This weeks movies reviewed by Paul Byrne, including The Rite, West Is West, Howl and more…

 

ONE TO WATCH

ANIMAL KINGDOM (Australia/15A/113mins)

Directed by David Michod. Starring James Frecheville, Guy Pearce, Jacki Weaver, Joel Edgerton, Luke Ford, Sullivan Stapleton.

THE PLOT: Melbourne, the 1980s, and after the death of his mother, 17-year old Joshua (Frecheville) goes to live with his grandmother, Janine ‘Smurf’ Cody (the Oscar-nominated Weaver). And that’s when he gets to meet his hardened criminal relatives, just as a revenge killing (of two policemen) gets under way. It’s right about then that Josh’s world goes a little bonkers…

THE VERDICT: Inspired by real-life criminals who made Melbourne’s crime history that little bit more colourful back in the 1980s (led by the likes of the Moran brothers and ‘Granny Evil’ Pettingill), David Michod’s fictional tale isn’t entirely successful in its ambitious aims. But it is a thoroughly entertaining film nonetheless, and one that offers up yet another reason to get out of this country and mix with an entirely superior class of criminal down under. RATING: 4/5 

THE RITE (USA/16/114mins)

Directed by Mikael Hafstrom. Starring Anthony Hopkins, Colin O’Donoghue, Alice Braga, Ciaran Hinds, Toby Jones, Rutger Hauer.

THE PLOT: Growing weary of the mortician’s life, and working with his widower father (Hauer), Michael Kovak (O’Donoghue) is also keen to break the long line of priests in his family tree. When Father Superior (Jones) informs him of his financial death, should he leave now, Michael instead takes up his offer of heading to Rome to train in the fine art of exorcism. Highly skeptical, it’s only when the wry, crisp and dry Father Lucas (Hopkins) lets Michael ride pillion passenger as he tries to save some souls from el diablo that his lack of faith is truly tested…

THE VERDICT: Based on Matt Baglio’s 2009 book The Making Of A Modern Exorcism, there’s a muted tone to Mikael Hafstrom’s serious but mildly humorous take on a well-worn genre. The lack of what Hopkins refers to in the movie as “spinning heads and pea soup” will disappoint some horror fans though, The Rite ultimately proving to be, well, just all right. RATING: 3/5 

NO STRINGS ATTACHED (USA/15A/108mins)

Directed by Ivan Reitman. Starring Ashton Kutcher, Natalie Portman, Kevin Kline, Cary Elwes, Greta Gerwig, Ludacris, Mindy Kaling.

THE PLOT: Having shot down his advances when they were teenagers, Emma (Portman) now sees little reason why she and Adam (Kutcher) shouldn’t become f**k buddies. The strict rule being that there’s no cuddling, spooning or affection. It’s a neat plan, for a while, but then, yikes, the affection starts growing…

THE VERDICT: The main surprise of this foulmouthed but thoroughly mainstream romantic comedy is hearing Natalie Portman spew out expletive-laden lines about genitalia, but once you get over little miss prissy perfect sounding like a Dublin clubber, there’s a very traditional, and predictable, romantic comedy on offer here. Reitman (a comedy veteran hurting after a string of flops) is plainly keen to keep up with the times, but No Strings Attached plays like just another Farrelly Brothers misfire. RATING:  2/5 

I AM NUMBER FOUR (USA/12A/109mins)

Directed by D.J. Caruso. Starring Alex Pettyfer, Dianna Agron, Teresa Palmer, Timothy Olyphant, Callan McAuliffe.

THE PLOT: Hiding out on Earth after their home planet, Lorien, was attacked by the evil Mogadorians, nine super-powered teenagers are down to six just as the film opens. And that means Number Four (Pettyfer) has to move towns once again. Only this time, he’s determined to stop running, especially when he falls in love with another outsider, former cheerleader-turned-intellectual, Sarah (Agron, who plays former cheerleader-turned-hoofer Quinn on Glee). But the Mogadorians (think Marily Manson-meets-Harvey Weinstein) are closing in…

THE VERDICT: A somewhat cynical attempt to tap into the lucrative Twilight market, I Am Number Four began as a book, by one Pittacus Lore, a pen name for authors Jobie Hughes and that lying scumbag, James Frey. Planned as the first of six novels, DreamWorks and Disney were happy to jump on board this tailor-made teen franchise. Only trouble is, it feels tailor-made, as opposed to inspired. And this flat film doesn’t help matters either. RATING: 3/5

WEST IS WEST (UK/15A/102mins)

Directed by Andy DeEmmony. Starring Aqib Khan, Om Puri, Linda Bassett, Jimi Mistry, Vanesssa Hehir, Robert Pugh.

THE PLOT: Salford, 1976, and Sajid (Khan), the youngest son of George (Puri) and Ella (Bassett), is rebelling against his father’s Pakistani culture. And so pops decides a spell in his old country will do his teenage son some good, taking him to live on the farm of his first wife, their daughters and son-in-law. Also there is Sajid’s brother, Maneer (Mistry), keen to find himself a wife…

THE VERDICT: It took almost a decade to raise the budget for this sequel to Damien O’Donnell’s much-loved 1999 comedy East Is East, but this comes once again from the semi-autobiographical pen of Khan Din. So, although West Is West may not be as fine and dandy as East Is East, there is humour, insight and warmth on offer here. Just not as much as before. RATING: 3/5

HOWL (USA/IFI/84mins)

Directed by Rob Epstein, Jeffrey Friedman. Starring James Franco, Mary-Louise Parker, Jon Hamm, Jeff Daniels, Treat Williams, David Strathairn, Alessandro Nivola.

THE PLOT: Over three narratives, we witness poet Allen Ginsberg (Franco) reading his Howl poem for the very first time, in San Francisco’s Six Gallery bookshop on October 7th, 1955, and then we jump to two years later, and a court case against City Lights for publishing this ‘obscene material’. We also see Ginsberg giving a freewheelin’ interview, based on true-life transcripts…

THE VERDICT: Co-director Friedman’s 1984 documentary The Times Of Harvey Milk received a much-deserved boost in profile through Gus Van Zant’s 2008 fictional account, and here he turns to another icon of the American counter-culture. With animation of the poem (by Ginsberg collaborator Eric Drooker) also running throughout, this is a feast for anyone interested in the Beat generation. Far out. Man. RATING: 4/5 

 
 ESSENTIAL VIEWING

Running over five weeks, Essential Cinema 2011 runs at the IFI from March 1st, and will feature key films from the 1970s, including Jaws (Mar 22nd), The Godfather (8th), American Graffiti (15th), Nashville (29th) and The French Connection (Mar 1st). All screenings are 6.30pm.

Run in conjunction with the Dun Laoghaire Institute of Art, Design and Technology, each film will be preceded by a short introduction by Tom Kennedy of IADT.

More importantly, they’re all bloody great films. So, unless you’ve got a 60-foot TV screen, get your ass over there. Full details available on ifi.ie. 

CAN YOU DO THE FANDANGO?

The legendary Polish filmmaker Jerzy Skolimowski will present his latest film, Essential Killing, at the IFI, alongside a season of his early work.

Emerging from the Polish new wave of the 1960s, Skolimowski was once described as “Roman Polanski’s younger brother” and the “voice of his generation” – thanks to such films as Rysopis, Walkover and Hands Up!. Skolimowski was a noted writer too, having co-scripted Innocent Sorcerers for Wajda and Knife In The Water for Polanski.

The latter two as a double-bill launches the season on March 5th and 6th, at 1pm each day, whilst the other two double-bills are Rysopsis and Walkover (Mar 12th and 13th, 1.15pm) and Barrier with Hands Up! (Mar 19th and 20th, at 1.15pm).

Further details on ifi.ie.