Monthly Archives: July 2011

A BETTER LIFE: Should have been a better film

A BETTER LIFE
Directed by Chris Weitz. Starring Demián Bichir, José Julián, Eddie ‘Piolin’ Sotelo, Joaquín Cosio. 98 mins.
Rating: Two and a half/Five
In cinemas: July 29
POTENTIALLY AFFECTING IMMIGRANT DRAMA SUFFERS A BAD CASE OF PATRONISING WHITE GUILT

In Chris Weitz’s blatant rip-off of The Bicycle Thief, Carlos (Demián Bichir, who recently proved in The Runway that his charm transcends language) is living in L.A. with his rebellious son Juan (the awkward unknown José Julián.) Stuck in the Catch 22 of illegal immigrant life, Carlos must buy a truck to work for citizenship papers. However, until he has his papers, owning the truck is illegal and could result in him being shipped back to Mexico immediately. Either way, he’s incredibly vulnerable, without rights, and dependant on the morality of others to keep his struggling little family safe.

This story of illegal immigrants is one that should be told, but it deserves intricate, understated layers of raw honesty, unflinching realism and believable characters. What Weitz presents us with instead is horribly, clumsily transparent, and unfortunately what is attempting to hide behind montages of The American Dream Realized and sun-lit epiphanies is a serious case of upper-class mostly-white guilt.
With a successful Mexican actress for a grandmother and a Cuban Mexican wife, Weitz is clearly trying to get in touch with his roots. But after blossoming into a Hollywood success story, helped by a large Miracle-Gro dose of his family’s comfortable industry connections, Weitz’s roots are rather far away, and he’s left looking down on them.

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HORRIBLE BOSSES: Worth playing hookey for

HORRIBLE BOSSES
Directed by Seth Gordon. Starring Jason Bateman, Charlie Day, Jason Sudeikis, Jennifer Aniston, Colin Farrell, Kevin Spacey, Jamie Foxx. 98 mins.
In cinemas now
Rating: Three and a half/Five
FANTASTIC PERFORMANCES AND CONSISTENTLY FUNNY JOKES IN AN NO-WORK ALL-PLAY COMEDY

A mainstream, big-budget film with an all-star cast, superficially Horrible Bosses doesn’t have much in common Kevin Smith’s 1994 cult classic, micro-budget comedy Clerks, but they both manage to capture the attitude of their era’s worker bees. Clerks spoke to hoards of young Generation X-ers who were full of pop-culture references but empty of ambition, disappointed but ambitionless, entitled but impotent and stuck in dead-end jobs because they weren’t inspired to seek out better. Nearly two decades and a global recession later, Horrible Bosses tells the story of ambitious middle-aged workers everywhere stuck in jobs they hate because they’ve no other options.

Which is all a very poncey way of saying that after having an unemployed and desperate former classmate offer them hand-jobs for money, Jason Bateman, Charlie Day and Jason Sudeikis Bosses decide there’s only one thing to do to avoid a similar fate while keeping sane: Kill their employers.

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SUPER 8: Making nostalgia a thing of the past

SUPER 8
Directed by J.J. Abrams. Starring Joel Courtney, Kyle Chandler, Elle Fanning, Riley Griffiths, Ryan Lee, Gabriel Basso, Ron Eldard. 111 mins.
Rating: Four/Five
In cinemas August 5
CHARMING, FUNNY AND EXCITING SCI-FI FLICK IS A NOSTALGIC RETURN TO GREAT FAMILY FILM

An homage to Steven Spielberg first and a sci-fi movie second, J.J. Abram’s Super 8 is completely open about its source material. A cocktail of The Goonies, Gremlins, E.T: The Extra Terrestrial, with a touch of Iron Giant and a generous splash of Cloverfield, there was a danger of Super 8 invoking the kind of glaucoma-ridden nostalgia that has tricks audiences into believing anything to be great simply because they’re reminded of their childhood – the kind of nostalgia that has conned the world into believing that Transformers was ever a good cartoon, let alone a good movie.

But while adults may indeed spend Super 8 swooning over the Spielberg touches – the shots of the night sky, the young characters’ endearing moxy, the notion that when you’re thirteen, a bike is all you need – underneath all that there is also a genuinely lovely film for neophytes to enjoy.

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ARRIETTY: Tall tales

ARRIETTY
Directed by Hiromasa Yonebayashi. Starring Saoirse Ronan, Tom Holland, Mark Strong, Olivia Colman, Phyllida Law, Geraldine McEwan. 94 mins.
Rating: Three and half/Five
In cinemas July 29
BEAUTIFUL JAPANESE ANIMATED FILM IS A SWEET AND SOOTHING FRIENDSHIP FABLE

Made by Studio Ghibli, the studio that brought anime film to the attention of not only mainstream audiences but the Academy Awards through the beautiful and Oscar winning Spirited Away, Arrietty is the most soothing and lovely children’s film to be released in years. The directorial debut of animator Hiromasa Yonebayashi, this simple tale was supervised by Spirited Away’s writer and director, the esteemed animator Hayao Miyazaki, and Yonebayashi manages to invoke the innocent, sentimental tone and gorgeous visuals of his mentor.

Based on Mary Norton’s novel The Borrowers, Saoirse Ronan voices Arrietty, a fourteen year old ten centimetre tall Borrower who lives with her parents under the floorboards of a Japanese home. When a young boy Sho comes to the house to rest before he has a life-saving operation, he catches a glimpse of the tiny Arrietty and the two lonely characters form a secret friendship that borders on first love.

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PARANORMAL ACTIVITY 3 trailer released

UPDATE: The trailer has been confirmed to be the real, official trailer from Paramount. I’ll leave the conspiracy theories to Tom Cruise in the future.

So the trailer for Paranormal Activity 3 is here! Well, we think. I think it might be a well-made fake, so I’m waiting for Paramount to confirm, but just in case, we’ll assume it’s real. Henry Joost & Ariel Schulman, who are the guys behind the controversial documentary, Catfish are apparently again mining the found-footage angle, and it appears that Katie Featherston will return, as the third movie looks to explore the childhood of Katie and her sister and look more into the origin of the supernatural force.

My thoughts after the trailer.

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Ummmm… okay, I know I’m meant to be terrified here, yadda yadda yadda, but….really? First of all, apart from the home video footage of the younger girls, this looks like scenes were just ripped from the other two films. Which, in some shots, like the “I don’t know what it was, but it thrived on fear” bit, is completely accurate. (Full disclosure: I actually thought this was a fake, fan-made trailer until Paramount retweeted it, so we’ll have to see.) And as for the Bloody Mary gimmick? Really? That’s such a cheap, silly explanation, especially for a franchise whose strength has been the artful way in which the directors avoid giving away too much. But then they did go for a cheap scare at the end of the first one, which was essentially one of those internet pop-up scare videos, so maybe they really are that cliched. I’m actually hoping this is a red herring trailer – which, given the ripped material, it very well could be. I’ll keep you all up to date.

But what do you think of the trailer, are you excited, scared, or think it’s too much of the same?

HORRIBLE BOSSES: A good excuse to play hookie

HORRIBLE BOSSES
Directed by Seth Gordon. Starring Jason Bateman, Charlie Day, Jason Sudeikis, Jennifer Aniston, Colin Farrell, Kevin Spacey, Jamie Foxx. 98 mins.
In cinemas July 22
Rating: Three and a half/Five

FANTASTIC PERFORMANCES AND CONSISTENTLY FUNNY JOKES IN AN NO-WORK ALL-PLAY COMEDY

A mainstream, big-budget film with an all-star cast, superficially Horrible Bosses doesn’t have much in common Kevin Smith’s 1994 cult classic, micro-budget comedy Clerks, but they both manage to capture the attitude of their era’s worker bees. Clerks spoke to hoards of young Generation X-ers who were full of pop-culture references but empty of ambition, disappointed but ambitionless, entitled but impotent and stuck in dead-end jobs because they weren’t inspired to seek out better. Nearly two decades and a global recession later, Horrible Bosses tells the story of ambitious middle-aged workers everywhere stuck in jobs they hate because they’ve no other options.

Which is all a very poncey way of saying that after having an unemployed and desperate former classmate offer them hand-jobs for money, Jason Bateman, Charlie Day and Jason Sudeikis Bosses decide there’s only one thing to do to avoid a similar fate while keeping sane: Kill their employers.

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THE AMAZING SPIDERMAN Trailer launched

Oh so torn. On the one hand, I love Marc Webb’s Christopher Nolan vibe, Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone. And this does look pretty damn great.

On the other hand…I just don’t care anymore. In fact, I stopped caring about Spiderman 10 minutes after the Sam Raimi’s Spiderman & while the third was also a great film, apathy still reigned. And now this. I mean Jesus, it’ll only have been 5 years since the last Spiderman when this reboot comes out. That is frankly leotarded. I’m also hoping the POV aspect won’t be overdone, as that’s basically elevated video-game fare & while it might be fun to play, I don’t find it an engaging visual technique & think it’ll be boring to look at after about ten seconds. I’ve also just realized that the last couple of seconds are about as aware of the concept of distance as I am while parking. ‘Spiderman in mirror is MUCH closer than he appears!’

But on the original first hand…it does look pretty damn great.

Torn.

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John Lasseter coming to Dublin

The Irish Film & Television Academy (IFTA), and Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures, Ireland, have announced details of a new event – In Conversation With… John Lasseter.

An animator, director and the chief creative officer at Pixar and Walt Disney Animation Studios, Lasseter directed the first two Toy Story films, acted as the executive producer on Toy Story 3 as well as on Monsters Inc, WALL-E, Up and most recently, Cars 2. The most invigorating and inspirational presence in animation, he has won two Academy Awards, for Animated Short Film – Tin Toy, as well as a Special Achievement Award – Toy Story.

Paul Byrne will be interviewing Lasseter on Monday July 25 in Cineworld, Dublin. For more information contact IFTA on + 353 1 6624120.

A night with Clive Barker at the IFI

Last night myself and Gordon Hayden, the wonderful critic & film fanatic from Spin 103.8’s We Love Movies indulged our love of horror by attending an evening with Clive Barker in the IFI. The brilliant horror writer, director and producer is probably best known for his work on Hellraiser, Candyman and his volumes of short stories, Books of Blood, & last night we got the chance to see some of his first works, the black & white silent short films Salome and The Forbidden, which Barker made when he was 20.

Before we watched the films, the charmingly blunt & enthusiastic Barker gave a short interview, where he spoke inspiringly about his love of film-making. He condemned the money-focused, franchise-creating film industry which turned his iconic work Hellraiser into a sub-standard franchise, saying he tried to “actively avoid this enemy of the people who want to turn them into plastic models & breakfast cereals” – though admitted that when he first got a Pinhead doll he “came in his pants!” Claiming that he considers himself a writer first, & a film-maker second, Barker encouraged budding film-makers not to be discouraged by the profit-driven film industry, & to make whatever they want, however they can. He admitted that his first short, Salome, was shot in the basement of an old friend’s basement on the sly, when her mother wasn’t looking. And really, we all know that money doesn’t make a good movie. After all, “Michael Bay makes expensive movies.” Continue reading