Saturday 22 October 2016

Movie Reviews: Ted 2, Love & Mercy and Song of the Sea

Mark Wahlberg, Ted and Amanda Seyfried in Ted 2
Mark Wahlberg, Ted and Amanda Seyfried in Ted 2
Paul Giamatti, John Cusack and Elizabeth Banks in Love & Mercy
New Irish animation film Song of the Sea

Ted 2 is a little hit and miss, Love & Mercy hits the right notes while home-grown movie, Song of the Sea is a charmer

Ted 2

Comedy. Starring Mark Wahlberg, Seth McFarlane, Amanda Seyfried, Morgan Freeman, Giovanni Ribisi, Jessica Barth, Patrick Warburton. Director: Seth McFarlane. Cert: 16

Another day, another Hollywood sequel. The first time around, Ted was a resounding smash at the box office. A cursing teddy bear getting away with virtual murder, with Mark Wahlberg in tow as his willing sidekick, appeared to strike a real chord with movie-goers the first time around.

But would this sustain another trip to the cinema? After all, most comedy sequels are grossly unnecessary; the stretching out of one pretty decent joke that wears thin the more you say it.

The opening credits kick up with our 15-inch hero performing an overblown Busby Berkeley-style routine; a probable sign that things are a little different this time around.

And the tables have turned for Ted (voiced by McFarlane) and John (Wahlberg); John now finds himself unhappily divorced, while Ted marries his girlfriend Tami-Lynn (Jessica Barth).

A year into matrimony however, and the couple are verbally tearing chunks out of each other.

The decision to try for a Band-Aid baby reminds us of the obvious: that Ted, a stuffed animal with the power to speak, doesn't have the anatomical goods to follow through with the plan.

Plans to adopt bring about much more bad news: that in the eyes of the law in Boston, Ted isn't a 'person', but a 'property'.

Thus kickstarts a campaign to get Ted granted official 'personhood', along with rookie lawyer Samantha L Jackson (Amanda Seyfried). McFarlane has found his sea legs and Ted feels like a much more fleshed-out (as it were), likeable character.

With its storyline, Ted 2 is supposed to be bigger on emotional moments, but they get lost amid the breakneck comedy. The gross-out stuff, the shocking one-liners and the fart jokes come a mile a minute. Unless you are a Ted super-fan, you're likely to feel a bit clobbered about the head with gags, visual hi-jinks and punchlines. Alas, very few of them land on target.

One of the main running jokes involves Samantha's very obvious lack of pop culture knowledge, which is about as funny as it sounds.

There's a joke involving Charlie Hebdo and Robin Williams that is flat-out uncomfortable. McFarlane fans will applaud his audacity and his own-brand lewdness, but for the rest of us, it's a bit like being accosted by a very drunk and annoying uncle at a wedding.

Make no mistake: this is very much McFarlane's time to shine. Wahlberg, Seyfriend and even Morgan Freeman and Liam Neeson play second fiddle to this bear with a heart of sleaze.

There's little doubting his comedic chops, and maybe he'd have been better put to work on an entirely new project. Still, Ted fans will be thrilled that Ted's as lewd and crude as ever.

Everyone else would do well to enter the cinema with an open mind and enjoy it in the spirit in which it's intended.


Love & Mercy

Drama/music. Starring Paul Dano, John Cusack, Elizabeth Banks, Paul Giamatti, Jake Abel, Brett Davern, Erin Darke. Director: Bill Pohlad. Cert: 12A

To anyone with a casual finger on the pulse of pop music history, the Beach Boys were eminent hit-makers; clean-cut cheery boys adept at capturing - even reinventing - the classic surf-rock sound. But beyond that sun-drenched music was a hugely compelling tale.

Their main songwriter, Brian Wilson, was a man tortured by many things: his own artistry, a father that was by turns abusive and indifferent, and voices in his head.

As it happens, his is a story begging to be brought to life by Hollywood. Love & Mercy angles the story in such a way that, central to the plot, is a bizarre three-person triangle.

At the beginning of the film, a middle-aged Brian (John Cusack) buys a car from a very affable, gentle Cadillac saleswoman Melinda (Elizabeth Banks).

Trailing him in the car dealership, as ever is Wilson's 'brother from another mother' and psychologist, Dr Eugene Landy (a brilliantly malignant Paul Giamatti).

Wilson is clearly disturbed and fragile, but still a romance of sorts between him and Melinda gets off the ground. Wilson, by then a multi-millionaire hit-maker, is constantly surrounded by acolytes, bodyguards and protective sorts.

When it comes to romance, this sort of takes the giddy out of the fledgling couple's gallop. Melinda soon starts to notice undercurrents of megalomania, exploitation and abuse in the relationship between Cusack and Landy.

But with Landy appointed as Wilson's 'legal guardian', getting him free and on the path to recovery is going to be more difficult than first imagined. Cinema audiences will doubtless ask, "how did it come to this, for the guy who wrote beautiful sun-drenched hits like Surfing USA?"

It's up to Paul Dano, playing the younger 60s-era Wilson, to provide some of the answers. There's no other young actor in the world who could have done a better job of portraying Brian Wilson than Paul Dano does (Cusack's performance is spirited and intense, but nowhere near as convincing as this one).

Anyway, we see young Wilson at the mercy of an uncaring father, and married to his first wife Marilyn (Erin Darke).

The Beach Boys have done rather brisk business, and it's down to Wilson as chief bottle washer, to take the Beach Boys to ever-dizzying commercial heights. But he has other things on his mind; namely, making the perfect record.

Oh, and a couple of malevolent voices rattling around in there for good measure.

An epic tale begging to be told, certainly… but that's not even the most lovely thing about Love & Mercy.

With the young Wilson using the recording studio as his playground, he improvises with the famous Wrecking Crew session musicians to create a new sound, and by extension, the backing tracks that would appear on the Pet Sounds album.

Seeing the anatomy of each song broken down is immensely gratifying, even for the most casual music fan. It could have done with a 20-minute shave in the cutting room, but Love & Mercy has a little something for everyone, from die-hard romantics to music geeks.

RATING: ****

Song Of The Sea

Children's/animation. Starring: voices of David Rawle, Brendan Gleeson, Fionnuala Flanagan, Lisa Hannigan, Lucy O'Connell, Pat Shortt, Jon Kenny. Director: Tomm Moore. Cert: PG

Audiences, young and old alike, have been curious to see how Cartoon Saloon might follow up their Oscar-nominated masterpiece The Secret Of Kells.

The animation company has risen to the challenge mightily. And director Moore is clearly of the mindset that if it ain't broke, don't fix it.

Using delightful, hand-drawn visuals, Moore brings to life another Irish legend (albeit against the backdrop of the present day). The figure at the centre of the tale is a Selkie; a seal-at-sea, human-on-land creature who disappears into the sea, leaving her family bereft.

Siblings Ben (David Rawle) and his mute sister, Saoirse, embark on an epic odyssey in a bid to unravel the mystery.

Juxtaposing modern day Dublin with a mythical Ireland of yore is a particularly deft move, and Moore lays on the playfulness, the emotion and the sense of adventure in spades.

As one might expect, Song Of The Sea is as cute and charming as they come.


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