Ondine


Ondine

Not only must Colin Farrell carry the film, he also has to carry Alison Barry without any help from Alicja Bachelda.

 

(2009) Romantic Fantasy (Magnolia) Colin Farrell, Stephen Rea, Alicja Bachelda, Tony Curran, Dervla Kirwan, Tom Archdeacon, Emil Hostina, Norma Sheahan, Alison Barry, Conor Power, Olwyn Hanley, Peter Gowen, Don Wycherley, Gertrude Montgomery, Reese O’Shea. Directed by Neil Jordan

 

The sea gives up its secrets begrudgingly, although off the Emerald coasts of Ireland there is a certain magic in those secrets. Where despair and disappointment may reign over the waves, hope can carry the day.

Syracuse (Farrell) – known as Circus to one and all in the village in which he lives – is a decidedly unsuccessful fisherman trying to eke out a living from the sea, all the while dealing with his daughter Annie’s (Barry) debilitating and serious kidney ailment (which confines her to a wheelchair), his wife Maura (Kirwan) who has taken up with another man, and his own alcoholism which he has been trying desperately to beat.

Out for another disappointing day of failure, Syracuse brings up in his nets a woman, who calls herself Ondine (Bachelda). What she was doing in the middle of the ocean she can’t or won’t say, and she begs Syracuse not to let any other souls in the village see her save himself. He is mystified but puts her up in his late mother’s cottage.

Annie, being a smart and inquisitive little girl, discovers Ondine’s existence and decides that she’s a selkie, a creature of Irish myth that is half woman, half seal. Ondine appears to have some magical properties going on – when she sings, fish almost leap into Syracuse’s net. At last he is beginning to make more than a living, helping pay for his daughter’s dialysis and treatment.

But there is a mysterious man (Hostina) searching for Ondine and when tragedy strikes, everything Syracuse knows or thinks he knows may well be put to the test.

Jordan is an Irish director with an impressive resume, including The Company of Wolves, The Crying Game, Mona Lisa, Interview with the Vampire, Michael Collins and The Brave One entered on it. He has a penchant for the fantastic and exercises it here. He also has a good eye for the Irish countryside and utilizing frequent Wong Kar Wei cinematographer Christopher Doyle, he extracts all the misty magic of a small Irish fishing village.

Farrell tends to be at his best when he’s playing ordinary Joes who are flawed. Syracuse isn’t a heroic sort; he’s just trying to do right by his daughter and often doesn’t even manage that. He’s nowhere near as smart as his daughter and often defers to her judgment which is the kind of thing that makes me want to bang my head against the nearest brick wall.

Barry may well be a terrific juvenile actress but she’s handed a part here that lands her on my list of pet peeves – the overly precocious child who is smarter and more capable than the adults around her. This serves to make Annie annoying to the point that I’d have preferred long acrylic fingernails screeching over a chalkboard than listening to her talk. That’s not the fault of the actress but of the writer. A more realistic child would have improved the movie 1000 times.

The center of the film is the romance between Syracuse and Ondine. Bachelda, a Polish actress (by way of Mexico where she grew up) is certainly beautiful and has wonderful legs which she displays regularly. She also has, more crucially, actual chemistry with Farrell so their budding romance becomes believable and even encouraged by the viewer who wants to see the together – the watermark of any romantic film.

Some may compare this conceptually to Splash and there are certainly similarities, but whereas Madison in that film was always known to be a mermaid, Ondine remains an is-she-or-isn’t-she until the very final reel which is smart filmmaking. However, the plot takes an unnecessary left turn from gentle romantic fantasy into action thriller for the last twenty minutes or so before returning for the last couple of scenes to the romantic fantasy again. Quite frankly the romantic fantasy works better.

I liked the laidback, dreamy vibe of the movie and Farrell’s IFTA-winning performance (the Irish Film and Television Awards are kind of a cross between the Oscars and Emmy’s in Ireland), as well as Bachelda’s legs and chemistry with Farrell. Kirwan also won an IFTA for her role as Farrell’s estranged wife, battling alcohol issues of her own.

This flew under the radar during an American theatrical release in art houses in the spring of 2010 but is out there on the Showtime/The Movie Channel if you want to catch it on cable, or available for streaming generally everywhere. It makes for a nice romantic evening’s viewing, especially for those who carry an affection for Ireland and all things Irish.

WHY RENT THIS: Gorgeous cinematography and a nice melding of Irish folklore and modern rural Ireland. Fine performances from Farrell, Bachelda, Kirwan and Barry.

WHY RENT SOMETHING ELSE: The ending is a bit disappointing. Annie is part of a long line of precocious and annoying movie kids.

FAMILY VALUES: There are some words you might not want your kids to hear, as well as a bit of sensuality and a scene or two of violence.

TRIVIAL PURSUIT: Farrell and Bachelda

NOTABLE DVD EXTRAS: None listed.

BOX OFFICE PERFORMANCE: $1.6M on a $12M production budget; it failed to recoup its production costs during its theatrical run.

FINAL RATING: 7/10

TOMORROW: Arthur (2011)

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Underworld Awakening


Underworld Awakening

Selene can be a real bitch when she doesn't get her morning coffee

(2012) Horror Action (Screen Gems) Kate Beckinsale, Stephen Rea, Michael Ealy, Theo James, India Eisley, Charles Dance, Sandrine Holt, Kris Holden-Ried, Jacob Blair, Catlin Adams, Wes Bentley, Adam  Greydon Reid, Robert Lawrenson. Directed by Mans Marlind and Bjorn Stein

 

Things change, especially in a movie universe. The vampires and the Lycans (Underworld-speak for werewolves) are no longer existing in a vacuum where the humans are oblivious to their presence. The secret is out, and as humans will do when confronted with new things a genocidal war is in full swing and the humans are winning.

Selene and her half-vampire half-Lycan lover Michael (Scott Speedman in archival footage but he doesn’t actually appear in the new film – an uncredited stand-in took his spot for several scenes in the movie) see the graffiti on the wall and figure to get out of Dodge but it doesn’t work out quite the way it’s supposed to and she is captured by humans and put into cryo-stasis.

Twelve years pass and an unknown party rescues Selene from her frozen sleep. The former Death Dealer is out in a world she doesn’t know, and not particularly well-liked by the vampire coven that finds her, as leader Thomas (Dance) says, to be someone untrustworthy, who has chosen humans over her own kind every time. However his son David (James) is a bit more supportive and a bit more aggressive than dear old dad.

Selene has a lot to deal with. Not only is she in a brand new world with a dead lover, she also has a daughter who is known as Eve (Eisley) but is also known as Subject 2 at Anti-gen, the mega-corporation that held Selene in stasis. It seems that Dr. Jacob Lane (Lea), the head honcho over at Anti-gen, was experimenting on finding a cure for vampirism and lycanthropy, or at least that’s the story. It turns out he has a much different agenda in mind, one which Eve figures in quite a bit. The icy Selene has never particularly had a ton of maternal instincts but her hybrid daughter seems to be stirring those to life – and the fact that rescuing Eve will piss off her enemies mightily is just an added bonus.

Beckinsale is actually an accomplished actress (if you haven’t seen her in Snow Angels by all means do) who is also an accomplished action heroine. The fact that she’s pretty hot in her catsuit, bustier and long leather coat doesn’t hurt either. She kind of goes through the motions here, but with the digitally-enhanced cobalt blue eyes she looks pretty good at least.

James makes for a pretty decent hunkazoid and gives the film a certain flair. He is coming into an established film universe that is actually pretty well drawn out, four films in. We kind of know what to expect more or less. That works for and against the movie; there’s a certain comfort in that but there’s also a certain amount of “been there done that.”

Still, the action works although the CGI Lycans tend to look like CGI Lycans. It’s a fun universe to play in and it’s good to see Beckinsale in it again (she missed the 3rd movie which was more of a prequel). Not the best action movie you’ll see this year – it’s not even the best movie in the series, but it’s adequate for the needs of most action fans – fun and not too complicated.

REASONS TO GO: Beckinsale is a terrific action heroine. The Lycan/Vampire world is well-drawn.

REASONS TO STAY: Plot is confusing and the suspense is non-existent.  

FAMILY VALUES: There is a lot of violence, a bit of gore, some horrific images and a few choice words here and there.

TRIVIAL PURSUIT: This is the first film in the series in which either Bill Nighy, Michael Sheen or both weren’t in the cast.

CRITICAL MASS: As of 1/26/12: Rotten Tomatoes: 30% positive reviews. Metacritic: 39/100. The reviews are pretty bad.

COMPARISON SHOPPING: Resident Evil

CATSUIT LOVERS: Kate Beckinsale still looks plenty awesome in one.

FINAL RATING: 6/10

TOMORROW: Gangs of New York

New Releases for the Week of January 20, 2012


January 20, 2012

UNDERWORLD AWAKENING

(Screen Gems) Kate Beckinsale, Stephen Rea, Michael Ealy, Theo James, India Eisley, Sandrine Holt, Charles Dance, Kris Holden-Ried. Directed by Mats Mjarlind and Bjorn Stein

Selene, the warrior vampire from the first two Underworld movies, returns for the fourth and we have sorely missed her. She has an excuse however – she was captured by humans and placed in suspended animation, which sounds like Pixar in detention. Bad puns aside, she escapes and discovers that the humans have discovered the existence of the vampires and the Lycans and has entered into a war into the both of them – and is winning. However, there’s a new player in the game, one that threatens to wipe out everybody – and a little girl is the key to it all, a little girl under Selene’s protection.

See the trailer, interviews and a clip here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: Standard, 3D, IMAX 3D

Genre: Horror Action

Rating: R (for strong violence and gore, and for some language)

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close

(Warner Brothers) Tom Hanks, Sandra Bullock, Thomas Horn, Max von Sydow. An inventive, imaginative 11-year-old boy’s world is shattered when his father dies in the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001. He finds a key in his father’s belongs and becomes convinced that the key unlocks something of great significance to his dad. Therefore, he goes on a quest to find the lock that the key opens and along the way will find others with broken hearts in need of healing just like him. I don’t often cry during trailers but I did during this one.

See the trailer here.

For more on the movie this is the website

Release formats: Standard

Genre: Drama

Rating: PG-13 (for emotional thematic material, some disturbing images and language)

Haywire

(Relativity) Gina Carano, Ewan McGregor, Michael Douglas, Antonio Banderas.  A highly trained CIA operative is sent on what appears to be a routine mission mostly acting as arm candy for another agent. However when that other agent tries to kill her, she realizes that she’s been betrayed by someone at the agency close to her. She has to go out on her own in order to find out who’s behind it and get them before they get her. MMA star Carano makes her film debut in the latest from prolific Oscar-nominated director Steven Soderbergh.

See the trailer, clips and web-only content here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: Standard

Genre: Action

Rating: R (for some violence)

 

Red Tails

(20th Century Fox) Cuba Gooding Jr., Terrence Howard, Bryan Cranston, Nate Parker. This is the story of the Tuskegee Airmen, a squadron of African American fighters during World War II who not only had to fight the Nazis but the U.S. Army as well who didn’t believe they had the ability to be fighter pilots. As it turned out, they were one of the most decorated squadrons of the war, with more enemy kills than almost anybody else.

See the trailer here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: Standard

Genre: War Drama

Rating: PG-13 (for some sequences of war violence)

Stuck


Mena Suvari in Stuck

Mena Suvari suddenly realizes the best part of her career may be behind her.

(THINKfilm) Mena Suvari, Stephen Rea, Russell Hornsby, Rukiya Bernard, Carolyn Purdy-Gordon, Lionel Mark Smith, Wayne Robson. Directed by Stuart Gordon

We love the catharsis of a good horror movie because it allows us to exorcise our inner demons safely. The reason we have inner demons, however, is because real life can be far more horrific than any movie.

Brandi Boski (Suvari) is a sweet-natured nursing assistant at a care facility for the elderly. She is so compassionate that the sometimes hostile residents, particularly the increasingly demented Mr. Binckley (Robson) want her to tend to them exclusively. That hasn’t escaped the notice of the shrewish facility director Ms. Peterson (Purdy-Gordon), who tells Brandi she is up for a promotion.

On the other end of the spectrum is Thomas Bardo (Rea), a man who is hitting bottom. Laid off from his job as a project manager, he has been unable to find work and is being evicted from his apartment. He is trying to get unemployment benefits at a faceless agency but his application has been lost. Rather than trying to help, the faceless drones force the penniless Bardo to pay for their mistake by filling out the forms all over again and waiting for yet another appointment. With the kind of long-suffering sigh that actor Rea is a master at, he walks off to the local park to find a bench to sleep on, although even that is denied him by a pitiless cop who orders him to hoof it to the mission across town – on incongruously named Hope Street.

Meanwhile, Brandi has been partying with a Tanya (Bernard), a sympathetic co-worker who has been the target of Ms. Peterson’s wrath and her drug-dealing boyfriend Rashid (Hornsby) who has been plying both women with alcohol and X. Even though she’s reeeeeally intoxicated, Brandi elects to drive home – after all, she has to work the next day.

As Bardo trudges towards Hope Street pushing a shopping cart left by a sympathetic homeless man named Sam (Smith) that carries his few belongings, Brandi is on her cell phone calling her boyfriend…you know, the one she just left at the bar. You know the two are going to meet and when they do, it will be with a bang. The distracted, inebriated Brandi hits Bardo head on and he plunges through the windshield.

As you might guess from a white girl wearing cornrows, she panics and after getting spooked trying to drop off her unwanted passenger – who is still alive, miraculously – at the hospital, drives home and parks her bloody car in the garage. When her boyfriend arrives, she chooses not to tell him more than that she’d been in an accident and spends the night having sex with him over a loud rap soundtrack.

As the next day arrives Brandi thinks that by letting Bardo expire naturally, she can then convince her boyfriend to get rid of the body after dark but since Bardo stubbornly refuses to die, she must consider other options, some far more dark than the one she’s already chosen.

This is based on an actual incident, in which a Texas woman named Chante Jawan Mallard struck a homeless man with her car and drove him to her garage and left him to die, although coroners would later say that he could have been saved had she just called for help. Her victim actually died within an hour or two of the impact, while Bardo survives for a great deal longer despite horrific injuries.

Director Gordon is responsible for some excellent cult movies dating back to the 1980s. Stylistically, he is known for a very dark sense of humor – think of the term “black comedy” and multiply it times a thousand here. For example, while Bardo suffers in agony in the garage, a local dog finds its way in and decides to chow down on a bone – one of Bardo’s, sticking out from his leg. It’s the kind of thing you laugh at then wince at then wonder how sick you are to have found it funny.

Suvari, who has come a long way from the American Pie movies, does a reasonable job in Stuck. She plays a character that has a veneer of compassion but it deserts her when her comfort is threatened. She’s not evil per se, but self-centered to the point of psychosis. I thought the movie would have worked a little bit better if Brandi had been a little more likable, but perhaps it might not have been possible to paint the character that way without making her actions completely unbelievable so I guess it will have to do. As it stands other than Bardo and Sam, nearly everyone in the movie is completely self-absorbed.

Rea, so good in movies like The Crying Game and V for Vendetta has the hangdog look that befits the character. Given the fact that he spends most of the movie impaled on the windscreen with little to do but moan and rage at the heavens, he makes this movie work. While he isn’t like a Michael Myers or Jason Voorhees, he does take a licking and keep on ticking leading to a conclusion that is extraordinarily bloody but nonetheless satisfying.

This is not a laugh out loud funny joke-fest but it could be classified as a comedy. It doesn’t keep you on the edge of your seat but it could be counted as a thriller. There are no major scares but it certainly might be found in the horror section of your home video emporium. The fact is, it fulfills the criteria for each genre quite nicely and manages to be quite a good little movie that escaped under the radar. It is certainly worth a rental.

WHY RENT THIS: Gordon is a splendid director who knows a thing or two about ratcheting up the tension level. A not so thinly veiled commentary on the state of the American people – self-absorbed to the point of psychosis.

WHY RENT SOMETHING ELSE: Suvari’s character is so loathsome that it is difficult for the audience to get behind her, which might have elevated the film a bit had we been able to.

FAMILY VALUES: There is a good deal of violence, some fairly horrific, much nudity and sex and some drug usage. As you can see, not terribly appropriate for the kiddies.

TRIVIAL PURSUIT: Director Gordon appears in a cameo as a resident carrying a bag of groceries who gets yelled at by Rashid’s girlfriend.

NOTABLE DVD EXTRAS: On the Blu-Ray edition, there’s a feature that touches somewhat in-depth on the incident that inspired the movie. Note that on the DVD edition, there are no extras whatsoever, not even a commentary track.

FINAL RATING: 7/10

TOMORROW: Final Day of Six Days of Darkness