Reviewed this week are Mr Holmes, Entourage, Les Combattants, The Longest Ride and The Burning.
Ian McKellen and director Bill Condon made the excellent Gods and Monsters together in 1998 and Mr Holmes is similar in ways. Both are about elderly men who are fighting the worst effects of age with the help of memory and young protegees. We first meet Mr (Sherlock) Holmes (McKellen) at 93, grizzled and gruff on a train through England. His arrival in Sussex casts a certain shadow, his housekeeper Mrs Munro (Laura Linney) is clearly on edge and keen to keep her son, Roger (Milo Parker), out of the old man's way.
Roger however has other ideas and a bond builds between Holmes and the boy, each bringing something good out in the other. Recently returned from a trip to Japan for an exotic ingredient he hopes might stave off his memory loss, Sherlock is desperate to remember what it was that prompted him to leave his work and retire to the country. There is a particular case that haunts him, but he does not remember why.
Jeffrey Hatcher's screenplay, based on the 2005 novel A Slight Trick of the Mind, moves back and forth in time, from 1947 to 1920, in a mechanism that although a little contrived, works well. The plot that it unfolds is a bit underwhelming and anyone looking for a mystery will be disappointed, but the characters are great. Roger, in a great turn by Parker, gets convincingly uppity with his mother and Linney does a lovely job in a fairly thankless role. But McKellen is simply fantastic. It's a nice movie in the best sense and has broad appeal.
The popular consensus about the TV show Entourage is that it started off great but had outstayed its welcome by the end of the eighth series. This automatically begs the question why make the film version now? And it is not a question that the film answers.
The movie opens as it means to continue on a yacht in the Med with film star Vincent Chase (Adrian Grenier inset) celebrating the recent end of a very short marriage, with lots of half-naked women. His entourage, his brother Drama (Kevin Dillon), manager Eric (Kevin Connolly) and driver turned tequila mogul Turtle (Jerry Ferrara) swiftly appear in a motor boat and it is decided that they will go back into the movie business if Vincent can direct his comeback juggernaut. And for this they will need the negotiating skills and return from retirement of manic movie mogul Ari Gold (Jeremy Piven).
Eight months later the film is nearly done but they need more money from the Texan investors (Billy Bob Thornton and Hayley Joel Osment). The fear is that Vincent has made an expensive mess that will take them all down, but there are other issues.
The journey to resolution involves loads of expletives, endless sex references, lots of close-to-the-bone jokes and more half-naked women, which, whilst true to the series, most likely horribly true to reality, feels dated now. Piven again steals the limelight as the godawful but likeable Ari. It's flash and full of cameos but it isn't that funny.
Thomas Cailley's debut film is called Love at First Fight in English, a title which almost works better than the French original. Arnaud (Kévin Azaïs) is a little conflicted about his future, whether to get into the family joinery business, which needs him, or join the army, which wants him. Established early on as a bit of weakling who bites a girl to avoid being beaten by her in a public wrestling match, Arnaud is likeable but unimpressive.
Opting to work with his more responsible and already worn down brother Manu (Antoine Laurent), on his first job with the family firm Arnaud discovers he will be working in the home of the girl whose arm he bit, Madeleine (Adele Haenel inset) whose natural antipathy to apparently everything has not been softened by contact with Arnaud's teeth. Although interestingly she never tells anyone about it. Convinced that an apocalypse of some kind is imminent Madeleine is training hard to be accepted in an elite army corps that will make her survive when all others perish. As extra preparation she decides on a two-week boot camp, which Arnaud, intrigued by the Amazonian Madeleine, decides to do too. Once there however, different strengths and weaknesses emerge and things don't go quite as predicted.
This is a simple story with some good ideas. It is billed as a romantic comedy but is not your average romcom although it's often funny in a subtle enough way, it has a great soundtrack and moves along well even if there is not a vast amount happening. Apart from questions around what it means, or takes, to survive, the film introduces some interesting themes like family obligation and social expectation over personal freedom, even in the very young. Madeleine is a really interesting character in many ways but too unredeemingly unlikeable for too long, though Haenel won a Caesar for her portrayal of what was a challenging role (Azais also won for most promising newcomer).
The film loses direction in the third act, but overall I enjoyed some nice twists on traditional fare.
IFI & Selected
Nicolas Sparks has written 17 novels, 11 of which have been turned into films. So I'm thinking that Nicolas couldn't care less what I think and he'd have an entirely legitimate point. However it is fair to say that his work is a matter of taste, and if yours runs to unashamed romance then l'oeuvre Sparks is for you. He wrote that little known one beloved of teenage girls the world over, The Notebook, and despite the sniggery connotations for Irish audiences, The Longest Ride is a similar-ish story.
Set in North Carolina it opens with Luke (Scott Eastwood, yes, that Eastwood) a bull rider recovering from a major injury and seeking to not only regain his career but to become the best in the world and save his mother's ranch. He meets Sophia (Brittany Robertson) just two months before she is due to leave for New York so they agree, despite enormous attraction, that there is no point in getting together. On the way home they save the life of an old man, Ira (Alan Alda) and with him a box of letters, which bafflingly enough, narrate a story. Sophia visits Ira daily to read the letters, striking up a friendship and learning the story of young Ira's (Jack Huston) great romance with his late wife, Ruth (Oona Chaplin). Thanks to Ira, Luke and Sophia get together but there is still that darn obstacle of their separate lives.
Eastwood, who looks very like his father, Chaplin and Huston are all a little cursed with famous surnames but their acting is fine. The story is what it is, to describe it as formulaic is like saying rain is wet.
These are stories about ideals where perfect looking people who live in beautiful surroundings behave well in the face of a moral dilemma and always in pursuit of a very idealised kind of romance. If this is your cup of tea you will enjoy it. If not, don't even get the DVD.
I'd like to claim credit for the phrase "machete western" to describe the fascinating premise of a Sergio Leone-style revenge western set in the rainforest. But I can't. Someone else did. Ardor in the Spanish language original opens with a paragraph about how the people of the Parana river in Argentina believe that in times of trouble a spirit will come from the river to save them.
These are times of trouble, a group of brothers led by Tarquino (Claudio Tolcachir), are burning the forest and intimidating farmers into signing away their land. One such farmer, Joao (Chico Diaz) is not surprised when a mysterious stranger (Gael Garcia Bernal) emerges. There is smoke on the horizon and he, his daughter Vania (Alice Braga) and labourer Jara (Lautaro Vilo) know the mercenaries are coming to them next. When they arrive however the mysterious stranger hides and Vania is taken hostage, a fate that we have already been shown to be terrible. But the stranger steps up, saves Vania and then the two of them go on the run, through the forest, a victim like them, and the jaguar, of marauding business.
Unfortunately The Burning does not quite live up to its promise. Partly due to low budget and partly down to taking itself too seriously, it does not quite work as it could have. It is nonetheless interesting with the leads, the visuals and the soundtrack filling in a lot of gaps. It's also quite gory.
Sunday Indo Living