been fix-ups– that is, chopped-up, hacked-down versions of Jacques Perrin’s Oceans and David Attenborough’s Earth. Chimpanzee, on paper at least, ought to be an improvement on these bastardised, bowdlerised cuts of TV series and extant motion pictures.
Produced in association with primatologist Jane Goodall and shot over four years, Chimpanzee was created with the multiplex and movie-going punter in mind. The runes are looking good: the documentarians’ have faced uncommon difficulties getting up close and personal with their subjects in Côte d’Ivoire’s Taï National Park during the wet season.
Their patience pays off: over the course of the shoot an orphaned infant chimp is “adopted” by a lone alpha male. This bond – a genuine scoop – is handsomely and cinematically framed with tangled jungle vines and vast waterfalls.
So why is Chimpanzee so unexpectedly useless?
Viewers in this part of the world, visual consumers raised on and spoiled by the work of Mr Attenborough, will immediately be dismayed by the appalling idiocy of the narration. Speaking in sound-bites that make March of the Penguins seem like the Shoah, Tim Allen’s voiceover just won’t quit with base anthropomorphising. The banal chatter about chimp diners and monkey mom love is bad enough; the “wacky” intonation is downright intolerable.
We could excuse the scenes of bloodless bloodlust and sanitised animal behaviours (this is a family film, after all) if there was enough material to justify a feature film. There isn’t. Instead we’re subjected to the same pointless observations in the same “He thinks he’s people!” tone over and over.
Chimpanzees share 96 per cent of our DNA and a common Pan Prior ancestry. We’ll bet they’re embarrassed to admit as much when they see this
Film Title: WHITE ELEPHANT
Director: Pablo Trapero
Starring: Ricardo Darín, Jérémie Renier, Martina Gusman, Federico Benjamin Barga
Following on from his excellent Carancho , Pablo Trapero offers another diverting meditation on corruption and social desperation in his native Argentina. As we have come to expect from this director, the film deftly combines narrative pace with an acute grasp of the political undercurrents. Such is the bustle and momentum of the story that one never feels oneself being lectured.
Trapero presents us with familiar characters: the experienced, slightly world-weary priest and a more idealistic, less patient younger counterpart. “You don’t know how to hate,” fresh-faced Fr Nicolás (Jérémie Renier) says to veteran Fr Julián (Ricardo Darín, Argentina’s busiest actor). He’s only half right.
The film begins ominously with Julián receiving a brain scan. Later he travels to the Amazon to locate Nicolás, who has recently survived a massacre. When they return, the two men get to work in a Buenos Aires shantytown called Villa Maria.
Nicolás takes a proactive approach: he becomes close to a female colleague (the brilliant but somewhat underused Martina Gusman) and attempts to mediate with the locale’s hoodlums. When a police raid occurs, Julian attempts to calm the populace.
The film is dedicated to the inspirational Carlos Mugica, a campaigning priest who was assassinated in 1974, and it allows Julián time to meditate on the great man’s legacy. The picture also manages to cram in considerations of corruption in the construction industries.
Shot in wide-screen, nicely scored by Michael Nyman, White Elephant combines a rough, vérité feel (Renier worked on the last Dardennes brothers picture) with the scope of a small epic. The narrative does occasionally dip into melodrama, but the strong cast bring such conviction to their performances that one rarely detects any drift towards soap operatics.
Film Title: LOVE IS ALL YOU NEED
Director: Susanne Bier
Starring: Pierce Brosnan, Trine Dyrholm, Molly Blixt Egelind, Sebastian Jessen
Plonk yourself straight into the middle of the latest film from Danish maestro Susanne Bier – director of Brothers and In a Better World – and you may reasonably deduce that it is a characteristically hard-edged, unforgiving family tragedy. Here is the middle-aged lead, stranded at a fractious house party, dressing down his manipulative, self-important sister-in-law. “You are the most awful person I have ever known,” he snaps. Oh, those cuddly Scandinavians.
But that actor is Pierce Brosnan, and the film follows the time-tested formula of the meet-cute romcom.
Trine Dyrholm plays a Danish hairdresser who – still hairless after apparently successful chemotherapy, recently estranged from her fat, philandering husband – travels to an idyllic Italian farmhouse for the wedding of her much-adored daughter.
In the airport car park, she crashes into an ill-tempered Englishman, who turns out to be the widowed father of the groom. At first, they loathe one another, but, once they are set loose in a crumbling lemon plantation, they begin to form unsteady romantic bonds. Cute meetings rarely get any cuter.
The film never quite clarifies its clutter of nationalities. As the awful in-law, Paprika Steen can’t seem to decide if she’s English or Danish. Sebastian Jessen, playing Pierce’s son, also appears stranded in the North Sea.
These are minor quibbles. Deliciously shot in a travelogue palette, Love Is All You Need makes glorious use of its two contrasting leads. Dyrholm plays the comedy and the drama with the same furrowed conviction, but (even after all this time) it is Brosnan who delivers the revelatory performance.
How cheering it is to see everyone’s third-favourite James Bond essay comedy that never strays into camp or self-parody. There’s a genuine tenderness in his efforts to confront lingering grief over his wife’s untimely death. His comic efforts to retain his dignity when disorder descends might earn a slight nod of appreciation from Cary Grant.
The Navan boy done good.
Film Title: The Frames: In the Deep Shade
Director: Conor Masterson
Starring: Glen Hansard, Conor MacConiomare, Rob Bochnik, Graham Hopkins, Joseph Doyle
No one could listen to The Frames and think “wow, they sound really confrontational or inaccessible”. So quite how they came to polarise the nation into bitter warring tribes is a mystery. Everybody knows at least one person – or 10 – who would lay down their life for The Frames. And conversely, everybody knows at least one person – or 10–- who would like to rush the stage and smash Colm Mac Con Iomaire’s lovely, wistful violin over Glen Hansard’s head.
Conor Masterson’s gorgeous monochrome chronicle of 18 months on tour with The Frames is far too otherworldly to care about such petty squabbles. This is not a concert film, tour diary or complete history. This is an art doc, a pretty collection of flotsam and jetsam: a lonely white horse; Glen belting out The Old Triangle in O’Donoghues; dressing room chatter; crisply recorded live performances; a flock of birds overhead. The film owes almost as much to the contemporary hypno- doc ( Two Years at Sea, La Quattro Volte, Sleep Furiously ) as it does to the average rockumentary.
Debuting director Masterson has created a shapely, bespoke movie around his subject: The Frames, after all, are an art band. When its members speak about music, they do so unabashedly and passionately. As with their live performances, they’re not afraid of earnestness or failure or references to Tai Chi.
If you’ve never happened on Glen Hansard before, we can’t think of a better place to start than his account, on camera, of realising the importance of his art: “My heart got broken,” recalls the front-man. “First time it ever happened. I was 21 and I turned on the radio one day and suddenly everything I knew about music was turned on its fucking head. It went straight through me like a spear.”
Fans will surely relish such honest banter and dreamy mantras, such as: “Music is a solvent to the glue that makes our hearts unreceptive.” Non-fans are unlikely to drink the available Kool Aid.
And that’s just fine. Music documentaries are a tough sell right now, but if anyone can fill cinemas, The Frames travelling army can. Let them know, won’t you?
Film Title: PILGRIM HILL
Director: Gerard Barrett
Starring: Joe Mullins, Muiris Crowley, Keith Byrne, Kevin McCormack
<:section><:section>There are shades of the great French documentary Modern Life, a study of farmers in the Cévennes, in the sequences where Jimmy talks directly to the camera. But the film gets at a very Irish class of misery: the wretchedness of being stranded with the previous generation while one’s contemporaries surge into the modern world.
None of this sociological observation would matter if Pilgrim Hill lacked cinematic juice. As it happens, Ian D Murphy’s cinematography has a limpidity that soaks up the damp landscapes to beautiful and mournful effect.
Barrett choreographs the slow march towards an expected catastrophe with rhythms that are positively Russian in their leisurely grace. The decision to hold back on non-diegetic music until the final searing denouement speaks of an impressive degree of maturity (and restraint) from a young film-maker.
Barrett is also to be congratulated for drawing such a disciplined performance from his lead. A farmer and occasional amateur actor, Mullins has a steadiness and commitment that cannot be easily faked. But it takes real talent to make effective use of such authenticity. The moment where Jimmy speculates about dying and meeting the “person he could have been” fairly takes the breath away.
Don’t let Pilgrim Hill pass you by.
Film Title: Spring Breakers
Director: Harmony Korine
Starring: James Franco, Selena Gomez, Vanessa Hudgens, Ashley Benson
Release Date: 5 April 2013
It looks as if the time has come to dust off the creakiest of F Scott Fitzgerald quotes. “An artist is someone who can hold two opposing viewpoints and still remain fully functional,” the writer quipped in a moment of generosity towards critics of the future. The latest, knowingly equivocal film from Harmony Korine, director of the legendary Gummo , works hard at straining the limits of Fitzgerald’s definition.
Set during the horrid bacchanalia that is spring break – when, it seems, American students behave like drugged-up Bonobo monkeys – the picture wallows in the damp, flashy vulgarity of the celebrations. Wander past Spring Breakers in a drunken stupor and you could easily mistake it for a mindlessly hedonistic pop video.
The film can, however, also be viewed as a puritanical evisceration of a nation in moral and intellectual decline. Before we embark on our Conradian descent into sub-tropical hell, Korine points his camera at a pair of female students paying scant attention during a history lecture on reconstruction and emancipation. Their response – if something so uninterested can meet the definition – is to draw penises on notepads and simulate oral sex. Some sort of grubby dialectic is afoot.
Fitzgerald might see something of The Great Gatsby in Korine’s nastier opus. Spring Breakers does, after all, focus on a group of young people falling under the spell of a dubious libertine while frolicking decadently by the seaside.
The director knowingly (so knowingly you can feel the irony seeping from the screen and clogging up the carpet) casts former Disney stars Vanessa Hudgens and Selena Gomez as college students unable to pay for their upcoming half-term revels in Florida. Soap actor Ashley Benson and Rachel Korine (the director’s wife) complete the union of dissolute undergraduates. Having decided that life is not worth living without spring break, they rob a fast-food restaurant and light out for the beaches of St Petersburg.
Unlike various characters in Dostoevsky’s version of that city, Korine’s puppets – despite at least one a being an evangelical – don’t allow themselves to give in to pesky guilt. The intoxicating power of, well, intoxication is not to be questioned.
Nonetheless, some sort of moral deliverance does come their way. Arrested for drugs offenses, they allow themselves to be bailed out by an affected gangster named Alien. Further descent into other dark places ensues.
Both the world of the spring break and the demi-monde through which Alien moves are seen as preposterous constructions. Korine shoots the students’ parties with a freaky enthusiasm – red-hot cinematography and pornographic slow-motion – that would give Leni Riefenstahl pause for thought.
While the girls shag and snort, we hear them delivering idealised but largely sincere meditations on their experiences to parents and grandparents. Everyone is so lovely. I’ve made so many new friends. The deadened tone recalls the bland gibberish spouted by brainwashed soldiers in The Manchurian Candidate. It looks, however, as if these kids have volunteered for mind control.
James Franco has never been better as Alien, the plastic hoodlum. Recycling gangsta patois that seemed out of date a decade ago, he lures the girls into vice and ultimately propels them towards an unavoidably violent denouement.
Maintaining his queasy dialectic throughout, the director oscillates between disgust and frenzied indulgence in that final showdown. Forget Dostoevsky, Conrad and Fitzgerald. The only comparison worth making is with videogame Grand Theft Auto: Vice City . The girls prance in matching pink balaclavas. Guns are discharged. Huge packets of drugs are bandied. The music pounds lubriciously. The player is invited to find this world disgusting, but he or she continues to pound the keypad.
We are, it seems, all complicit in the squalid corruption of contemporary pop culture. Does that count as a moral?
Thursday till Sunday
Film Title: thursday till sunday
Director: Dominga Sotomayor Castillo
Starring: Santi Ahumada, Emiliano Freifeld, Paola Giannini , Francisco Pérez-Bannen
Release Date: 5 April 0013
More Sharing Services It’s still dark when a Santiago couple bundle their luggage and two children into the car for a family holiday thatwill bring them to northern Chile, to a parcel of land that the father has inherited. Between unenthusiastic games of I Spy and overly polite exchanges, 10-year-old Lucia comes to realise that all is not well between her parents.
The parents put on a show of unity, yet something is off. It’s not just the confinement of the vehicle and the tedious drive: when Lucia and her younger, blissfully unaware brother get to ride on the roof of the car, she can see the adults bickering inside.
Mostly, we suspect, this couple are beyond bickering. There’s an overwhelming sense of emptiness about this journey, a sense that is reflected in the desert landscape around them: “I don’t like when it looks like that,” notes a disturbed Lucia, “ . . . round.” Excursions outside the car only amplify her worst fears.
Dominga Sotomayor Castillo’s handsome debut feature charts her young heroine’s journey through Santi Ahumada’s impressively natural performance and tiny details. The adults mainly appear as obscured profiles from the backseat. Partially overheard fragments of conversation provide a slow drip feed of pointers to marital strife.
Theoretically, the film’s minimal movements mask a life-shattering revelation; in practice, Thursday Till Sunday is hugely overstretched at 95 minutes. An unnatural adherence to naturalism doesn’t simply obscure the drama; it cancels it out completely. The sun-baked starkness brings certain late-nineties1990s Kiarostami titlesmovies to mind; the inertia does not.
There are things to admire here. Bárbara Álvarez’s ( The Headless Woman ) cinematography picks out a colourful palate against a desolate landscape. The performances are appositely delicate. The director’s screenplay and execution is most assured: subtle and shifting allegiances between mummy and daddy are beautifully handled;Lucia’s increasing concern and confusion manifest as displaced sulks and silences.
In the end, however, the director succeeds a little too well at recreating the boredom the backseat passenger on what turns out to be a disappointing weekend trip. Thursday Till Sunday ? It certainly feels it.
The odd life of timothy green
Film Title: the odd life of timothy green
Director: Peter Hedges
Starring: Jennifer Garner, Joel Edgerton, Dianne Wiest, CJ Adams, Rosemarie DeWitt, David Morse, Common, Odeya Rush
Release Date: 28 March 2013
Arriving some eight months (!) after its US release, The Odd Life of Timothy Green is every bit as eccentric as its unwieldy title.
Based on a tall tale by Ahmet Zappa (son of Frank), this contemporary reworking of Hans Christian Andersen’s Thumbelina gifts a smiley, leaf-legged pre-adolescent to childless couple Cindy (Jennifer Garner) and Jim (Joel Edgerton).
Timothy (CJ Adams) turns out to be as naive and unaffected as one might expect from a kid who sprung up in the garden overnight. His surprised foster parents are thrilled with their new charge and the youngster soon charms kinder relatives such as Uncle Bub (M Emmet Walsh) and Auntie Mel (Lois Smith).
Though something of a klutz at school, the horticultural boy wonder also befriends cute girl Joni (the impressive Odeya Rush) and tries valiantly as the water boy for Coach Cal’s (Common) soccer team.
But will he ever bring a smile to the sterner faces of Dianne Wiest, a local pencil magnate, flinty aunt Rosemarie DeWitt or grumpy grandpa David Morse? And will Jim and Cindy notice that their unlikely adoptee is slowly losing his leaves?
Peter Hedges (Dan in Real Life , What’s Eating Gilbert Grape? ) directs this sweet and often poignant Disney fable with mixed results. A very fine and starry cast can’t quite paper over the cracks in a project that appears to have lost vital organs in the editing suite. The central enchanted premise – Timothy loses a leaf every time he fulfils one of his parents’ wishes – gets crowded out by too many subplots and characters. People appear and disappear as if through a revolving door. Morse’s appearances are so perfunctory one suspects he wandered on to the set by accident. Tony winner Lin-Manuel Miranda is wasted as a bit-part botanist.
Even employing such impeccable genre logic as “a wizard did it”, The Odd Life of Timothy Green’s brand of magic realism fails to hold water. Does no one in this idealised American small town think of Austrian basements when a strange child appears in their borough? And why do the doting parents – one of whom is lovely, soft Jennifer Garner – suddenly turn into a hypercompetitive tiger mom and soccer dad?
These and other important questions go unanswered, but you’ll end up sobbing into your popcorn just the same. Damn.
Cineworld (was UGC) Parnell Centre, Parnell Street, Dublin 1.
Savoy Dublin Upper O’Connell Street, Dublin 1.
Irish Film Institute Eustace Street, Dublin 2.
Screen Cinema D’Olier Street, Dublin 2.
Santry Omniplex Santry, Dublin 9.
Dundrum Shopping Centre Dundrum Town Centre, Dublin 14.
ODEON Coolock (formerly UCI) 84 Malahide Road, Dublin 17.
Vue Cinema (was Ster Century) Liffey Valley Shopping Centre.
ODEON Blanchardstown (formerly UDI) Blanchardstown Shopping Centre.
ODEON Stillorgan Lower Kilmacud Road, Stillorgan.
IMC Dun Laoghaire Bloomfield Shopping Centre, Dun Laoghaire.