Get Paul Byrne’s film recommendations on every Friday

Irish movie guru Paul Byrne is taking over the reviews from this week. Every Friday we’ll bring you his opinions on new cinema releases hitting cinemas that day.

He’ll also be awarding some movies as ‘One To Watch’ – Film’s with this title come with a full seal of approval and frankly, you’d be mad to miss them!

Below is his selection of reviews for new films in cinemas this week. Join us every Friday for a fresh batch of movie reviews!

LET THE RIGHT ONE IN (Sweden/16/115mins)


Directed by Tomas Alfredson. Starring Kare Hedebrant, Lina Leandersson, Per Ragner.

THE PLOT:  It’s 1982, and we’re introduced to Oskar (Hedebrant) as he touts a penknife in his bedroom, his bravado interrupted by the sight of two new arrivals – a young girl, Eli (Leandersson), and an old man (Ragnar). When we see the old man black out the windows with ripped up cardboard boxes and old posters, and then set about preparing a case with containers, chemicals and a sharp knife, we know something’s amiss. Soon after, he’s got a young man tied upside down from a tree in the nearby woods, and is tapping his blood when he’s disturbed by two women walking their dog. It’s all matter-of-fact, this Blue Peter approach to keeping Eli fed, and it’s all the more chilling for it.

THE VERDICT: A film far more concerned with the small detail than the big fright, this is vampire horror in the same way that Fargo was a killer thriller. This is Twilight with a great script. Directed by Lukas Moodyson. At heart, a tale of first love between two 12-year old, the Swedish winter wonderland makes even this dull suburban high-rise seem magical. And foreboding. Director Tomas Alfredson (working from John Ajvide Lindqvist adaptation of his own novel) wisely centres on the blossoming bond between Oskar and Eli as they increasingly feel the need for escape, giving this tale an unexpected tenderness. Do. Not. Miss. It.
RATING: *****



Directed by Kari Skogland. Starring Ben Kingsley, Jim Sturgess, Rose McGowan.

THE PLOT: Set in Belfast in the late 1980s, and based on IRA informant Martin McGartland’s best-selling 1997 book, Kingsley plays Fergus, a British Special Branch intelligence officer who recruits the 20-year old street hustler McGartland (Sturgess) to work as his inside man in the IRA. From the outset, Skogland was determined to highlight the universality of someone going against their own community, as well as the surrogate father/son relationship that develops between her two main characters.

THE VERDICT: That rarest of beasts – a decent drama set against the backdrop of The Troubles. Skogland manages to avoid many of the pitfalls that hamper so many features set against the trouble up north. According to Variety, leading man Jim Sturgess delivers a ‘high-caliber’ performance, and the movie itself ‘has enough thrills to start a theme park’, but they’re only half right – Sturgess is stunning as McGartland, but Fifty Dead Men Walking isn’t quite the thrill-ride they’re raving about.




FAST & FURIOUS (USA/15A/107mins)

Directed by  Justin Lin. Starring Vin Diesel, Paul Walker, Michelle Rodriguez.

THE PLOT: The prodigal bouncer, Vin Diesel, returns as car-toting slaphead Dominic Toretto alongside the other three original stars of the franchise – Walker, Rodriguez, Jordanna Brewster – to help bring down a major heroin dealer. By racing cars. And trucks. And sluts. Mad Max 2 did it all so much better.

THE VERDICT: More pretty cars and fast girls, this Jeremy Clarkson wet dream will be back for a fifth round, thanks to boffer box-office biz in the US. And here, no doubt. Bah. When the going gets tough, cinema-goers go soft, settling for the easiest option. Any of the previous three outings – yes, even Tokyo Drift – are better than this though. Can’t wait for number five though – I’m guessing it’s going to be called F&F.



Directed by Andy Fickman. Starring Dwayne Johnson, Carla Gugino, AnnaSophia Robb.

THE PLOT: A remake of sorts of the 1975 kiddie favourite, Escape To Witch Mountain, with director Andy Fickman going back to Alexander Key’s original 1968 novel (which also spawned a 1878 sequel and numerous remakes), Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson plays an everyman cab driver who ends up helping a pair of alien siblings (AnnaSophia Robb and Alexander Ludwig) escape the clutches of probing US government agents (headed up by our own Ciaran Hinds) so they can take their crash-landed spaceship back home.

THE VERDICT: Despite the fact that it plays very much like a film directed by a former movie theme park guide, Race To Witch Mountain hit no.1 in the US recently. It’s far too busy, and cluttered for its own good, and not even the fairly reliable Johnson or my future wife, Carla Gugino (who plays a disgraced astrophysicist, no less) – or even cameos from the original 1970s kid actors, Ike Eisenmann and Kim Richards – can save the day here.



Directed by Burr Steers. Starring Zac Efron, Matthew Perry, Leslie Mann.

THE PLOT:  Life could have been better for Mike O’Donnell (Perry), as his loveless marriage proves – so, lucky for him, he wakes up one morning as his young high school self (Efron). Cue much hilarity, misunderstanding, and dad getting to hang out with his teenage kids undercover. If you get my Back To The Future-esque drift. Anyone expecting any surprising twists and turns in the plot here will be sorely disappointed though.

THE VERDICT: Anyone purely expecting to see Zac Efron get his shirt off and generally look super-cute throughout won’t be disappointed though, the tweens who flocked to the High School Musical outings having plenty to swoon and scream about here. It’s just a shame that there’s little here that Big didn’t cover already. And better. Still, the parent-approved Efron is clearly more than just a pretty face. RATING: **



Directed by James Wong. Starring  Justin Chatwin, Yun-Fat Chow, Emmy Rossum.

THE PLOT: Loner Karate Kid, hot Asian chicks (gotta think about that foreign market), school bullies, wise old grandpas, big green baddy, some magic balls. Imagining the rest should give you a far better movie than this.

THE VERDICT: Yet another Japanese manga series gets the big-screen Hollywood makeover with this by-the-numbers action adventurer that clearly hopes to tap into those who bought one of the 150 volumes of the graphic novel that debuted back in 1984. That these hardcore fans have already been served with anime features, videogames and TV adaptations means there is an audience, but they might just have had their fill. And this so-so outing certainly isn’t going to win over any new fans, being far more Hannah Montana than Lara Croft, as it hits all the expected cliches.



Stanley Kubrick is the subject of a major retrospective at the IFI, with Paths Of Glory (1pm, 7pm) on the 20th; Lolita (6pm) on the 21st; Dr. Strangelove (1pm) on the 25th, 26th; A Clockwork Orange (times tbc) on May 9th, 10th; Barry Lyndon on May 16th, 17th (5.15pm); 2001: A Space Odyssey (1.30pm, 6.15pm) from May 18th to 21st; The Shining and Full Metal Jacket (times tbc) on May 23rd, 24th; Full Metal Jacket (times tbc); Eyes Wide Shut and A.I. (times tbc) on May 30th and 31st. Full details on


As part of the IFI’s celebrations of Dracula On Screen – running from April 17th to the 19th – there will be a free panel discussion on the 19th (at 11.15am) to discuss such topics as sexuality and romance in vampire films; the perception of Dracula in films; and vampire mythology in cinema. Chairing the discussion will be author Brian Showers, and participants include novelist and critic Kim Newman, who writes for Empire – but don’t let that put you off. As stated before, the celebrations also include a special screening of Nosferatu, with live accompaniment from 3epkano, plus a series of films based on the Dracula legend. Full details on

More movie reviews coming on Friday!