Friday 21 November 2014

Cinema: Bullet fest is programmed to thrill

Hilary A White, Padraic McKiernan and Aine O’Connor

Published 10/02/2014 | 02:30

ARRESTED DEVELOPMENT: There’s plenty of bullet-riddled mayhem in Jose Padilha’s remake of Eighties movie ‘RoboCop’, and it has Gary Oldman in it for good measure

Reviewed this week: Robocop, Dallas Buyers Club, Bastards, Tinker Bell and the Pirate Fairy

Cert 12A

TALK about putting the ethics into prosthetics. Heated moral debates about artificial body parts might not exactly be a contemporary phenomenon but on the evidence of director Jose Padilha's big-budget RoboCop remake, it may only be a matter of time.

The year is 2028, and under the guiding hand of rapacious CEO Raymond Sellars (Michael Keaton), a global conglomerate called OmniCorp has made amazing progress in the advancement of robot technology. Its drones have made battlefields across the world safe for American soldiers but it's a different story on home soil.

Despite promises that these robots could wipe out crime, pesky politicians on Capitol Hill continue to thwart OmniCorp's plans to utilise robotic law-enforcement potential. They distrust the robots' inability to feel human emotions. Enter Alex Murphy (Joel Kinnamon) as the Detroit detective destined to be a game-changer. Incorruptible and happily married, he's clearly got a heart of gold until a car-bomb assassination attempt blows him to bits and leaves him with well, just a heart. OK, so he has a brain and a couple of other vital organs, but let's not sweat the small stuff.

Opportunity knocks for OmniCorp as it believes it has the technology to create a prototype that will generate even greater profits. Faster than you can say move over Dr Frankenstein, OmniCorp's brilliant scientist Dennett Norton (Gary Oldman) has morphed what was left of Det Murphy into a heavy metal weapon of mass destruction, aka RoboCop. But is it a man or a machine? And can he/it be controlled?

As big-budget bullet-fests go, there's very little to criticise about this exercise in high-octane escapism. It's far from memorable but the cast acquit themselves with aplomb while impressive action sequences will give excitable types plenty of bang bang for their buck. The script lacks the satirical bite of the original, but big themes are considered and it's easy to warm to a script that asks at one stage whether, as a culture, we've become "robophobic". In short, decent pass-the-popcorn fare.


Now Showing


Editor's Pick: Dallas Buyers Club
Cert 16

NOT too long ago, the smug grin of Matthew McConaughey was an emblem for appalling rom-com tripe, but things have changed. McConaughey has been given that rarest of things in Hollywood – a second chance at credibility that has produced standout turns in Mud, Killer Joe, Magic Mike and Christopher Nolan's upcoming (and probably ubiquitous) Interstellar.
Cert 16

NOT too long ago, the smug grin of Matthew McConaughey was an emblem for appalling rom-com tripe, but things have changed. McConaughey has been given that rarest of things in Hollywood – a second chance at credibility that has produced standout turns in Mud, Killer Joe, Magic Mike and Christopher Nolan's upcoming (and probably ubiquitous) Interstellar.

Dallas Buyers Club is part of this purple patch and saw the Texan shed 45lb and be unable to trade on his typical beefcake shtick. Dozens of best actor awards have since been hoovered up and it's not hard to see why. As Ron Woodroof, a piece of Dallas trailer trash diagnosed with HIV, McConaughey flexes a new acting muscle and excels at it – vulnerability.

Woodroof's redneck existence is tempered only slightly by news of the ailment, which the homophobe perceives as a slight on his masculinity. When denial bleeds into acceptance and then cold fear, he reads up on the condition and discovers promising drugs outside US borders that have not received FDA approval.

During a treatment excursion to Mexico, he hatches a plan to smuggle these in and profit off the sales. Helping him is terminally ill transgender Rayon (Jared Leto, also in award-winning form).

Leto almost steals the show, while Jennifer Garner represents stability as the gutsy hospital medic in a film from director Jean-Marc Vallee that is well-paced, involving and thought-provoking. But for McConaughey to elicit sympathy as a bigoted gombeen with flecks of selflessness is remarkable. Like Mickey Rourke in The Wrestler, art and life rhyme slightly in Dallas Buyers Club, as both star and character come good in the end after previous transgressions.


Now showing



THOUGH it's often said that no man is an island, French director Claire Denis' thriller, Bastards, puts forward a compelling case in favour of those who adopt an isolationist approach towards humanity. If hell is other people, then heaven looks a little bit like the life Marco Silvestri (Vincent Lindon), has fashioned for himself.

Life on the ocean waves keeps him far from his family, and we discover during the course of this stylish film noir, it's the way he prefers it. We learn that earlier in his life he rejected a lucrative share in the family business so that ties could be officially cut. First impressions suggest that choosing another path has been liberating.

But when a family crisis precipitates a cry for help from his sister, the middle-aged and charismatic Marco abandons ship and answers the call. His brother-in-law has been found dead while his niece is under psychiatric care after having been found wandering naked through the streets of Paris. And if that isn't enough to be going on with, the family business has nose-dived, leaving his newly widowed sister facing the threat of bankruptcy.

A successful tycoon, Edouard Laporte (Michel Subor) is identified as the source of his sibling's woes, and Marco sets about untangling the web of intrigue that surrounds this sinister figure. Marco takes up residence in an apartment block next door to where Laporte's mistress and her son reside. A cocktail of liaisons dangereuses, steamy embraces and the type of gratuitous crotch shots rarely seen this side of the Playboy mansion ensue.

It could be that genre fans or French cinema enthusiasts may be engaged, but the murky visuals and non-linear nature of the narrative left me cold. Performances can't be faulted, but the stylish flourishes fail to compensate for a largely anti-climactic and tension-free conclusion. By the time the credits rolled, the lack of suspense was killing me.


at the IFI from Friday


Mr Peabody and Sherman
Cert G

Mr Peabody (voiced by Modern Family's Ty Burrell) is a Nobel Prize-winning dog whose son Sherman (Max Charles) is bullied in school by cute girl Penny (Ariel Winter, also of Modern Family). Sherman bites Penny and is in danger of being taken away by evil child services jobsworth (Allison Janney).

In an effort to build bridges, Peabody invites jobsworth and Penny's parents (Stephen Colbert and Leslie Mann) over for dinner. It's all going swimmingly until Sherman treats Penny to a trip in his 'WABAC', a time machine.

There follows a rip-roaring ride through history with appearances by Leonardo da Vinci, Robespierre and Mona Lisa – from who Peabody elicits a laugh – Van Gogh whose Starry Night is inspired by Sherman's hand painting, Albert Einstein struggling with the Rubik's cube (cameos by Mel Brooks, Stanley Tucci, Lake Bell and many more). Directed by Rob Minkoff (The Lion King and Stuart Little) and based on a 1960s cartoon, it's great fun all the way. Kids seemed to love the action and fast pace while the historical references and humour add plenty for older kids and adults. I liked the use of modern idioms in historical contexts, the Trojan Warrior announcing: "I did NOT see that coming!"

The real expert opinion however put this on a par with Frozen and just below all-time favourite Despicable Me, praise indeed.


Now showing in 2D and 3D


Tinker Bell and the Pirate Fairy
Cert G

I confess that the idea of Christina Hendricks as a fairy threw me initially, purely from a ballast point of view. But fairy she is, and not just any fairy but the Pirate Fairy of the title of Disney's latest offering.

Zarina (Hendricks) is prone to questions and using up her own fairy dust quota on experiments. Experimentation with this precious fairy dust, the very essence of fairy life, is not encouraged, but Zarina persists. Naturally, it all goes wrong and Zarina exiles herself in a fit of pique.

At the next Fairy Olympics she shows up with a stash of new fairy dust that she has perfected, sends everyone to sleep and steals the fairy dust Hadron Collider with a view to taking over the planet. But Zarina, now dressed in pirate garb, is not alone and has taken up with a motley crew led by one Captain James Hook (Tom Hiddleston).

In hot pursuit, however, are Tinker Bell (Mae Whitman) and a gang of multi-talented fairies, determined to save the day, and the dust.

This is old-school and simple, aimed at small children it has none of the snappy smartness of so many modern animations. It relies on cute characters with supernaturally large eyes and weirdly small hands creating humour from falls and gentle kicks in the bum.

Tinker Bell and her band of heroic fairies are vaguely reminiscent of the Bratz, the doll phenomenon that swarmed the land of small girls in the mid to late Noughties. But otherwise this is a prequel style episode to an old story – at the end the young Captain Hook is rescued from the sea (and a baby crocodile) by one Mr Smee.

Directed by Peggy Holmes it's short and sweet, will attach to parents' fondness for Peter Pan and keep younger kids happy.


Opens on Friday

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