We need to talk about Tully

Just hours before the fruit of my loins breathed his first lungful of sweet oxygen and the existential chasm of parenthood yawned open before me, I sat down with Tully

Give me The Babadook any day.

***

Tully
Cert: 15A

A WORD of warning to expectant parents – from The Omen to We Need To Talk About Kevin, there is a brand of feature film that delights in terrifying the bejesus out of those about to embark on the mundane mayhem that is birthing and raising a small human being.

Tully (which your reviewer had the squirming pleasure of seeing hours before their child’s due date) knows exactly what it is doing as it displays a bedraggled mother close to snapping point while her unruly genetic spawn ride roughshod over her nerves and youth.

The good news is that director Jason Reitman (reuniting with Juno and Young Adult writer Diablo Cody) applies charming band aids before any lasting harm is done. Charlize Theron is brilliantly shagged-out as Marlo, readying herself for Baby #3 when we meet her. Husband drew (Ron Livingston) is out all day, leaving her to fend off manic children, patronising school officials and the steady erosion of sleep deprivation that is added to the mix once the new baby arrives.

When her smug brother hires a night nanny for her as a present, Marlo is initially sceptical about a stranger coming in to bond with her baby. Then the doorbell rings. In walks salvation in the form of a fresh-faced, lithe and strangely magnetic super-nanny called Tully (Mackenzie Davis).

Just as you think Tully is heading off in one direction, it veers off into something else, and depending on the type of person you are, this will either seem perfectly in-keeping with its Mary Poppins underlay or feel decidedly corny. Theron and Davis bounce effortlessly off each other as Reitman and Cody once again locate thematic depth near to the kitchen sink.

4/5

First published in the Sunday Independent

Advertisements

Hit Sandwich

They’ll talk all the way through it, they’ll ramp up the cinema bill and the sophisticated humour will be lost on them, so leave the kids at home and instead treat your other half to the deliriously brilliant Paddington sequel. My argument below. 

***

Paddington 2
Cert: G

SO OFTEN with cinema for younger viewers, an emphasis is placed on slapstick and mayhem in order to hold the restless eye of youth.

The odd time, however, something comes along that has been lovingly, meticulously crafted to mine the very essence of childishness, your Toy Stories and Finding Nemos and what have you. Do that, and no demographic is immune.

This was precisely what Paddington pulled off in 2014 when it took Michael Bond’s childhood staple and spruced it up for a new era. It did huge box office business through sheer quality alone. Incredibly, this sequel is even better again and marks director Paul King and his co-writer Simon Farnaby (Mindhorn) as a formidable partnership.

Still in leafy London bliss with the Brown family, Paddington spots a mysterious book in an antique shop. He decides this will make an ideal gift for Aunt Lucy and duly bungles his way through odd jobs to save up for it, only to be framed for the item’s robbery. The culprit? Hugh Grant’s superbly narcissistic thespian who wants a treasure map hidden inside the book. Behind bars, Paddington is met with rough inmates and Brendan Gleeson’s grizzled cook. Genius ensues.

The CGI bear (voiced by Ben Wishaw) is almost a side-act next to the cast’s dexterous mugging – Hugh Bonneville, Sally Hawkins (as Mr and Mrs Brown), Grant (a very good sport about sending himself up), Gleeson etc. Bellylaughs come thick and fast but there is enough magic and heart here to grant it Christmas-classic status.

In fact, between its athletic wit and overflowing invention, Paddington 2 is arguably too good for kids. Maybe consider booking a babysitter for this one.

5/5

First published in the Sunday Independent

Blow Par

It’s breaking records at the moment for opening-weekend business in Ireland. Like everything about the man known for “breaking necks and cashing cheques”, I find this baffling. All this doc is is an alter for his fandom to worship at, and ultimately contributes little to our knowledge or understanding of this divisive global figure. A missed opportunity. 

***

Conor Mcgregor: Notorious
Cert: 15A

THIS nation of ours can be neatly divided not only along party-political lines or brands of tea but also on Conor McGregor.

To his fans, the Dubliner is a sharp-witted Adonis and lofty athlete who rose from working-class origins to global fame through determination and discipline.

To his detractors, meanwhile, he is little more than a boorish, homophobic thug whose only obsession other than himself is lining his pockets in a brutally violent exhibition unworthy of being called a sport.

Gavin Fitzgerald’s slick film is unconcerned with giving McGregor and MMA a rigorous examination. Completed in intimate proximity to the UFC star (who also produces), this is a hagiographic, access-all-areas portrait designed to trumpet the man-myth and secure a Christmas bonanza of DVD sales by his devotees. If you’re looking for new insight, look elsewhere.

They will relish seeing their hero lounging in Las Vegas wealth-porn and filling his marble hallway with cackle after self-congratulatory cackle as the Diaz title bout looms. Boringly, the rags-to-riches-to-rematch narrative is structured precisely as you’d expect.

Strictly for McGregorites.

2/5

First published in the Sunday Independent

Review: Call Me By Your Name

A jewel of a film, this. Expect it to loom large in the build-up to awards season. Here’s the Sindo verdict from the weekend. 

***

Call Me By Your Name
Cert: 15A

WE NOW reach that point in the calendar year when Oscar contenders begin to slowly assemble near the starting line ahead of the race for the Dolby Theatre. This utterly sumptuous coming-of-age romance from Italian director Luca Guadagnino looks to have not only the pedigree but also the topical edge the Academy judges seem to helplessly gravitate towards. Consult your bookmaker post-haste.

Guadagnino rounds off his “Desire trilogy” that began with 2009’s I Am Love and 2015’s A Bigger Splash with another tale of flaring passions and true natures being revealed in an idyllic setting.

Timothée Chalamet is 17-year-old Elio, lounging around his family’s northern Italy villa for the summer vacation of 1983. His academic father (Michael Stuhlbarg) welcomes a research assistant from the US in the form of urbane and sophisticated 24-year-old Oliver (Armie Hammer). Oliver fits right in and quickly becomes, on the face of it, a big-brother figure for Elio. But what the heart wants, the heart gets, and gradually, in the aching beauty of the region’s cobbled village laneways and abundant orchards, the pair fall in love.

Based on Andre Aciman’s 2007 novel but toned down for the cinema market, this is excellent filmmaking that should merit multiple nominations come awards season.

Hammer, Chalamet (and Stuhlbarg in the third act) give turns that quiver with sensitivity and illumination. Guadagnino manages to avoid melodrama by allowing quiet symbolism into the vista – ripening fruit, changing musical tunes etc – and effortlessly maintaining an erudite, cultured tone throughout (which, frankly, the world needs more of right now).

5/5

First published in the Sunday Independent

Simon Fitzmaurice

It’s very sad to hear this morning about the passing of Simon Fitzmaurice, the promising filmmaker who managed to complete a feature film, father two children and outlive his medical life expectancy after being diagnosed with motor neuron disease. This superbly configured documentary by Frankie Fenton was released only a few weeks ago and does not look to be still running in Irish cinemas. I hope some free-minded auditorium managers might consider a couple of special screening to remember this inspiring individual. Sincere condolences to his family. 

***

It’s Not Yet dark
Cert: PG

IF YOU’D forgotten about the formidable strength of the human spirit, a quaking reminder has arrived. With the news feed sometimes making out that all is collapsing around us there is a need for fare such as this arresting debut documentary from Frankie Fenton.

In 2008, 34-year-old filmmaker Simon Fitzmaurice was screening his short film at Sundance when he noticed a funny sensation in his foot. After shrugging off the strange limp, he sought medical advice. What he was told changed everything for Simon, his wife Ruth and their three young children. He was diagnosed with motor neuron disease and gradually lost all physical movement apart from his eyes. The title comes from the 2015 memoir he published about his extraordinary journey.

Fenton’s film plays simultaneous roles. It charts Simon’s determination to complete a feature film – 2015’s My Name is Emily – using eye-motion technology fitted to his wheelchair. It quietly profiles Ruth, the incredible wife bearing the weight (and whose own memoir I Found My Tribe was a bestseller this summer). But the sombre, meditative recesses – drone shots of misty fields and canopies as Colin Farrell narrates extracts from Simon’s book – suggest Fenton also wants the film to be absorbed on a more profound level than a mere observational document. The result is an intimacy that is deeply moving and thought-provoking.

The Fitzmaurices are truly incredible: Simon has outlived his prognosis by years and the family remains “battered but unbroken” through this ordeal. But in the wrong hands, this film could have been an exercise in mawkish sentimentality.

4/5

First published in the Sunday Indpendent

Thor blimey

Marvel go for an all-out knee-slapper in Thor: Ragnarok with mixed results. Thus sayeth the Sindo review. 

***

Thor: Ragnarok
Cert: 12A

AND the Marvel juggernaut rolls onwards, devouring whole economies and climaxing each episode with a delectable foreshadowing of the next. Nothing dents the behemoth, not the shoddy comedy writing of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2, not the tired quips-and-kablamo formula of the Avengers franchise.

And just when you think the sheen might be coming off, a Doctor Strange or Spiderman: Homecoming comes along to breathe new life into the Marvel Cinematic Universe with bombast and brains. Hating Marvel is a short-lived hobby.

Granting arch Kiwi director Taika Waititi (Eagle Vs Shark, Hunt for the Wilderpeople) with the keys to a new Thor film is perhaps the very kind of thinking that’s worked all these years. Under him, Thor: Ragnarok reaches levels of silliness and tomfoolery not yet plumbed by a superhero film of this budget.

Thor (Chris Hemsworth) is a buff himbo, cocky in a fight but fragile of ego (which is actually not a million miles off his Norse mythology source). While enslaved as a galactic gladiator, he crosses paths with Hulk (Mark Ruffalo) again. It’s perfect timing because all-powerful sister Hela (a goth Cate Blanchett, perhaps the finest marvel of them all) has returned to enslave Asgard. Even gods sometimes need a hand.

Waititi puts the gags up front with mixed results. At times, it feels too needy of laughter and frivolity at the expense of heart (unusually for a Marvel film). Elsewhere, the camp overtones and dotty support cast (Jeff Goldblum, Rachel House, Waititi himself) pull you mercifully away from chest-beating smugness. It is, alas, at its best when beautiful gods and huge monsters are walloping one other to the strident gallop of Immigrant Song.

3/5

First published in the Sunday Independent

Abominable

Here’s last week’s Sindo review of The Snowman, a Scandi-noir thriller based on a popular Jo Nesbo novel. Like having brunost shoved up your nose while your eyes are drenched with aquavit (the film, not my review). The picture above is me weeping after the closing credits.

***

The Snowman
Cert: 15A

OSLO looks nice. This murder mystery – based on the Jo Nesbo crime bestseller – has lots of shots of pretty, clean streets decked out in seasonal decorations, efficient public transport and tidy, functional residential developments.

We’re trying very hard here because there are scant other virtues to this abominable busted flush of a film whose most interesting facet is that it should misfire despite its considerable talent pool.

As the director of Let The Right One In and Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, Tomas Alfredson looked a sure bet. Cinematographer Dion Beebe has a BAFTA nomination on his CV and editor Claire Simpson won an Oscar for Platoon. The cast has something for everyone – Michael Fassbender, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Rebecca Ferguson, Toby Jones, JK Simmons, even Val Kilmer. And surely, with the Millenium trilogy fading the time was right to bring another Scandi-noir to the big screen.

System failures abound, from the glassy, TV-drama visual finish and horrid CGI, to the abrupt, stilted editing that halts any flow to the cluttered tale. The cast look as lost as we are.

Fassbender is tortured detective Harry Hole. A woman has gone missing and a serial killer who builds snowmen at the scene of his crimes may be involved. Harry and partner Katrine (Ferguson) investigate as Simmons’ shifty businessman skulks in the background. As for Kilmer, the less said the better.

You’ll recoil in horror but for all the wrong reasons.

1/5

First published in the Sunday Independent