Tuesday 6 December 2016

Cinema review: Ted 2 - a decent follow up

Ted 2 Cert 16

Hilary A White and Aine O'Connor

Published 13/07/2015 | 02:30

And so to bed: Jessica Barth and a certain foul-mouthed bear in Ted 2
And so to bed: Jessica Barth and a certain foul-mouthed bear in Ted 2
Song of the Sea
The Reunion
John Cusack and Elizabeth Banks star in Love & Mercy

Reviewed this week are Ted 2, Song of the Sea, The Reunion, Love & Mercy

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You'd hardly call the Seth MacFarlane school of comedy subtle. Since breaking through with Family Guy's more risque and mean-spirited take on The Simpsons mould, the film-maker and ex-animator presented the Oscars in 2013 and has become the US darling of edgy, censor-bothering wisecracks.

But perhaps MacFarlane's biggest coup was when Ted (2012), a comedy about a foul-mouthed teddy bear, grossed (no pun) half a billion dollars. Lo and behold, a sequel was quickly greenlit by Universal.

His canniness shows no signs of abating, it seems, on the strength of this surprisingly decent follow-up. Effort has been put in to tell a yarn and evolve characters rather than just retread old haunts and free-wheel off the success of the original. This is a relief.

Ted is tying the knot with Tami-Lynn (Jessica Barth) when we meet him, while best-bud John (Mark Wahlberg) flounders in singledom. When Ted and TL decide to have a baby to save their relationship, obvious anatomical obstacles arise. A bid to adopt, however reveals a grey area over Ted's legal status which halts all entitlements. Cue Amanda Seyfried's plucky lawyer who takes on the case to cement the living toy's civil rights.

Poor taste and stoner humour waft from the CGI gob of Ted, some of which hits the mark. Celeb cameos - Jay Leno, Liam Neeson - show up to have mickey extracted MacFarlane-style. It's not for the faint-hearted but works overall due to the lower volume moments that keep the story motoring between the crude carry-on.

HAW

Now showing

Song Of The sea

Cert: PG

When Tomm Moore and Cartoon Saloon were nominated yet again for the Best Animated Oscar this year (following 2009's deliriously gorgeous The Secret Of Kells), there was a shrugging feeling of expectation. Of course the brilliant Kilkenny animation studio was being ranked yet again alongside the Mouse House.

That gong would eventually go to the super-slick Big Hero 6, but nonetheless the world was left with another dreamy Celtic confection in Song Of The Sea.

We'll get it out of the way at this point that dialogue and dubbing are not the film's strong points. The voiceover sounds staid and disjointed, as if stars Brendan Gleeson, Fionnula Flanagan, Lisa Hannigan and David Rawle (Moone Boy) are all Skyping it in from far-off continents.

Just as well the whole thing is as sumptuous and dreamy as it is, so. The story plays out as a kind of Incredible Journey-style parable where childhood fears, ancient Celtic Mythology and the looming aches of adulthood are swirled together with extraordinary charm and beauty.

Ben (Rawle) and little sister Saoirse (Lucy O'Connell) are without their mother who vanished the night Saoirse was born. Father Conor (Gleeson) is depressed without her, and when Saoirse's magical powers see her swim off with seals, their granny (Flanagan) drags them off to the city. To save her, Ben has to get her back to the sea in one piece.

Patterns and landscapes that recall Sasek's This Is Ireland get spun alongside playful lines of delicacy and boldness. An altogether softer, more ethereal outing than Kells, with a poignant aftertaste.

HAW

Now showing

The Reunion

No Cert

There are lots of interesting moments in Anna Odell's film, The Reunion (Atertraffen) but one in particular happens in the second part when Christophe comments "I'd never give it a second thought if someone was ignoring me." Christophe had been one of the most popular boys in the Swedish school which he attended with Anna Odell, and, according to her, one of her worst bullies. Not, she clarifies when he asks, in terms of any specific actions, but  because he ignored her. He seems genuinely baffled when he says he wouldn't even notice being ignored.

The Reunion is about bullying, and in Part One Odell creates a fictionalised version of a real school reunion to which she was not invited. In the fiction, she does attend and stands up to tell the popular people that her experience of school was not theirs, that she felt excluded and picked upon to the extent that she considered suicide. It doesn't go down well, and ends in violence. She explains the film is to explore the notion of "what happens when you do what you normally shouldn't do."

In Part Two, she seeks out her real old classmates to show them this film and get their thoughts and to ask why she was not invited to the reunion. A well-known and controversial figure in Sweden, Odell has some difficulty finding people willing to meet up. Christophe is one of the few, and their two versions of their shared nine years in school make for revealing viewing. Odell is not confrontational in a Jeremy Kyle way, but she is unflinching and she remembers every slight in detail. She felt disliked and excluded, and even simple actions compounded that. Christophe had no such feelings of exclusion so neither looked for nor recognised them and is concerned that he might be portrayed as a bad person.

Most who agreed to meet her were defensive, some vaguely apologetic and no-one would confess to having deliberately excluded her from the adult reunion. Two of the people she considered the worst offenders had refused to meet her, so she doorsteps them and there it starts to feel less like social experiment and more like revenge. Odell is fascinating to watch, and the concept, and the honesty with which it is delivered, really interesting.

AO'C

IFI & selected cinemas

Love & Mercy

Cert 12A

The Beach Boys provided a large part of the soundtrack to the 1960s. Their jaunty songs about surfing and Californ-i-a are so ubiquitous that it can be easy to dismiss them as simple. But Brian Wilson was a musical genius and the album Pet Sounds is considered a classic. However, the making of the album was a difficult time and when it failed to sell it seemed proof to many in Wilson's world that all was not well with him.

Bill Pohlad's biopic Love and Mercy pivots around two periods in Brian Wilson's life, and switches back and forth between the two. It opens around 1985 with an older Wilson (John Cusack) looking to buy a Cadillac from Melinda Ledbetter (Elizabeth Banks). She doesn't know who he is but when a romance begins she learns that this very famous man is utterly under the thumb of therapist and manager Eugene Landy (Paul Giamatti.) Although suffering from Stockholm Syndrome, part of Wilson wants to escape, and sees salvation in Melinda. The film then moves back to the 1960s where the young Wilson (Paul Dano) is writing and recording Pet Sounds and aware that his hold on reality is slipping, and the roots of his current situation are apparent.

The interweaving of the two periods, both of which are building towards a confrontation, works. They are shot differently, the 1960s are bleached out, the 1980s sharper-focussed and the two actors play the role very differently. Cusack is good as the broken but controlled older Wilson, Dano is better as the breaking and out-of-control one. Banks gives a nuanced performance as the gentle but determined Melinda. (The film was made with the co-operation of Wilson and Ledbetter.) Giamatti is scary as Landy, even if the role is quite one- dimensional. Overall it works well, the story is great and should have broad appeal.

AO'C

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