Tuesday 22 October 2019

Movie reviews: How to be Single - there are some funny moments

How to be Single Cert 15A

It's complicated: Leslie Mann and Dakota Johnson negotiate romance and the city in 'How to Be Single'.
It's complicated: Leslie Mann and Dakota Johnson negotiate romance and the city in 'How to Be Single'.
Migrant Kerryman Patrick O'Neill.
Oddly brilliant: Richard Jenkins and Kurt Russell.

Aine O'Connor and Hilary A White

Reviewed this week are How to be Single, Freeheld, The Uncountable Laughter of the sea, Bone Tomahawk and The Finest Hours.

The target demographic for How to Be Single is not long-married oul' ones. It is the 20-something, mostly female and occasionally unattached audience who relate to the protagonists of the film. The message of sorts is about finding yourself before you find anyone else. It aims to be a subversive take on the romcom and although the tone is uneven and borderline weird at times, the cast is good and there are some laughs and the target audience will have fun.

Alice (Dakota Johnson) finishes college and decides she needs some time alone from her long-term boyfriend to discover who she really is. As soon as she arrives in (a very nice version of) New York, she meets Robin (Rebel Wilson), a wild, free, sexually successful party girl who introduces her to Tom (Anders Holm), a slutty barman with attachment issues. Tom, peculiarly mentors both Alice in her search for complication free sex and serial husband seeker Lucy (Alison Brie). Alice is staying with her sister Meg (Leslie Mann) a doctor who is studiously anti-relationship and procreation, until she isn't.

With a few extra men, Damon Wayans Jr, Jake Lacy and Nicholas Braun they all conduct different versions of experiments in singledom and relationships.

Rebel Wilson is now effectively typecast and how you feel about the type will influence how funny you find her.

Johnson is an appealing lead and although the message is mixed and some of the scenes are awkwardly badly written, it holds together fine over two hours and there are funny moments. 2 Stars


Now showing


Cert 15A 

The subject matter of Freeheld feels like an interesting marker of progress to a post-marriage equality Irish eye, but it is a lot more potent in its native United States where liberalism and conservatism are more at loggerheads than ever.

However while it tells an important and interesting story, the manner in which director Peter Sollett and writer Ron Nyswaner do so is plodding and emotionally over-egged.

Oddly, despite the lesbian-led narrative and two very good performances from the female leads, it is a straight male character who steals the show.

To be fair, Michael Shannon is having a quietly golden moment and has been stealing a few shows lately.

 In Freeheld he plays Detective Dane Wells, the long-term partner of Det.  Laurel Hester (Julianne Moore), one of the few women who have not fallen for his charms.

He is surprised to discover the reason for this when, in her  40s and very much in love with 20-something Stacie (Ellen Page), Hester comes out. Annoyed at not having been confided to, Wells gets the best character arc coming around to fight for Hester when, dying of cancer, she is denied the right to transfer her pension to Stacie because of their sexuality. 

As Laurel and Stacie deal with illness and try to fight for the same rights as straight couples, Wells joins forces with super camp gay rights activist Steven Goldstein (Steve

Carrell) to become a reluctant hero.

Half love story, half kind of courtroom drama, over-egging the emotion in the film diminishes the story’s emotional richness. So, three stars for story rather than delivery. 3 Stars


Now Showing

The Uncountable Laughter of the sea

Cert: Online

Migrant Kerryman Patrick O'Neill.

Not content with placing an unforgettable full-stop on the third highest grossing film of all time, the Skelligs and Kerry at large get another rich outing on the big screen. While The Force Awakens depicted the iconic ocean peaks as an otherworldly setting, this startlingly beautiful meditation on man and nature goes for a more earthy brand of mysticism.

Migrant Kerryman Patrick O’Neill (above, among other things, a filmmaker, poet and musician) and co-director Paris Kain chose Fr Pádraig Ó Fiannachta as a tourguide through nature’s magnetism and healing powers. Now in his 89th year, the eminent and decorated linguist, scholar and poet is a much celebrated spiritualist who has dedicated his life to the simple values of beauty, language and light. Quite a find in terms of a film subject.

Ó Fiannachta puts things to us and lets them settle amid wild visual wonders. Why can’t we learn to be content with less? If consolation and serenity are to be found in nature, why have we reached a “tipping point” through our disconnect from it? The words are softly uttered by a voice as unshakeable and weathered as the Dingle Peninsula itself.

Gaelic poems and Latin benedictions, gently subtitled, waft over the spacious, wide-screen views. Drone footage gives a dragonfly’s perspective through mossy woodlands and ancient ruins where Ó Fiannachta himself might walk in contemplation. There are sensual, sweeping vistas taken from helicopter and drone over the Killarney Lakes and rugged sea cliffs, but also finely detailed macro shots of butterflies or clouds of pulverised stone wafting off the end of a sculptor’s chisel. Cristiano Casone’s cinematography gives pride of place to that uniquely western Irish species of light.

There may be no discernible narrative in The Uncountable… but that is not really the point here. This is an hour-long immersion into something ethereal, woozy and visually unforgettable. A meditative film up there with Baraka.  4 Stars



Bone Tomahawk

Cert: 18

Oddly brilliant: Richard Jenkins and Kurt Russell.

Oddly brilliant: Richard Jenkins and Kurt Russell.

In keeping with the idea that the best use for Kurt Russell these days is in talky, blood-letting westerns, Bone Tomahawk would appear to be a familiar proposition for anyone who survived Tarantino’s bloated The Hateful Eight. Writer-director-polymath S Craig Zahler’s film outdoes Tarantino both for absurdism and gore, it is far superior.

Playing out like some kind of high-class B-movie genre clash (offbeat Coens-esque dialogue, period western setpieces, a sharp swerve into body horror and wilderness dread), Zahler’s debut is certainly not for the faint-hearted despite its relatively frivolous tones early on.

Still sporting his Hateful Eight handlebar, Russell plays Sheriff Hunt, called to the village saloon one night when a bedraggled stranger (David Arquette) turns up and unsettles the peace in the sleepy outpost.

Once the drifter is behind bars and night has fallen, the town doctor (Lili Simmons) and a young deputy are mysteriously kidnapped. It turns out to be the work of a savage, cannibalistic tribe of natives (referred to only as “troglodytes”). Hunt sets out with his doddery remaining deputy, Chicory (the ever-brilliant Richard Jenkins), the doctor’s injured husband (Patrick Wilson) and a dapper fast-shooting playboy (Lost’s Matthew Fox).

Off they ride into the heart of prairie darkness on a rescue mission, a journey as beset with misfortune as it is with wry wit.

 Awaiting them at their destination is some of

the most laughably shocking movie gore you’ll see this year.

 That it still somehow feels an essential part of the overall tapestry is incredible, and part of the reason Zahler is a talent to watch closely.

Bonkers, bloody and oddly brilliant, this is destined to have a long and fruitful cult life ahead of it. 4 Stars


In selected cinemas

The Finest Hours

Cert 12A

There are lots of films about heroes but strangely few about the heroes who save lives at sea.

The Finest Hours sets out to change that, documenting the largest small boat sea rescue in the history of the US Coast Guard and, in a way, honouring coastal rescue teams across the world (such as those who do it on a voluntary basis in Ireland.)

 It’s a simple story, well told and delivered. A family film that although being schmaltzy in places, manages to create a good sense of excitement.

Director Craig Gillespie sets out the two sides of a story that will converge in roiling seas. In Massachusetts in 1952 Coast Guard Bernie Webber (Chris Pine) is a youngest son and only brother who missed out on fighting in WW2 and feels a little inadequate.

He is preparing to marry modern woman and switchboard operator Miriam (Holliday Grainger) when an enormous storm hits and Bernie is called upon. Out at sea an oil tanker is snapped in half by the storm and half the crew is left on a powerless ship. They reluctantly agree to accept the unorthodox plan of Ray Sybert (Casey Affleck), a man they don’t like, but trust.

It’s a Disney movie about heroism. There are sweeping strings and a clean cut, cigarette and swearing-free environment. But the emotion of the piece is honest, the performances solid and the special effects great. Not a truly great film, but a really nice one. 3 Stars


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