Paul Byrne reviews the latest movies to hit Irish cinemas including True Grit and Never Let Me Go

TRUE GRIT (USA/15A/110mins)

Directed by Ethan Coen, Joel Coen. Starring Jeff Bridges, Haillee Steinfeld, Matt Damon, Josh Brolin, Barry Pepper, Dakin Matthews.

THE PLOT: Precocious 14-year old frontiers bookkeeper Mattie Ross (the Oscar-nominated Steinfeld) enlists the help of the drunken but determined Marshall Rooster Cogburn (Bridges, another Oscar contender) to hunt down the killer of her recently deceased father. Along for the ride is a lisping Texas Ranger (Damon), who has been on said killer’s trail for two years.

THE VERDICT: Based on Charles Portis’ 1967 novel (which was adapted for the big screen the year after, with John Wayne in the lead role), the Coens latest is a truly sublime movie. And it’s got 11 Oscar nominations to prove it. Ethan and Joel have learnt how to control their dark sarcasm, and allow a little heart into proceedings, and there are moments in this film that, in the hands of another filmmaker, would be plainly ridiculous. Here, the Coens make the surreal seductive and the mundane magical. And it’s darn funny, to boot. I know it’s early and all, but this has got to be one of my films of the year. RATING: 5/5

 

NEVER LET ME GO (UK/15A/105mins)

Directed by Mark Romanek. Starring Keira Knightley, Carey Mulligan, Andrew Garfield, Charlotte Rampling, Sally Hawkins.

THE PLOT: Like any boarding school refugees, Kathy (Mulligan), Tommy (Garfield) and Ruth (Knightley) are exceptionally close. And getting closer in the case of the first two – something the latter is determined to derail. But there’s a darker secret awaiting our cocooned trio that will have them questioning their very existence. And the reason for their existence.

THE VERDICT: Based on the eponymous 2005 by Kazuo Ishiguro, this is one dour little film. Sure, Knightley, Mulligan and Garfield are very much present and pretty much correct, but the future feels especially bleak here. And that’s not only because of the dystopian drama being played out, but the film’s tone itself gets bogged down in a special kind of pretentious and portentous misery. RATING: 2/5

 

JUST GO WITH IT (USA/12A/116mins)

Directed by Dennis Dugan. Starring Adam Sandler, Jennifer Aniston, Brooklyn Decker, Nicole Kidman, Dave Matthews.

THE PLOT: A sun-drenched remake of the 1969 classic Cactus Flower, in that earlier, superior offering Walter Matthau played the philandering dentist Julian, who avoided commitment with groovy chicks by pretending to be an unhappily married man. Trouble is, his latest conquest, Toni (Goldie Hawn), turns out to be someone special. And so Julian convinces Miss Stephanie (Ingrid Bergman) – the spinsterish nurse at his dental clinic – to pose as said wife, in order to fake a separation. Only Toni sees real love in Stephanie’s eyes…

THE VERDICT: You got all that? Well, imagine Sandler and Aniston as the fake husband and wife, and fashion model Brooklyn Decker as the hottie, throw in a sunny holiday in Hawaii and two cute kids – and, hey presto, you’ve got Just Go With It. Once you take out all the kitsch and cuteness of the original, of course. Not quite Couples Retreat, but still pretty darn ordinary… RATING: 2/5

 

GNOMEO & JULIET (USA/G/84mins)

Directed by Kelly Asbury. Starring the voices of James McAvoy, Emily Blunt, Maggie Smith, Ashley Jensen, Michael Caine.

THE PLOT: Shakespeare’s classic tale of forbidden love is given the garden gnome makeover. Naturally enough.

THE VERDICT: This one’s been bouncing around Disney for over five years (with a total of nine writers chipping away at the script), Elton John’s Rocket Pictures having brought it to the Mouse House – hence the generous use of the handsome one’s back catalogue here. It’s a sweet concept, but, like so many British attempts at big-screen animation (Flushed Away, Valiant, etc), this belongs on TV. Around 4pm, on Stephen’s Day. RATING: 2/5

 

YOGI BEAR (USA/G/80mins)

Directed by Eric Brevig. Starring the voices of Dan Aykroyd, Justin Timberlake, Anna Faris, Tom Cavanagh, T.J. Miller, Nathan Corddry.

THE PLOT: When a documentary filmmaker turns up at Jellystone Park, he gets more than he bargained for when Yogi Bear, his sidekick Boo Boo, and Ranger Smith start up their traditional Hanna-Barbera shenanigans.

THE VERDICT: An animated offering that miraculously manages to make Gnomeo & Juliet positively Pixar-esque, this sorry offering has pretty much no redeeming features whatsoever. Except, maybe, for the neat spoof you’ll find online, where the closing of The Assassination Of Jesse James By That Coward Robert Ford is reenacted by Yogi and Boo Boo. I’m guessing Brevig would be far prouder of that two minutes than this 80. RATING: 1/5

 

SELF PORTRAIT

As part of the Jameson Dublin International Film Festival, the IFI are presenting a special collaborative screening of Turner Prize-winning artist Gillian Wearing’s Self Made.

Screening on Saturday 26th Feb at 4.30pm, the film will be followed by a public discussion between Wearing, her collaborator Sam Rumbelow and Caoimhin Mac Giolla Leith, critic and senior lecturer at University College, Dublin.

Visit ifi.ie for full details.