Sunday 22 April 2018

Cinema - Ice Age: Collision Course - the plot isn't worthy of what the films once were

Cert: G. Now showing

Take five: Ice Age Collision Course
Take five: Ice Age Collision Course

The Ice Age franchise is one that coincided with the arrival of my daughter 15 years ago and it and Shrek were the movie loves of her little life. So I'm claiming expert level on both because I have seen each franchise episode 90 million times. Approximately. My daughter's attachment to the franchise lingers; of this she said "Ice Age never disappoints," but I'm going to have to disagree. This did disappoint in the context of how good the series' high points could be.

Scrat, in his eternal chase of the acorn, causes cosmic chaos which sets off a plot that is rather complex for little children to understand, and, on top of the various solar system issues and the need to save the planet, each of the main characters has family woes to contend with. Manny (Ray Romano) has forgotten his wedding anniversary and his wife (Queen Latifah) isn't pleased. Romance and procreation issues are also in the air for sabre-toothed tiger Diego (Denis Leary) and his new mot Shira (Jennifer Lopez). Sid the sloth (John Leguizamo) is always in some class of infatuation and his Granny (Wanda Sykes) is mostly dealing with the fact that she doesn't have much in the way of funny lines any more.

There are new and returning characters added to the already stuffed cast. The dialogue, not at its finest anyway, is spread too thin.

The animation, however, is great and the 3D very good, there are lots of colours and the characters are well-drawn and still likeable. It's not awful, just weak, the plot and writing just aren't worthy of what the films once were. 2 Stars

Aine O'Connor

Now You See Me 2

Cert: 12A. Opens tomorrow.

Last week, Independence Day Resurgence was an example of a US blockbuster shoe-horning in Chinese talent to suck up to that now-significant box office territory. That film has just been toppled off the top spot in China by Now You See Me 2, which also plays the same trick albeit in a far more tasteful manner.

Despite his past crimes (the Step Up franchise, Jem and the Holograms), US director Jon M Chu is subtle about both the casting of Taiwanese star Jay Chou and bringing the illusionism sequel to Macau. It sits naturally in the plot instead of being a gratuitous marketing carrot.

But Chu's real coup here is that this follow-up to the 2013 hit is a better film, shorn as it is of the tiresome CGI and limp final twist that marred its predecessor.

Most of the stellar cast - Mark Ruffalo, Jesse Eisenberg, Woody Harrelson, Morgan Freeman - returns along with some fresh faces. Led by moonlighting FBI Agent Dylan Rhodes (Ruffalo), the Four Horsemen (Eisenberg, Harrelson, Dave Franco), joined by new recruit Lula May (a fab Lizzy Caplan), are still using huge magic shows to expose injustice.

They're flushed out into the open, however, by a mysterious enemy and wake up in the Chinese casino enclave. There, they are leaned on by a powerful tech whizz (Daniel Radcliffe) to steal a computer chip. They accept, presuming that they will outwit him. But someone may be outwitting them, though.

Magic can translate poorly on to the big screen but the hocus-pocus here - as consulted on by Wexford illusionist Keith Barry - is for kicks, as are the litany of bluffs, double bluffs and reveals that keep you guessing as the caper gaily unfolds. 4 Stars

Hilary A White

Queen of Earth

Cert: Club. Selected cinemas.

Like his super-dry 2014 comedy Listen Up Philip, Queen of Earth finds US indie director Alex Ross Perry being not entirely sympathetic to a protagonist undergoing a time of emotional strain. But there's something harder and more intense going on at the heart of this tale of a woman falling apart completely following the death of her father and break-up of a relationship.

It makes for a slightly muddled palette, but one that, like one of those lenticular pictures that changes depending on the angle it's viewed from, can seem either darkly cynical or harrowing.

Elisabeth Moss continues to shake off the Mad Men attire with an award-courting turn as Catherine, who has retreated to the lakeside bolt hole of wealthy layabout and childhood best friend, Virginia (Katherine Waterston). The pair bicker incessantly, something that just seems to be part of their sisterly set-up, with Catherine's increasingly erratic behaviour a constant upset in the household.

Things worsen, however, when Virginia's lover starts hanging around and it soon starts to feel like the lakeside cabin, close to ominous dark waters and tapping woodpeckers, mightn't be the best environment for Catherine.

We also leap back to happier times, both to attenuate the demise but also hint that she may just be another of Perry's customary silly hypocrites who is partly to blame for their own lot. An intriguing drama, this is, with its tonal complexity heightened by wry winks to Listen Up Philip (Virginia is seen reading Madness & Women and The Cinch, both creations of Ike Zimmerman, Jonathan Pryce's hilariously self-regarding novelist in that film).

Worth investigating. 4 Stars

Hilary A White

Central Intelligence

Cert 12A; Now Showing

It's 1995 and the zenith of Calvin Joyner's (Kevin Harte) high school career coincides with the nadir of Robbie Wierdicht's (Dwayne Johnson) when he is subjected to a devastating humiliation. Calvin offers him a kindness in this moment which Robbie never forgets, something the now-transformed Robbie explains when Calvin agrees to go for a pity pint with him 20 years later on the eve of their high school reunion.

Calvin is feeling like a failure and his marriage to high school sweetheart Maggie (Danielle Nicolet) is stumbling as a result. Robbie, now going under the name Bob Stone, asks Calvin for a little forensic accounting help that swiftly leads to the arrival of the CIA (under Amy Ryan), who claim Bob is a rogue agent. Director and co-writer Rawson Marshall Thurber, who made Dodgeball and We're the Millers steers Johnson and Harte competently through what is an above-average action comedy.

I don't find Harte funny but he and Johnson work really well together. It's a bit too long, the plot is mechanical and the jokes vary from close to the bone to silly, and some misfire, but it's good fun and does what it says on the tin. 3 Stars

Aine O'Connor

Notes on Blindness

Cert G; now showing 

Theologian John Hull had been fighting blindness all his life but when it arrived it did so suddenly. It was 1983, he was 45, a teaching academic, married to Marilyn and his second child had just been born. First off, he dealt with the practicalities; how would he work? He set about getting the books he needed recorded, he negotiated routes and, in his wife's words, went into a kind of denial. But, when in work he overheard a friend say "You know that John Hull is going completely blind," it hit him hard.

His way of dealing was to begin a series of recorded reflections, his thoughts and feelings on losing his sight, and short film makers Peter Middleton and James Spinney make their feature debut based on these tapes. The result is a profound and deeply moving insight into the journey Hull, and his family, made from being a person who could see, into one who could not. There are predictable emotions like anger, isolation and a crisis of faith and unpredictable ones like having to explain blindness to his young children and renegotiate the relationship with his parents, who remained in his native Australia. Hull describes the distress of finding his memory shed the images of people he loved, of wondering if he smiled less because he couldn't see anyone smile at him.

The tapes from the 1980s are mimed by actors (Dan Renton Skinner, Simone Kirby), inter-cut with recent interviews with John and Marilyn and it's shot in sepia tones. The focus is on Hull's sightless eyes, with the glasses he still wore. The discussion of blindness is fascinating but Hull, and his family, are even more so.

4 Stars

Aine O'Connor

Sunday Independent

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