Directed by Mateo Gil. Starring Sam Shepard, Eduardo Noriega, Stephen Rea, Magaly Solier, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Padraic Delaney.
THE PLOT: It's Bolivia, 1927, and retired horse-breeder James Blackthorn (Shepard) is selling up and leaving his rural village, after hearing of the death of a close friend back home. When he's ambused by Eduardo Apodaca (Noriega), Blackthorn's horse bolts, with all his money saddled on, the former offering half of a $50,000 steal from a mine-owner in compensation. Naturally, the duo soon have a posse on their tail, and after two track them down to Blackthorn's house, they head across country. But there's a twist or two to be revealed in this familiar western premise...
THE VERDICT: The idea of an aged Butch Cassidy living the quiet life in the wilds of Bolivia has a sweet ring to it, and casting the grizzled Sam Shepard in the role certainly adds gravitas to the idea. Shepard's understated delivery lends Blackthorn a forlorn quality of the Unforgiven/Assassination Of Jesse James variety, and you know there's going to be much more to this western than merely outlaws outrunning a posse. We're damn near to Ford country here. Spanish filmmaker Gil (who co-wrote Open Your Eyes) makes good use of those Bolivian wilds, and Stephen Rea gives one of his best performances in some time as the detective McKinley, infusing the final third act of Blackthorn with the kind of spark that you suddenly realise was lacking before. RATING: 3/5
THE CABIN IN THE WOODS (USA/16/94mins)
Directed by Drew Goddard. Starring Kristen Connolly, Chris Hemsworth, Anna Hutchison, Fran Kranz, Jesse Williams, Ricahrd Jenkins, Bradley Whitford.
THE PLOT: Five pretty young Americans straight out of central casting head for, yep, the cabin in the woods, the jock (Hemsworth), the slut (Hutchison), the stoner (Franz), the geek (Williams) and the near-virgin (Connolly) all ripe for the killing. The twist being that it's corporate drones Hadley (Jenkins) and Sitterson (Whitford) who are calling all the shots in an underground lab, the cabin being a Truman-esque construction, fully controlled and in an artificially sealed environment. And they're not the only ones, as we get flashes of other similarly orchestrated slaughters around the world.
THE VERDICT: Having shown that you can be both ironic and loving when having fun with a genre - with both Buffy The Vampire Slayer and Firefly - Joss Whedon teams up with protege Drew Goddard (Cloverfield, Lost, the upcoming Robopocalypse) for this knowing stab at a well-worn horror premise. Unfortunately, The Cabin In The Woods never truly delivers the spills, the thrills or the chuckles Whedon and Goddard were so plainly aiming for with this mildly subverting diversion. The fact that it was shot in 2009 and has been sitting on a shelf ever since - thanks to MGM's collapse - makes The Cabin In The Woods feel like an also-ran long before its eventual release. Even then, Lionsgate aren't holding out all that much hope at the box-office - clearly, this is no Scream. Even if Whedon and Goddard clearly know their horror stuff. But not even a surprise cameo from a sci-fi icon towards the end can save this smug little exercise from being a film made by fanboys purely for fanboys. With 11 minutes cut from its SXSW premiere last month, who knows what version(s) will eventually turn up on DVD. RATING: 2/5
DELICACY/La Delicatesse (France/12A/108mins)
Directed by David Foenkinos, Stephane Foenkinos. Starring Audrey Tautou, Francois Damiens, Bruno Todeschini, Melanie Bernier, Josephine de Meaux, Pio Marmai, Monique Chaumette.
THE PLOT: Happy loving couple Nathalie (Tautou) and Francois (Marmai) have it all - Paris, beauty, a happy marriage and, in the case of Nathalie, a top job with a Swedish corporation. What could possibly go wrong? Well, Francois could be run over and killed, that's what. And Nathalie could react by passionately kissing a dull fellow employee (Damiens) after turning down advances from her sexy, seductive boss (Todeschini). From there, it's odd couple romance, something that doesn't go unnoticed by Nathalie's blunt friends. Or her boss, who has his balding, overweight, short rival moved to another branch, far, far away...
THE VERDICT: You've got to hand it to that gamine cutie Tautou, she hasn't exactly been cashing in on the international fame brought on by 2001's Amelie. Other than a misguided misstep into Hollywood mainstream with The Da Vinci Code ("Quick - to the library!"), Tautou has kept it largely quirky, and usually very, very French. The only thing is, the movies she's chosen to grace with her presence haven't always been very, very good - as is pretty much the case with Delicacy, a strangely muted affair that neither melts the heart nor tickles the funny bone. Still, there are delights to be found here. Adapted for the screen by brothers David and Stephane Foenkinos, and based on the former's best-selling novel (which sold over 700,000 copies in France, and picked up ten literary prizes), Delicacy does offer up a fresh twist on the Beauty & The Beast story - even if there is little truly original here. RATING: 3/5
Directed by Peter Berg. Starring Taylor Kitsch, Liam Neeson, Alexander Skarsgard, Brooklyn Decker, Rihanna, Tadanobu Asano.
THE PLOT: Alex Hopper (Kitsch) is a rebel without much of a clue who's just about cocky enough to be deemed an asshole - something both his hot girlfriend's father, Admiral Shane (Neeson), and his long-suffering and star-on-his-copy brother Stone (Skarsgard) are very aware of. Setting out from Pearl Harbour along with 13 other nations (including America's newest bestest friends, the Japanese) for a naval exercise, the US marines soon find themselves in deep trouble. A signal has been sent by NASA to a newfound, habitable planet. And now E.T. has sent back a big F.U., as five spaceships crash into the Pacific, using their considerable CGI budget to set up a forcefield around them and a handful of naval ships. Naturally, our boy Alex is amongst them, the quick annihilation of his brother finally inspiring him to fight the good fight.
THE VERDICT: Well, the good news is, Rihanna now looks like she can handle herself in a fight. The bad news is, well, just about everything else about this sorry Hasbro game adaptation. Akin to Transformers At Sea, right from the start, Battleship is very much a film all at sea. Berg (who, let's not forget, gave us 2003's smart, mischievous actioner Welcome To The Jungle before a career nosedive) proves that there is, after all, something worse than an overblown Michael Bay movie - another director trying to make an overblown Michael Bay movie.
All the toe-curling clichés are here - the aimless, lawless, dirty jeans-toting Southern maverick with the beat-up pick-up truck; his hot, blonde Theronbot girlfriend; her stern, disapproving Admiral Pop; the Big Scary Black Dude with a heart of gold; the red-haired stepson who gets to prove his worth; the sassy black hottie; the proud OAPs and their rusty heap of great American last-chance kick-ass. There's also a bunch of aliens who look like Iron Man's fruity cousin on the outside and Gary Busey on the inside. The fact that they differentiate humans as good and artillery and machinery as bad has you initially thinking that Greenpeace may have upped their game here. The fact that, given the relentless spew of clichés on screen, you find yourself rooting for these aliens from the first attack reflects how badly Berg and co have failed here. Watch the skies for 131 minutes. It would be far more interesting than this. RATING: 1/5
REVIEWS BY PAUL BYRNE