Saturday 3 December 2016

Cinema reviews: Hot Pursuit is no Thelma and Louise

Hot Pursuit Cert: 12A

Hilary A White and Aine O'Connor

Published 03/08/2015 | 02:30

Trail across Texas: Sofia Vergara and Reese Witherspoon star in Hot Pursuit
Trail across Texas: Sofia Vergara and Reese Witherspoon star in Hot Pursuit
Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation: Rebecca Ferguson and Tom Cruise
Iris Apfel

Reviewed this week are Hot Pursuit, Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation, Iris, Beyond The Reach and 13 Minutes.

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Twenty-four years after its release, Thelma & Louise is still remembered fondly to this day, and for very good reason. Leaving aside its critical clout (six Oscar nominations) and big box-office take, it reinvented the buddy movie with believable, multi-dimensional female characters that audiences were really not that used to at the time.

Hot Pursuit, another film about two very different women taking to the highway while pursued by bad men, makes sly attempts to elbow its way into the spirit of that classic, albeit with a far zanier and buffoonish tone. Nevertheless, this comedy from Anne Fletcher (Step Up, The Guilt Trip) is no Thelma & Louise.

Chalk and cheese are here played by Reese Witherspoon and Sofia Vergara. Witherspoon is Cooper, a nerdy, officious cop charged with escorting Vergara's fiery Latina gangster widow through Texas. Hot on their high-heels are dim-witted crooked cops and henchmen, all of whom possess XY chromosomes.

Lots of lame excuses are found to show off the physical assets of the so-hot-right-now Vergara in a range of scenes depicting the primitive intellects of menfolk. Arms and tongues flap as the journey throws up all kinds of silly, vaguely lurid situations to be escaped from. Vergara makes an impossible amount of noise for one human being.

All this might be forgiveable had writers David Feeney and John Quaintance packed the gags, which bar one or two alignments of the stars, are thin on the ground. But who cares as long as we all get an eyeful of Vergara, right?

HAW

Now showing

Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation

Cert: 12A

Park the couch-hopping and the dianetics and Tom Cruise remains an effective film star who can never be accused of dialling in a performance. The results may not always yield fruit, but a bad Cruise film is rarely the fault of Cruise himself.

Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation is a reminder, on the back of 2014's inventive Edge Of Tomorrow, that Cruise can not only sniff out well-written action fare, he can elevate them too. It sees him reunite with Jack Reacher director and eminent Hollywood scribe Christopher McQuarrie (The Usual Suspects) for more implausible derring-do and spy games. The formula set by the previous four films is faithfully adhered to; a bombastic, white-knuckle opening set-piece; the establishment of a shady international conspiracy that must be undone; a huddle around a screen to size-up an impenetrable fortress; the cunning last minute switcheroo.

Joining Ethan Hunt (Cruise) in his quest to bring down international terrorist cell "The Syndicate" are his cheerleaders in the Impossible Missions Force. There's Simon Pegg's plucky Brit tech wizard Benji, Jeremy Renner as a suited ops leader, and Ving Rhames, the franchise's perpetual cornerstone of tough talk and toothpick chewing. A deadly and (of course) sultry British agent called Ilsa Faust (Swedish actress Rebecca Ferguson) must also be negotiated.

This is slick, resourceful action fun, perfectly suited to accompany the munching of overpriced popcorn. Some set pieces and chases will have you squirming, such are the levels of adrenaline at play. Job done.

HAW

Now showing

Iris

No Cert

At one point in Albert Maysles's documentary his subject says that it is better to be happy than to be stylish. It's an interesting piece of perspective from the subject in question because Iris Apfel is known for her style. Soon to turn 94, she has long been loved by the New York fashion scene. She's a kind of talisman of trinkets, the queen of accessories, but although immaculately turned out for every occasion, and an advocate of looking interesting at all times, she says she never judges what anyone else chooses to wear. Because it is better to be happy than to be stylish.

Throughout what would prove to be the legendary documentarian Maysles's last work we see proof that Iris lives this rule. She comes across as a nice woman, passionate about style, but also about life, and is kind to people. She has been married to Carl since 1948 and his 100th birthday celebrations take place during the film. Their devotion to each other is clear, they each speak about the other with great affection. They decided not to have children in order to focus on their lives travelling in search of art for their interior design business.

The collection is massive, their homes are filled with interesting bits and there is a large part warehoused. But the business is long gone and the film documents the sale of the pieces as symbols of lives winding down and demanding a slower pace. Iris is also helping to curate and catalogue the museum collections of her clothing and jewellery, so there is a definite sense of impending finality about the film which Iris herself hints at and which gives it a certain poignancy.

Whilst she is an interesting and attractive subject the documentary, which is on simultaneous release on Volta.ie, this work will find its most enthusiastic fans in lovers of fashion and quirky characters.

AO'C

Now at the Light House

Beyond The Reach

Cert: 12A

Imagine a line that divides guilty pleasure from underachieving B movie. Somewhere in this nebulous area rests Beyond The Reach, a thriller that does its best to make like a badlands noir adventure but sputters towards its finale with the inspiration of a straight-to-TV dud.

Somehow, Michael Douglas, elder statesman of US acting, aligns himself with Jean-Baptiste Leonetti's piece. He is John Madec, a corporate shark and hunting nut who hires down-on-his-luck tracker Ben (Jeremy Irvine) to take him and his state-of-the-art equipment out to the Mojave Desert to shoot critters.

When Madec accidentally kills a vagrant, he tries to implicate Ben before forcing him to strip and walk out into the desert heat to his death. Ben knows the land and goes about trying to give the trailing Madec the slip. This, and the pressure of a looming business deal, awaken murderous intent and laughably poor dialogue ("Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, I KILL YOU!") in Madec.

It had been going OK up to this point in Leonetti's adaptation of Robb White's 1972 novel. A taut dynamic is brewed between the leads, evoking their fundamental differences. The landscape is well utilised and Douglas looks to be having his fun. But it becomes clear that somebody - Leonetti or scriptwriter Stephen Susco - didn't fully think out how to tie things up so it resorts to stale tropes and a lazy showdown to do so.

HAW

In selected cinemas

13 Minutes

No Cert

The 13 minutes of this film's English title (It's called Elser in the German original) refer to the timing miscalculation in a bomb plan that would have changed the course of history had it been executed as envisaged.

The film opens with carpenter and pacifist Georg Elser (Christian Friedel) assembling the bomb in a Munich club where Hitler was to give a speech in 1939. He's spurred into radical action by his mounting horror at the leader of the Nazi Party's increasing inhumanity.

Arrested for acting suspiciously, Elser is in jail, with schematics in his pocket, when the bomb goes off killing eight people, but not, clearly, Hitler. The SS refuses to believe that Elser acted alone and so begins torturing him to obtain a confession that will satisfy Hitler.

There begins a series of flashbacks to Elser's life from 1932, his rural Catholic background, his family, a love affair with a married woman and the gradual infiltration of Nazism that sparked the development of Elser's political conscience. Director Oliver Hirschbiegel's 2004 film Downfall was hailed as one of the greatest about Hitler. This is not quite in the same league (although neither is it anywhere near the same rubbishy league as his 2013 biopic Diana).

One strange call is to make the SS officer Arthur Nebe (Burghart Klaussner), who was subsequently executed for his part in the 1944 Stauffenberg conspiracy, a sympathetic character. His affiliations were complex but he is credited in history with inventing the portable gas chamber and being responsible for the deaths of many thousands of people. Also, why was Elser's sentence (he was executed in Dachau in 1945) delayed for so long?

The cohort for whom any World War II setting is a draw will be divided by this film because it is so backstory-heavy. It's too long and over-detailed, but Friedel puts in a sterling performance and gives his all in the main role, and the film is interesting on many levels. It gives a good sense of how average Germans were often horrified by what they saw happening but were coerced into silence, and is just interesting enough to work.

AOC

Now at IFI & selected cinemas

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