Thursday 14 December 2017

Pacino loses the plot after double dose of Sandler

Aine O'Connor, Hilary A White, Padraig McKiernan

Jack and Jill

Cert: PG

IN Jack and Jill, Al Pacino plays Al Pacino -- a slightly deranged, shouty actor who has lost all sense of himself, but believes the key to his salvation lies with Jill, an underappreciated Bronx gal.

Jill is twin to Jack, a successful ad-maker who desperately needs Al to star in a coffee commercial. He dreads his sister's annual visit to LA but in Al's affection suddenly finds a use for her. His overnice wife Erin (Katie Holmes) does her best to make everyone happy.

There are films that star Adam Sandler but are made by other people, and there are Adam Sandler films that are directed by Dennis Duggan -- Happy Madison films.

The former may have saving graces, the latter not so much because there isn't anyone to dilute the Sandlerishness. Despite Pacino and a ton of cameos including Johnny Depp (all those ill-advised Pirate sequels and now this?), this is double the Adam Sandler as he plays both Jack and Jill. They're almost as prominent as the remarkably overt product placement.

Sandler as Jill overshadows Sandler as Jack and because he is playing a woman as opposed to a man in drag we are spared the hackneyed men-stumbling-in-high-heels gags. It is, however, silly even for Sandler with fart jokes, poo jokes and racial stereotyping. It's not offensive, it is lazy, and watching Pacino play a slightly demented actor, who has lost all sense of himself, felt a little close to the bone.


Now showing

Martha Marcy May Marlene

Cert: 16

MANY filmmakers seem to feel that extreme close-ups add depth or gritty reality. But they just show pores. If anything, they take from dramatic effect and atmosphere. Sean Durkin goes for pore-vision in Martha Marcy May Marlene, but it is a very interesting film.

Elizabeth Olsen plays the title role, who we first meet sneaking out of a rural commune. Leaving seems to be less than simple, when one of her house-mates finds her in a diner he doesn't drag her back -- but does make her flinch. In a hysterical phone call she arranges for her sister Lucy (Sarah Paulson) with whom she has been out of touch, to come and get her, though she doesn't know the name of the town. Martha moves into the rural holiday home Lucy shares with her new husband Ted (Hugh Dancy). She doesn't want to talk about where she has been and often struggles to behave normally. But while a distant fragmented family past is referred to she relives the previous two years via flashbacks. She was living with a semi-cult led by Patrick (John Hawkes) who renamed her Marcy May and which featured the usual mix of megalomaniac, manipulation, sex and sexism.

As the memories progress and her grasp on reality loosens, the audience too struggles to know what is real. Is she suffering PTSD or a personality disorder?

It's slow and atmospheric, the oversaturated colour is an affectation as are the close-ups, and the back story moves more than the plot.

But the performances make it. Hawkes is great as always but Olsen, younger sister of Ashley and Mary-Kate, is fantastic. Her beauty an accident not a feature, her jaded innocence pitch perfect.


Now showing

The Muppets

Cert G

WALTER (Peter Linz) the world's biggest Muppet fan goes on holiday to LA with his brother Gary (Jason Segel) and Gary's long-suffering girlfriend, Mary (Amy Adams.)

They leave Smalltown after some dinky musical numbers and first-stop is the Muppet Theatre to pay homage to Walter's heroes. But the theatre is abandoned and evil oil baron Tex Richman (Chris Cooper) plans not to build a museum as he promises, but to demolish the theatre to drill for oil.

Walter, Gary and Mary must muster the Muppets, now mostly languishing in dusty tribute bands to put on the show that will raise $10m to save the theatre. Rashida Jones is the sceptical TV executive and Miss Piggy the Paris-based magazine editor with Emily Blunt for a secretary.

The story has all the ingredients: a race against the clock, two love stories, a mild identity crisis and suspense from Piggy, song and dance, a snappy script and a few interesting cameos: Selena Gomez and Jack Black, as Animal's Anger Management sponsor who's been kidnapped.

Co-written by Jason Segel and Nicholas Stoller and directed by James Cobin it's sweet, funny, kitsch and faithful to the original -- though it does lack the anarchic spirit that broadened its appeal.

Possibly a little too long it is still a lovely reintroduction to today's kids of what made yesterday's children laugh.


Opens on Friday

Man on a Ledge

Cert 12A

Escaped jailbird Nick Cassidy (Sam Worthington) checks into a smart Manhattan hotel. He orders lobster and champagne before stepping on to his window ledge, 20 storeys up. A crowd swarms below him and very soon Nick is the talk of downtown.

The authorities pander to Nick's requests, one of which is to bring police negotiator Lydia Anderson (Elizabeth Banks) to him. It's not ruining anything to say that Nick is looking to prove a point with all this carry on.

With a nice distraction established and Nick giving the coppers plenty of rope, his brother (Jamie Bell) and partner (Genesis Rodriguez) are meanwhile staging a break-in at a high-security vault to seize something of high importance to Nick.

This crafty, hi-tech robbery is really the business end of Man on a Ledge. Nick's toing and froing negotiations from high up start to wear thin and the initial intrigue and nerves of his lofty location is neutralised when the big picture is revealed to us.

Worthington is nothing special for such a potentially high-tension lead role; he's prone to forced expression and his US accent regularly lapses back into his native Aussie. Bell is better as the whip-smart brother, as are Banks and nasty business leader Ed Harris. Rodriguez, however, was unashamedly cast for totty factor.

Director Asger Leth did sterling work on the Haitian gangster documentary Ghosts of Cite Soleil, and in this dramatic directorial debut he transmutes that sense of "city as jungle" well, with roving rooftop shots and shrill, unexpected noises. He does shift us to the edge of our seats, but, alas, fails to keep us there.


Now showing

Big Miracle

Cert PG

YOU don't need to be a Free Willy fanboy to know that whales have been conspicuous by their absence from our screens of late. The box-office bonanza delivered by dancing penguins would suggest that Hollywood's love affair with leviathans was a thing of the past but director Ken Kwapis' whale-tale, Big Miracle, can be seen as an attempt to rekindle that romance.

Inspired by a true story, this enjoyable family-friendly feature starring Drew Barrymore and John Krasinski revolves around the plight of a family of three migrating grey whales who became trapped by the encroaching ice-caps in Alaska in 1988 (so much for climate change).

Krasinski plays an Anchorage-based reporter and network news wannabe who's in town to file some puff pieces. Opportunity knocks, however, when he happens upon the stranded whales and the footage broadcast touches a nerve with viewers.

What starts as a local phenomenon soon goes the Eighties equivalent of viral and, pretty soon, the eyes of the world are on this isolated one-husky town. Besides the world's media, arrivals on the ice include a Greenpeace activist (Barrymore) while nostalgia junkies will enjoy the appearance of ex-Cheers bartender Ted Danson as an oil company mogul who sees the whales' tale as a stepping stone towards some positive PR. All concerned join forces with a Russian ice-breaker in a frantic race against time to save the whales. Likeable central performances, together with the director's engaging lightness of touch helps maintain momentum but a misfiring conclusion detracts somewhat from the overall impact. Heartstrings are targeted and it's clear the makers want us blubbing about this blubber but the hoped for closing emotional crescendo doesn't really happen. Maybe, if they could have got them to dance...


Opens on Friday

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