Tuesday 10 December 2019

Movie reviews - Say When, Leviathan, Interstellar

Keira Knightley stars as likeable twenty-something Megan in Lynn Shelton’s rom-com ‘Say When’
Keira Knightley stars as likeable twenty-something Megan in Lynn Shelton’s rom-com ‘Say When’
Interstellar

In director Lynn Shelton's romcom, Say When (15A), Keira Knightley plays a likeable late twenty-something who has lost her way in life.

There are times during the opening of this uneven piece when you could be forgiven for thinking that art is imitating life. Knightley is a bona fide star and continues to exude a striking screen presence, but on the evidence of this thinly disguised attempt to package her as Hollywood's next romcom queen, she lacks the facility for funny required.

Knightley takes the central role of Megan, a Seattle-based woman whose life is lacking in anything that could be understood as forward momentum. Jobless, she still runs with the same circle of friends she knew in high school.

Unfortunately, this circle is now mostly populated with squares, none more so than her nice but dull, live-in boyfriend Anthony (Mark Webber). The latter's marriage proposal prompts a runaway fiance situation that involves her crossing paths with a punky teen, Annika (Chloe Grace Moretz). Annika brings Megan home and offers her shelter from the status quo for a week. Annika's Dad (Sam Rockwell) is a little dubious but, separated and lonely, he's not exactly in a hurry to show his daughter's new best friend the door. Sparks soon fly.

The pace picks up whenever Rockwell is on screen and positives also include the strong impression made by Chloe Grace Moretz. Plot implausibilities and Knightley's comedic deficiencies, however, ensure that proceedings never move much beyond the passable.      

Now showing.

Padraic McKiernan

Leviathan

Cert Club

All is not well in Russia, according to less-than-chipper writer/director Andrey Zvyagintsev. Just as the chill of winter makes its acquaintance with us, Zvyagintsev hits us with the feel-bad hit of the year, 140-minutes of wide-angled dramatic rumination on the functional rot at the core of Russian society.

Yes, were it not for some robust acting turns, quaking cinematography and a Cannes -winning screenplay, Leviathan could be something of a hard sell. Nodding loosely at the Book Of Job, it stands back and observes the dog-eat-dog injustice that goes hand-in-hand with corruption with an eye as cold as the bewitching Murmansk coast on which it was filmed.

Nothing is simple in this remote peninsula. Kolya (Aleksei Serebryakov) is being leaned on to sell his land by crooked local mayor Roman Madyanov. Representing him is brotherly friend Dmitri (Vladimir Vdovichenkov) who it turns out is having an affair with Kolya's young wife (Elena Lyadova). She in turn is despised by Kolya's disaffected teenage son. Everything is exacerbated by liberal glugs of vodka and there is nowhere to turn to from the dodgy dealings taking place, both in chamber offices (under the glare of Putin portraits), or out in the cold wastes at the hands of hired thugs.

Bookending the tale are ghostly calm shots of wrecked boats and whale skeletons, Zvyagintsev's searing way of saying plus ça change. Now showing.

Hilary A White

Interstellar

Cert: 12A

It's often the problem with space based science-fiction epics. The backdrop may well be zero gravity but all too often the lasting impression is one of zero gravitas. That's certainly not a criticism that can be aimed in the direction of Christopher Nolan's (The Dark Night trilogy) sci-fi spectacular Interstellar. Featuring a star-spangled cast that includes Matthew McConaughey, Anne Hathaway and Michael Caine, a borderline impenetrable script prevents it from scoring a direct hit but this ambitious and visually mesmeric affair isn't lacking in wow factor.

A dramatic opening introduces us to a future world where the end has never been more nigh. Planet Earth shows all the signs of having given up the ghost. Apocalyptic dust clouds stalk the Great Plains of America and the systematic failure and eventual extinction of crops means humanity's survival is on the line.

Former ace astronaut Cooper (McConaughey) has taken to the land to feed his family but he hasn't completely lost his nose for scientific inquiry. It leads him to stumble upon the site of a top-secret, multi-million dollar programme aimed at saving humanity from imminent extinction. Faster than you can say move-over Captain Kirk, he's embarking on the space odyssey to end all space odysseys. A wormhole has been discovered that project leader Dr Brand (Caine) believes could lead to a galaxy that contains at least one planet fit for human habitation. I could explain more about the plot but er.. space precludes me. In terms of themes considered, imagine Shakespeare in space and you're well on the way to knowing what to expect from this thinking person's popcorn flick.

Interstellar needs to be seen on the biggest screen you can get your eyes on for maximum impact. The storyline involving Cooper's attempt to be reunited with his family convinces but negatives include a portentous script that requires a working knowledge of theoretical physics to properly understand what is going on. Don't sweat the scientific small, sorry, big stuff, however, and it's a case of prepare to be wowed. Now showing.

Padraic McKiernan

Sunday Independent

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