MOVIES.IE'S ONE TO WATCH!
CEMETERY JUNCTION (UK/15A/94mins)
Directed by Ricky Gervais, Stephen Merchant. Starring Christian Cooke, Tom Hughes, Jack Doolan, Matthew Goode, Ralph Fiennes, Felicity Jones, Emma Watson.
THE PLOT: Just about tiring of his childish ways, the chivalrous and handsome Freddie (Cooke) is ready to move on from his likely lad days, landing himself a job at a local life insurance company. Where he promptly falls in love with the dreamer daughter (Jones) of the stern, staunchly-chauvinistic boss (Fiennes). That she's dating her dad's similarly-macho right hand man (Goode) complicates matters slightly.
Freddie's mates, Bruce (Hughes) and Snork (Doolan), are naturally none too impressed with such lofty career ambitions, the former too busy banging heads with his alcoholic, broken, Irish father (Francis Magee), and the latter, trying to finally woo a woman, to entertain any such notions of escape.
THE VERDICT: A surprisingly sweet-natured and rose-tinted film, Gervais was inspired by his teenage years growing up in 1970s Berkshire, Reading, and the arrival of that rebellious, universal desire to break away. The initial inspiration for Gervais and regular comic partner Stephen Merchant (who, together, previously gave us The Office and Extras) was a line in Bruce Springsteen's Thunder Road - namely "a town full of losers, and we're pulling out of here to win...".
It's all good, clean, nostalgic fun, one that's shamelessly sentimental - the opening is pure Hovis, and then First Of The Summer Wine). Far more Saturday Night, Sunday Morning or The Last Picture Show than Fish Tank or Sweet Sixteen, Gervais and Merchant bravely aim for the heart rather than the head. RATING: ****
THE GHOST (USA/15A/127mins)
Directed by Roman Polanski. Starring Pierce Brosnan, Ewan McGregor, Kim Catrall, Olivia Williams, Robert Pugh.
THE PLOT: Brosnan plays the Blair-esque Adam Lang, now living the retired island life alongside his good wife Ruth (Williams), their peace and tranquility interrupted by the arrival of an unnamed writer (McGregor) - there to polish up Lang's dull memoirs. The previous ghost writer drowned under mysterious circumstances, circumstances that soon have his replacement searching for clues. Naturally, his life is soon in peril, with the fact that a former foreign secretary (Pugh) is calling for Lang's indictment for war crimes making the memoirs something of a potentially explosive potato.
THE VERDICT: Always a master of the thriller, you can see why the housebound Roman Polanski was drawn to former political editor Robert Harris' eponymous novel, first published in September 2007, when this former fan of New Labour no longer found Tony Blair to be the saviour he once believed in. And so he created a mildly outlandish story, with that mistrust and contempt for a former British prime minister as the springboard.
As is so very often the case, McGregor proves a weak leading man, but Polanski is clearly in Hitchcock heaven here, the plot's many twists and turns making for an entertaining ghost train ride. RATING: ***
REPO MEN (USA/Canada/18/111mins)
Directed by Miguel Sapochnik. Starring Jude Law, Forest Whitaker, Liev Schreiber, Alice Braga, Carice Van Houten.
THE PLOT: Set in the not-too-distant-future, where a good heart might just cost you your life - if you can't make the repayments, that is - Law's Remy and Whitaker's Jake are hitmen for The Union, organ merchants who believe that their fine artificial hearts, livers and kidneys are worth much more than just an arm or a leg. They're worth wasting a life for.
THE VERDICT: A film that got quite the kicking from critics in the US - and rightly so - Jude Law and Forest Whitaker are the no-mercy debt collectors at the center of this blackly comic sci-fi thriller. That's nowhere near black nor comic enough. Director Miguel Sapochnik is making the leap from music videos. And it shows. RATING: **
DEAR JOHN (USA/12A/106mins)
Directed by Lasse Hallstrom. Starring Channing Tatum, Amanda Seyfried, Richard Jenkins, Henry Thomas, D.J. Cotrona.
THE PLOT: The young lovers at the centre of it all are soldier meathead John Tyree (Tatum, the unthinking man's Mark Wahlberg) and sweet girl-next-door Savannah Curtis (Seyfried), the two writing good old-fashioned letters to one another as soon as our boy returns to service. And then 9/11 happens. And John stays on to fight the good fight. And Savannah ends the relationship, and gets married. And John gets shot. It's all downhill from there.
THE VERDICT: The movie that finally knocked Avatar off the number one spot in the US back in February, the weepy, wimpy Dear John is akin to Love Story with all its teeth taken out. And here, the people who deserve to die the most live on. To torture us for an hour and forty-six minutes.
There's a time and place for this kind of movie, of course - namely, somewhere around 1972, and in an all-girls dorm. On a dull Tuesday night. RATING: **
CITY OF LIFE AND DEATH (China/Hong Kong/15A/132mins)
Directed by Lu Chuan. Starring Ye Liu, John Paisley, Hideo Nakaizumi, Yuanyuan Gao.
THE PLOT: Shot in black and white, the action opens in December 1937, with the Japanese army moving on from their conquering of Shanghai to take on Najing. One of those putting up a fight is naive young commander Lu Jianxiong (Liu), whilst on the other side, Japanese sergeant Kadokawa (Nakaizumi) loses his virginity to a 'comfort woman', instantly vowing to one day make her his wife. Meanwhile, good Nazi John Rabe (Paisley) attempts to set up an International Safety Zone for refugees.
THE VERDICT: This epic undertaking charts the massacre in China's then-capital, Nanjing, by the Japanese as 1937 became 1938. Fittingly, it's a harrowing, emotional - and multi-award-winning - film. Over 200,000 residents were killed during the Japanese army's horrendous assault on the city, and Chinese writer/director Lu Chuan here attempts to unravel what really happened by concentrating on the smaller detail. Or, to be more precise, some of the smaller players in this historic event that has been brought to the screen several times before, each outing having the melodrama generally turned up to 11.
It's the portrayal of Japanese sergeant Kadokawa as a conflicted man that has caused the filmmaker the most trouble. Naturally, City Of Life And Death has been at the centre of quite a few storms, both in China and Japan, with Lu Chuan even receiving death threats. More than the film festival awards, that alone would seem to suggest he's done a good job here. RATING: ****