Not the Messiah, but pretty naughty indeed
A LIAR’S AUTOBIOGRAPHY: THE UNTRUE STORY OF MONTY PYTHON’S GRAHAM CHAPMAN Directed by Bill Jones, Jeff Simpson and Ben Timlett. Featuring Graham Chapman, John Cleese, Carol Cleveland, Cameron Diaz, Terry Gilliam, Terry Jones, Michael Palin Club, IFI, Dublin, 85 min Even the most ardent admirers of the Monty Python milieu (those folks who’ll fight to the death defending the relative merits of season four) will admit to longueurs between dead parrots and tinned monarchs. To these die-hard fans, we say “Behold; An animated version of Graham Chapman’s wilfully barmy demi-semi-autobiography”. virtues and the demerits of the source material. Hooper’s much-touted Big Idea was to have the actors sing live on set. The gamble has, for the most part, paid off. Jackman is solid as the ex-convict pursued through 19th-century France by Crowe’s melodically uncertain cop. Hathaway chews her part into pieces. Seyfried can do nothing with the weedy Cosette. Unfortunately, it loses steam in the second act. 12A cert, gen release, 158 min LIFE OF PI Directed by Ang Lee. Starring Suraj Sharma, Irrfan Khan Against the odds, Lee manages to make something genuinely magical of Yann Martel’s allegorical novel concerning a young man trapped in a lifeboat with a Bengal tiger. The “spiritual” subtexts are a bit cosy and unthreatening, But Lee, as ever, invests the tale with real emotional punch. The computergenerated imagery strays into the fantastic for a purpose and, for once, the 3D is used to very good effect. A beautiful, touching piece of work. PG cert, gen release, 127 min
Chapman, the star of Monty Python and the Holy Grail and Life of Brian, died in 1989, but not before recording some of the mostly made-up details of his life. Openly gay and secretly alcoholic, Chapman gives an amusing account of coming out as a “raging poof” but is generally happy to pedal lies and lines from a miserable childhood: “Will you shut up about the bloody haddock!”
Three directors, most of the remaining Pythons (Eric Idle was a no-show) and 14 animation studios were involved in translating this pleasing nonsense into a 3D movie. Archival inserts allow for the Spanish Inquisition to intrude unexpectedly and a rousing blast of Sit on My Face. In an inspired piece of vocal casting, LINCOLN Directed by Steven Spielberg. Starring Daniel Day-Lewis, Sally Field, David Strathairn, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, James Spader, Hal Holbrook, Tommy Lee Jones, John Hawkes, Jackie Earle Haley, Jared Harris In his sober study of the 16th US president, Spielberg shuns battlefield heroics for an examination of the machinations required to pilot the emancipation amendment through congress. Day-Lewis is spookily impressive in the lead role. The complex story is explained with admirable lucidity. There are, perhaps, a few too many conversations in shaded corners, and John Williams’s score is unacceptably intrusive. But this remains a compelling and moving treatment of twisty material. 12A cert, gen release, 151 min McCULLIN Directed by Jacqui Morris, David Morris In this documentary, distinguished English war photographer Don McCullin is revealed as a clear, compassionate thinker who long ago shook off any silly illusions about the job or lofty notions about art. Cameron Diaz plays Sigmund Freud.
Unhappily, the results are a frightful mess. There are some neat ideas in cartoon form – the early Pythons as poo-throwing monkeys is surely apt – but too often the artwork is crudely basic or just plain weird.
Interesting details that might actually pertain to Chapman’s life are soon lost in the surreal witterings and Yellow-Pack Submarine visuals.
Suffice to say, it’s not the reunion we might have hoped for Messrs Cleese, Gilliam, Jones and Palin, and it doesn’t quite cut it as a Python primer. The season four defenders will, nonetheless, fall off their panto horses. Let’s leave them to it. Featuring lengthy contributions from its subject, the film answers most of the questions you want asked. Did McCullin ever assist the victims in his photographs? (Yes.) Was he ever seriously frightened? (Eventually.) Were the authorities angered by his snaps? (Frequently.) Club, Triskel, Cork; Light House, Dublin, 90 min MONSTERS INC 3D Directed by Pete Docter. Voices of John Goodman, Billy Crystal, Steve Buscemi, James Coburn, Jennifer Tilly Monsters frighten kids. Kids frighten monsters even more. Receiving a welcome reissue in unwelcome 3D, the fourth film from Pixar (a prequel arrives later this year) stands up well, but it does look a little like a transitional work. It’s not quite as funny as Finding Nemo. It’s not quite as touching as the first two Toy Story films. Still, it remains a minor marvel. G cert, gen release, 92 min MOVIE 43 16 cert, gen release, 90 min No review; not previewed for critics NEW RELEASE NO 15A cert, IFI/Light House, Dublin, 117 min See review, page 13 PARENTAL GUIDANCE Directed by Andy Fickman. Starring Billy Crystal, Bette Midler, Marisa Tomei Atrocious comedy star Midler and Crystal as an older couple forced to use “modern” methods when caring for their over-indulged grandchildren. It sounds fun. But the script is abysmal and everybody seems faintly embarrassed. Crystal mugs furiously like a host seeking to apologise for the staleness of his canapes. Midler’s head nearly explodes. Even young Bailee Madison – usually so excellent – appears to be scouting for the outdoors. Cover your ears when Crystal attempts to speak skateboard jive. G cert, gen release, 104 min PITCH PERFECT Directed by Jason Moore. Starring Anna Kendrick, Brittany Snow, Rebel Wilson Energetically sung, goodnatured teen musical following the entrants in an a cappella competition as they attempt to make up for past embarrassments. The numbers are nicely carried off. The cast is excellent from top to bottom. But the apparent attempts to be hip and happening are plain hilarious. Before the close, Kendrick’s radical DJ will have introduced her new friends to the avant garde stylings of, erm, Jessie J and Bruno Mars. Mind you don’t frighten the horses, dear. 12A cert, gen release, 112 min QUARTET Directed by Dustin Hoffman. Starring Tom Courtenay, Billy Connolly, Maggie Smith, Michael Gambon, Pauline Collins “Can you really resist Collins, Connolly, Courtenay and Smith (with a bit of Gambon thrown in for good measure)?” the tagline doesn’t really ask. It’s a close-run thing, but the answer has to be a resigned “no”. Hoffman’s directorial debut is weighed down by conspicuous flaws. Going among residents of a retirement home for classical musicians, the film is patronising towards old people and much at home to lazy characterisation. But, darn it, the actors do make it work. 12A cert, gen release, 98 min
RISE OF THE GUARDIANS Directed by Peter Ramsey. Voices of Alec Baldwin, Jude Law, Hugh Jackman, Chris Pine Amusing, if rather overfussy, animation concerning attempts by various mythical beings – Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny and so forth – to frustrate the evil plans of the boogeyman. It looks very nice and the voices are all very good, but the film doesn’t really make sense of its premise. Since when has the Sandman been a good guy? Don’t we need the evil legends too? But it hardly matters. G cert, gen release, 97 min NEW RELEASE WARM BODIES 12A cert, gen release, 97 min See review, page 11 NEW RELEASE WRECK IT RALPH G cert, gen release, 107 min See review, page 13 ZERO DARK THIRTY Directed by Kathryn Bigelow. Starring Jessica Chastain, James Gandolfini, Jason Clarke, Joel Edgerton Bigelow follows up The Hurt Locker with an intense, furiously exciting study of the hunt for Osama Bin Laden. Scenes of suspects being tortured by CIA operatives spur inevitable questions. Is this a Battle of Algiers for the colonists? Is it a whistle-blowing exercise disguised as a procedural thriller? Such is the opaque nature of Mark Boal’s writing that it proves almost impossible to say. But the piling up of detail and layering of tension remain compelling throughout. 15A cert, gen release, 157 min TINKERBELL AND THE SECRET OF THE WINGS 3D Directed by Bobs Gannaway and Peggy Holmes. Voices of Mae Whitman, Anjelica Huston, Timothy Dalton It’s all kicking off in Tinkers’ Nook, where the proletariat fairies are frantically producing the snowflake baskets for export to the Winter Woods. Undeterred by the ruling capitalist order, Tinker “Che” Bell (Whitman), stows away with a border-crossing snow owl. She uncovers a second, colder world of producers and passive wee folk owners – and her own doppelganger. G cert, gen release, 75 min