Universal appeal

I wish I could have the experience of watching The Farthest for the first time once again. I can’t recall exactly but I think it was about two-thirds of the way in, as the lush, jazzy shuffle of Pink Floyd’s Us and Them was soundtracking a segment of the probe’s flight, that I really began to get that tingle in the spine that this was something very special indeed. America is about to have the pleasure of its company from August 11th (which should be some recompense for the impending threat of nuclear war). They are in for a major treat, as this 5-star Sindo review hints. 

***

Title: The Farthest
Cert: PG

IT WAS in 2013, just as director Emer Reynolds and producer John Murray realised a shared obsession with the Voyager space-probe mission, that NASA announced that Voyager 1 had left our solar system, making it the first man-made object to enter interstellar space.

Reynolds, Murray and co-producer Clare Stronge rounded up cinematographer Kate McCullough, film-score maestro Ray Harman and a host of other leading home-grown talent and got to work on a feature documentary to chart the inception and journey of this extraordinary scientific venture.

Four years after that moment (and 40 in total since Voyager 1 was launched), The Farthest arrives as not only one of the finest film projects ever completed with Irish Film Board funding but one of the big-screen events of the year.

There is too much of sheer fascination to map-out here but some strands are particularly astonishing. One is the primitive nature of the probe’s computer system – equivalent to that inside a hearing aid – that powers it to this day and for years sent back jaw-dropping images that have rewritten our knowledge of space. Another is the “Golden Record” created by celeb boffin Carl Sagan to travel aboard the craft as a musical and visual primer should alien intelligence ever intercept it.

A film that will make you marvel anew at both the stars above as well as the beauty and ambition of science. Book your tickets this instant.

5/5

First published in the Sunday Independent

Goldsmith

Great work done here by debutante Mark Gill in this Moz biopic. Here’s the recent Sindo review (complete with less-than-subtle Smiths lyrical pun). 

***

England is Mine
Cert: 15A

STOP me if you think you’ve heard this one before: Sensitive, misunderstood literary type in grimy England defies calls that he’s a no-hoper and rises to rock stardom. England Is Mine, a biopic of The Smiths’ mouth-in-chief Morrissey should be an exercise in by-numbers rock hagiography for the big screen. What makes writer-director Mark Gill’s debut interesting is that it is not.

Jack Lowden (who can also be seen in Dunkirk) is committed as the young Steven Patrick Morrissey, awkward in his shoes, fed-up with Manchester (and everything else besides), and every bit as much of an intellectual snob as he is today.

Wry, tasteful, unforced and with a tangible sense of the era, this is a portrait of a mercurial rock icon’s formative years that, fittingly, ploughs its own furrow.

4/5

First published in the Sunday Independent

Shit sandwich

Just… no. 

***

The Emoji Movie
Cert: G

WHEN future cultural historians look back at the annals of early 21st-century cinema history, there will be much cause for reverence. Equally, however, there will be time devoted to a handful of incidents where Hollywood types decided that digital or gaming interfaces would surely have no trouble crossing over into cinemas.

For anyone over the age of 70, emojis are the small smiley faces and characters used in phone text messaging to do the job language once did. They have been deemed so “now” as to justify throwing millions of dollars and a bevy of talent at a film adaptation because that’s what the world needs right now. Behind this thinking is the very same lack of regard for consequence and taste that elects reality TV stars to government or ejects nations from financial markets. It’s been signed-off on – what now?

Here’s what: A cinema release perhaps without equal this year in terms of how shockingly dreadful it is.

A series of crimes are committed, from the conceptual (the drearily dull premise of a “magical” world of product-placed apps within your smartphone) to the executional (a dispiriting lack of effort in the comedy writing, cringefully obvious characterisations).

Then there’s the bleating, babbling inanity of the dialogue and core voicing cast that features TJ Miller, James Corden and Patrick Stewart as, in what you can only hope is an example of wry synecdoche, a talking turd.

1/5

First published in the Sunday Independent

Review – Transformers: The Last Knight

My Indo review from the weekend of Transformers: The Last Knight looks to have been toned down slightly by the subeditors. Here’s the unsubbed version to show the real extent of my feelings on this vile film.

***

Title: Transformers
Cert: 12A

TO THINK that Michael Bay’s Transformers films have a total box-office take near $4billion, despite being the movie equivalent of a bag of tangled-up Christmas lights, all soul-destroying untidiness and faulty circuitry.

Bay is nothing if not consistent with his fifth and supposedly final limp around the merch stand that is devoid of basic filmmaking criterion (a narrative course, engaging dialogue, characters that twig our empathy, etc). Hideous, bitty robots whirl about like scrapheap gyroscopes, walloping each other and reciting action-figure one-liners as the camera pans nauseatingly around them. While all this meaningless CGI gloop is smeared about the screen, stars Mark Wahlberg, Laura Haddock and Anthony Hopkins duck and dive. Haddock, to boot, is quickly poured into a tight dress solely so that Bay’s vile lense can leer at her. Garbage.

1/5

God awful

Sometimes, this job… I tell ya…

***

Title: The Shack
Cert: 12A

WHEN confronted by angry Christian rednecks after a blasphemous stand-up set, the great Bill Hicks famously shrugged: “Then forgive me.”

What a shame Hicks isn’t around to lambaste this cringefully self-righteous spiritual drama whose only achievement may ultimately be to put the noses of some US evangelical types out of joint.

Based on William P Young’s 2008 self-publishing hit, it finds Sam Worthington (a sort of nice-price Hugh Jackman) playing Mack. Mack is in a depressive, god-hating stupor after the murder of his youngest daughter during a camping holiday. A mysterious note beckons him to revisit the woodland shack where her body was found. There, he finds an oven-mitted God (Octavia Spencer) baking, a hipster Jesus (Aviv Alush) doing woodwork and the Holy Ghost of winsome gardening know-how (Japanese star Sumire).

How long will Mack resist the three-way charm offensive and trite platitudes of the cheery Trinity? When will the next plot hole open? Will Worthington’s shaky US accent collapse entirely? Which way is the exit?

Unforgivable.

1/5

First published in the Sunday Independent

 

Waiting for Gadot

A Good Superhero Film (rather than “a good superhero film compared it to the other tosh DC/Warners have put out”). Here’s the Sunday Indo review…

***

Wonder Woman
Cert: 12A

THE critical mauling of Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice somehow penetrated the din of its huge box-office take, as if many went along to witness how bad DC Comics’ attempts to build its own Marvel-style cinematic universe could actually be.

A scant mercy however was Israeli actress/model Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman. Ever since, the promise of the whip-wielding icon getting her own outing seemed far more interesting than muscle-bound mummy’s boys wearing bat ears or hair pomade. Wonder Woman, the archetypal superheroine, had the guts, power and beauty of a demigoddess, precisely what creator and feminist psychologist William Moulton Marston intended back in the early 1940s. Lynda Carter fitted the bill for the 1970s TV show. Ever since, those knee-high boots have been waiting for Gadot.

It’s a relief to find her so at home as Amazonia princess Diana, being trained in battle by auntie Robin Wright. Although their matriarchal  paradise is cloaked from the world, a plane carrying a US spy (Chris Pine) crashes one day. After hauling him ashore, Diana beholds the handsome Pine visage adorning the first man she’s ever laid eyes on. He, in turn, must contend with coming to on a sandy cove to find Gal Gadot smiling back at him. Talk of WWI and his mission to foil a chemical weapon attack by Danny Huston’s German general twig Diana’s thirst for justice, and off they go.

Why this succeeds: Top action choreography, a fine cast (bolstered by David Thewlis, Ewen Bremner and a hilarious Lucy Davis) and a side order of fish-out-of-water camp that director Patty Jenkins serves next to wartime derring-do and Diana’s gritty grace.

Batman and Superman need to shape up.

4/5

First published in the Sunday Independent

Film review – King Arthur: Legend of the Sword

YOU’RE ONLY SUPPOSED TO PULL THE BLAHDY SWORD OUT! Here’s my fackin’ Sunday Indo review, innit…

***

King Arthur: Legend of the Sword
Cert: 12A

THE Sherlock Holmes films saved Guy Ritchie by stabilising his stock in Hollywood once again. If he could reinvent a brand as ubiquitous as the Victorian super-sleuth, studio bosses probably reasoned, Ritchie could probably give the Camelot legends a millennial boot up the behind too. Right?

Ritchie’s cheeky-cockney-chappy shtick still manages to find a way into this kitchen-sink makeover of the Arthurian legends. The emergent Knights of the Round Table in this origins story have less to do with codes of chivalry and more to do with metropolitan hipster cool, as if a bunch of Camden baristas have been let loose at a battle re-enactment. Centre-stage, we get a very Conor McGregor-esque Charlie Hunnam (as Arthur himself) and Jude Law’s baddie, both far too groomed and modern to be at all convincing.

So intent is Ritchie on scrawling all over the mythology that he even has to crowbar ancient “Londinium” into the yarn despite it having little to do with the lore. Throw in an F-word and a David Beckham cameo and King Arthur… feels neither one thing nor the other.

Arthur, a wily orphan, leads his own crew in the mean streets of London. That is until he surprises everyone, including himself, by pulling the sword from the stone. He now has to join in the fight against the uncle who orphaned him (Law) by embracing his lineage and harnessing his powers.

Enjoy the CGI, but don’t expect to give it another thought.

2/5

First published in the Sunday Independent