Friday 24 November 2017

Trouble with the neighbours, island horror, and a womaniser in crisis

* Bad Neighbours 2 (16, 92mins), 3 Stars
* Knight of Cups (No cert, IFI, 118mins), 3 Stars
* Evolution (No Cert, IFI, 81mins), 4 Stars
* Robinson Crusoe (PG, 90mins), 2 stars

'Smarter': Zac Efron and Seth Rogen return for more mishaps in 'Bad Neighbours 2'
'Smarter': Zac Efron and Seth Rogen return for more mishaps in 'Bad Neighbours 2'

Paul Whitington

In the original Bad Neighbours, Seth Rogen and Rose Byrne played Mac and Kelly, a couple with a baby who watch with horror as a college fraternity establishes itself next door. Led by their crazy leader Teddy Sanders (Zac Efron), the students start throwing infeasibly wild parties, leading Mac and Kelly to initiate a nasty tit-for-tat war.

It was funny, if a little broad, but the idea of it being stretched into a sequel seemed rash, unwise. Confidently expecting Bad Neighbours 2 to be dreadful, I was pleasantly surprised to find a film that might be slightly messier than the original, but is a good deal smarter too.

Having rid themselves of the dread Delta Psi Beta fraternity, Mac and Kelly are expecting their second child when a college sorority takes over the abandoned home next to them. And though all-girl houses are not allowed throw parties, Kappa Kappa Nu's leader Shelby (Chloe Grace Moretz) is determined to smash that taboo.

Bad Neighbours 2 is a bit all over the place in terms of plotting, but is clever enough not to rehash the Animal House excesses of the original, and instead has fun attacking the sacred cows of political correctness. There are some lovely lines in and among the pratfalls, but it's the comic timing of Mr Rogen, Mr Efron and especially Rose Byrne that makes this film so unexpectedly enjoyable.

When Terrence Malick was restricting himself to about a film every decade, he was the sacred cow of film criticism, a tortured genius whose terror of the limelight only made him all the more lovable. But a recent burst of creativity (three films in five years!) has made us all a lot more blasé about him.

Though its dreamy storytelling troubled some, his 2011 movie Tree of Life was praised by most people who knew anything about cinema. But the meandering excesses of To the Wonder (2012) were hard to defend, and that film seems like a tightly scripted Hitchcock thriller next to this one.

The structure of Knight of Cups seems to have been inspired by tarot cards, and its meandering storyline travels back and forth through the troubled love life and spiritual quandaries of Rick (Christian Bale), a Hollywood screenwriter who doesn't appear to do a lot of work. Instead he woos an array of mysterious beauties (Cate Blanchett, Natalie Portman, Teresa Palmer, Freida Pinto) none of whom turns out to be the one. He should try dating some ugly people.

Rick's existential angst is very hard to care about, and if I were his doctor I'd recommend a swift kick up the arse. But the film is gorgeously photographed and almost hypnotically vague, and isn't it wonderful that someone in Hollywood is making pictures about mystery, faith, and god?

Lucile Hadzihalilovic's Evolution is another mesmerising and mysterious film. On a gloomy-looking volcanic island, a 12-year-old boy called Nicolas (Max Brebant) lives with his mother in a whitewashed house. His friends have similar arrangements, and live on a diet of purple medicine and bowls of grey, worm-like sludge. Nicolas becomes confused when he sees a dead body and a bright red starfish while swimming in the sea, and shortly afterwards he's taken to a ramshackle hospital to began treatments that appear designed to combat the onset of puberty.

Evolution is mysterious and strange and has to be seen to make sense of, but it draws you into its dreamlike world with great skill.

And finally to Robinson Crusoe, a plodding and uninspired Franco-Belgian animation that makes a group of not very interesting animals central to the survival of Daniel Defoe's island castaway. The humour in the film feels a little tired, and has perhaps been lost in translation, and a pair of scheming ship's cats are poor excuses for a proper villain.

Coming soon...

Our Kind of Traitor (Ewan McGregor); Everybody Wants Some! (Blake Jenner); Green Room (Imogen Poots); The Angry Birds Movie (Jason Sudeikis, Sean Penn).

Irish Independent

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