Movie Reviews: Slow West, Minions, She’s Funny That Way

Silas Selleck (Michael Fassbender) is an outlaw killer who is rarely without a cigar in Slow West (15A), which may be writer- director John Maclean’s way of telling us that his debut feature is part-homage to the neo-realist Western pioneered by the cheroot-chewing Clint Eastwood. 

Movie Reviews: Slow West, Minions, She’s Funny That Way

Travelling from Scotland in pursuit of his true love Rose (Caren Pistorious), 16-year-old Jay Cavendish (Kodi Smit-McPhee) is an innocent doomed for an early death until Selleck takes him under his wing.

Selleck agrees to help Jay find Rose — for a fee — and protect him from the perils of the Old West, although the laconic Selleck is so sparing with his words that he neglects to mention that he is a bounty hunter with a financial interest in tracking down Rose and bringing her in, dead or alive.

Throw in a gang of psychopathic outlaws led by the aptly named Payne (Ben Mendelsohn, channelling Bob Dylan in Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid) and Slow West should be a tense, thrilling Western of duplicity and double-cross, but writer-director Maclean has crafted a meandering, whimsical tale in which Jay stumbles across any number of oddballs, including a trio of Congolese musicians and a German author self-exiled on the prairie to write a history of the West’s indigenous tribes.

These encounters are even more incongruous given the superb cinematography celebrates the vast, trackless expanses of the old frontier, and they leach tension from a story that otherwise crackles with callous brutality and the bleakest of black humour, and concludes with a wonderfully baroque shoot-out.

It’s not easy being a tiny yellow pill-shaped creature, apparently, especially when your only desire in life is to serve an evil master.

Minions (PG) opens with an extended sequence in which we watch the show-stealers from the Despicable Me movies evolve from the depths of the ocean to serve, in turn, a T-Rex, a Dark Age’s vampire and Napoleon, all of which service comes to an abrupt end courtesy of the enthusiastic but carelessly destructive Minions themselves.

With the Minion tribe in danger of dying out through boredom, Kevin, Stuart and Bob (all voiced by Pierre Coffin) set out to find a truly evil villain to serve, arriving in London in 1968 just as Scarlet Overkill (Sandra Bullock) is putting into place her heinous plan to usurp the Queen’s throne and heist the crown jewels from London Tower.

Directed by Kyle Balda and Pierre Coffin, Minions is a manically energetic tale of ever-increasing absurdity, with much of the humour derived from the contrast between the childlike naivety of the Minions and the scheming machinations of the adult humans they meet along their way.

Bullock was inspired casting as the power-crazed Scarlet, with Jon Hamm voicing her laidback husband Herb, but the relentlessly fizzing pace and knockabout style might well prove exhausting for adults.

The kids, however, will likely love the non-stop pratfalls and slapstick, while Coffin’s vocal pyrotechnics provide occasional laugh-out-loud moments as he gives voice to a constant stream of burbling multi-lingual gibberish that somehow manages to make sense of the Minions’ adventures.

From the jazz noodlings of the opening credits to the New York setting and the ensemble cast of wacky characters, Peter Bogdanovich’s She’s Funny That Way (15A) has all the hallmarks of a Woody Allen tribute.

Aspiring actress Isabella (Imogen Poots), who moonlights as a call girl to pay the rent, has a life-changing experience when she meets theatre director Arnold Albertson (Owen Wilson), who offers her a huge sum of money if only she promises to give up the escort business.

The following morning, Isabella gets a casting call, and finds herself auditioning for the role of a call girl in Arnold’s latest play — much to the horror of Albert, the amusement of his actor friend Seth (Rhys Ifans), and, when the truth slips out, the anger of Albert’s long-suffering wife and leading actress, Delta (Kathryn Hahn).

The farcical situation gets even crazier with the entrance of Judge Pendergast (Austin Pendleton), who is obsessed with Isabella, and the least empathic psychiatrist in the world, Jane Clermont (Jennifer Aniston).

As if all that weren’t enough, Bogdanovich and co-writer Louise Stratten also incorporate a life-imitates-art storyline, in which Seth, Isabella and Delta act out on stage the behind-the-scenes drama.

It’s all very archly contrived, certainly, but it’s crisply directed, and Bogdanovich manages to keep all the plates spinning throughout, with Poots in terrific form as the mouthy Noo Yawk ingénue who believes firmly in magic and romance, and Aniston in scenery-chewing mode as a ball-breaking shrink who really could do with a session or 12 on her own couch.

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