Wednesday 17 January 2018

Cinema reviews: Macbeth... see it on the big screen

Macbeth Cert 15A

To be or not to be: Michael Fassbender is sublime as Macbeth as is Marion Cotillard as the manipulative Lady Macbeth.
To be or not to be: Michael Fassbender is sublime as Macbeth as is Marion Cotillard as the manipulative Lady Macbeth.
Goodfella: Robert de Niro and Anne Hathaway star

Aine O'Connor and Hilary A. White

Reviewed this week are Macbeth, The Walk, The Intern, The Martian and Miss You Already.

It is a while before anyone speaks in Justin Kurzel's version of Macbeth. He sets the tone with beautiful, rich bleakness before the characters begin to utter Shakespeare's lines. The Bard gets a 'based on' credit, the writing credits go to Jacob Koskoff, Michael Lesslie, Todd Louiso for they alter perspectives to shift certain balances of power and motives. Even the violence, and there is plenty, is stylised and balletic, gushing blood made as pretty as it can be. The make-up and costumes, too, are inspired.

Following the loss of their only child, Macbeth (Michael Fassbender) and his lady (Marion Cotillard) take solace in power. It is all her idea, natch, this is Shakespeare after all, and she beguiles him into murdering King Duncan (David Thewliss) and exiling his son Malcolm (Jack Reynor doing another great job) so that Macbeth can take the throne. But many suspect their treachery, and Macbeth has a hard time managing his sanity with the guilt and stress. Trouble can only follow.

Fassbender is as intense and visceral as might have been expected. My only criticism is that he is, on occasion, a little mumbly and the words get lost. The same cannot be said for Cotillard who must have done some work to eradicate her French accent. She is a great actress, but particularly mesmerising in this role. The whole cast give their all, Sean Harris positively rages as MacDuff.

Shakespeare has a limited appeal, but, if you're even half-interested it is well worth going to see this and on a big screen if possible.


Now Showing

The Walk

Cert: PG

James Marsh's Oscar-winning 2008 documentary Man On Wire brilliantly told the saga of Philippe Petit's minutely crafted plot to tightrope walk across the Twin Towers in August, 1974. The French street performer played a starring role in Marsh's film, his unstudied Gallic eccentricity itself a central draw throughout.

To prepare for the role of Petit in this 3D dramatic portrayal from director Robert Zemeckis (Back To The Future, Forrest Gump), Joseph Gordon-Levitt (inset) apparently learned French fluently, and crafted a Parisian accent with help from fellow cast members.

But here's an idea - how about hiring an actual French actor (and there are plenty of fine ones about) so you don't feel as if you're looking at JGL in a black polo-neck pretending to be an excitable mime-artist from theme-park France?

This inauthentic feeling is hard to shake throughout The Walk, and that's before the heavy CGI recreations of New York and its long-gone towers, and the annoying zooming 3D camera angles designed solely to stir a fear of heights. Even Gordon-Levitt's hair is Hollywood's most obvious wig.

It's unfortunate as after a frankly dreadful first half that simply yells at the audience "isn't this French guy mad altogether", things do improve slightly.

Then, however, we get a big shiny finale that utterly fails to depict the power and raw emotions achieved in Man On Wire.


Now showing

The Martian

Cert: 12A

Space has become a very earnest place indeed. Christopher Nolan's bloated Interstellar moaned its way through the galaxy, while Gravity insisted, albeit very stylishly, on keeping knuckles ratchet-tight on seat arms. The less said about Ridley Scott's Prometheus, the better. Why so serious?

A cheery retort was heard in Marvel's 2014 smash Guardians Of The Galaxy, but The Martian, a Castaway-style survival adventure, is a far better example of a smart, reality-nodding sci-fi epic that doesn't have to bear down on the audience with Hans Zimmer organs.

That Scott (a hit-and-miss filmmaker since his Gladiator zenith) has directed something so thoroughly entertaining and deft of touch is a surprise, but a nice one. Matt Damon (inset) is adamantine as Mark Watney, the Nasa scientist presumed dead and left behind on Mars during an emergency evacuation. A canny sort who meets the requisite psychological profile for such a mission, Mark rolls up his sleeves and solves problems until help can arrive.

Chief among these are cultivating food, making contact with Earth and creating water through good old chemistry know-how (if only author Andy Weir and screenwriter Drew Goddard had waited until this week's suspiciously timed announcement about water evidence on the red planet).

It is satisfying to watch the informed methodology of survival being played out by Mark's calm head. Of course, the whole point is to get him off the terracotta dust bowl, so back in Mission Control, Nasa decision makers (Jeff Daniels, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Sean Bean) make the tough calls while Mark's former crew mates (helmed superbly by celestial goddess Jessica Chastain) steel themselves for a return rescue mission. They better hurry - besides the issue of ailing supplies, Mark has only cheesy disco classics to keep him company. The horror!

The stakes are high - it's still space travel, after all - but The Martian is a chipper outing that prefers to tell its galactic derring-do with something akin to a feelgood factor rather than grandiose frowning.


Now showing

The Intern

Cert 12A

The Intern is one of those films that divides critics, and divides audiences  even more. There are lots of ways to take a pop at it, I found the swoopy manipulative score more annoying than anything, but the basic fact is that it is enormously watchable and many people will really enjoy it.

Ben Whittaker (Robert De Niro) is a retired widower who, despite his best efforts to lead a fulfilling life as a retiree, is bored. He applies for a senior intern programme at a thriving online fashion outlet and is assigned to the outlet founder Jules Ostin (Anne Hathaway).

Jules, neither keen on the programme nor on having an intern, is less than charmed by the idea, but everyone else falls for Ben who proves invaluable in all kinds of ways. And of course, Jules will too.

Nancy Meyers (It's Complicated and Something's Gotta Give) writes and directs and squeezes interesting ideas into the film.

Apart from dealing with assumptions the young make about the old, it deals with the conflicts of working mothers, and Jules gets an added conflict with her husband (Anders Holm).

There are lots of inherent contradictions in the film - why is this professed feminist seeking to pander to old ways? Why is she seeking the answer from a man? But is this not the very contradiction that creates the conflict? None of the issues are done in depth, however, and the solutions are pat.

There are some scenes that feel contrived - the laptop heist for instance - and it gets schmaltzy at times. But overall, as a comedy drama of this type, it works. I also felt that De Niro was better than I have seen him for a long time and it was lovely to see Rene Russo as his love interest, if not often enough. All generations of fans of nice, gentle, amusing films will find much to like.


Now Showing

Miss You Already

Cert: 15A

"A shamelessly emotional button-pusher" read one review of Morwenna Banks' 2013 radio play Goodbye, in which the UK writer charted the effect on a friendship of cancer. Banks clearly tweaked the script to emerge with Miss You Already, which does a good job of laying the lesser -discussed issues surrounding breast cancer on the table.

This is a welcome project and one that will have a biting resonance with anyone affected by cancer in general, (which, in Ireland, is most of us). Toni Collette - brilliant wherever she pops up, be it big-budget fare (The Sixth Sense) or shoestring indie (Glassland) - is Milly, the victim. Jess (Drew Barrymore) is her life-long best friend, even if their lives have taken different courses. Milly is a snazzy London PR agent with the entrepreneur husband (Dominic Cooper) and adoring little ones, while the more frumpy Jess lives on a barge and is trying for a baby with hubby Paddy Considine.

The reverberations of the diagnosis are measured out through the drama like an NHS public service ad, which works better than you'd think. It gets a little corny at times - there is one cringey interlude involving REM's Everybody Hurts - but it's admirable how much Banks and director Catherine Hardwicke cover with the well-drawn characters; the toll taken on dignity, femininity, romance, not to mention blurry areas such as victim selfishness and the consuming effect on supporters.


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