Paul Byrne reviews the latest movies to hit Irish cinemas including Tangled and Hereafter

MOVIES.IE’S ONE TO WATCH!
TANGLED (USA/G/100mins)
Directed by Nathan Greno, Bryon Howard. Starring the voices of Mandy Moore, Zachary Levi, Donna Murphy, Ron Perlman, Jeffrey Tambor, Brad Garrett.

THE PLOT: Her hair containing the glowing gift of youth, Princess Rapunzel (Moore) is kidnapped as a baby by the evil Grothel (Murphy) and kept in a tower deep in the woods. Where, when approaching her 18th birthday, Rapunzel finally works up the courage to venture out into the big bad world. Helped somewhat by the arrival through her window of charming thief Flynn Rider (Levi)…
THE VERDICT: The rebirth of Disney continues, Tangled mixing the sweet fairytale slapstick ofEnchanted with the mermaid-out-of-water flowering of The Little Mermaid to wonderful effect. The Coens’ DOP Roger Deakins continues his impact on animation here too, his work with Pixar and DreamWorks’ recent How To Train Your Dragon no doubt influencing Tangled’s deliciously dark palette. Oh, and the kids will love it too, of course. RATING: ****

HEREAFTER (USA/12A/127mins)
Directed by Clint Eastwood. Starring Matt Damon, Cecile De France, Bryce Dallas Howard, Frankie McLaren, George McLaren, Jay Mohr, Richard Kind.

THE PLOT: Clint offers up three movies for the price of one, as we follow three lost souls trying to understand life after death. French TV news journalist Marie (De France) goes from being Olivia O’Leary to Mystic Meg after barely surviving a tsunami; San Francisco factory worker George (Damon) is determined not to use his psychic powers but his brother (Mohr) is determined they cash in; 12-year old Londoner Marcus (McLaren) is taken from his junkie mum when his twin brother is killed in a road accident.
THE VERDICT: As with Woody Allen, Clint Eastwood takes a no-nonsense approach to filmmaking – which means each cinematic icon breezily churns out a new mid-budget film every year. Eastwood’s hit rate has been somewhat higher than Allen’s though, even if, in some cases (i.e.Gran Torino), the critical acclaim wasn’t entirely deserved. Tellingly, Hereafter is the first Eastwood film in many years that the celebrity-whoring Golden Globes didn’t shower with nominations. Yep, it’s really that flat. RATING: **

HOW DO YOU KNOW (USA/12A/120mins)
Directed by James L. Brooks. Starring Jack Nicholson, Reese Witherspoon, Owen Wilson, Paul Rudd, Tony Shalhoub.

THE PLOT: Witherspoon plays the Team USA softball poster girl who finds herself being turfed out when she hits 31 whilst Rudd is the fall guy for some dodgy Middle East dealings at the investment company run by his dad (Nicholson, in full smirk mode) and Wilson is the Washington Nationals baseball pitcher who, we’re supposed to believe, is a highly sensitive cocksmith.
THE VERDICT: How dull is this movie? Well, the words ‘very’ and ‘very’ spring instantly to mind. The great James L. Brooks might be something of a Hollywood legend, but it can still squeeze out the odd dud. And How Do You Know is right down there with I’ll Do Anything and Spanglish. Right down there. RATING: *

BRIGHTON ROCK (UK/16/110mins)
Directed by Rowan Joffe. Starring Sam Riley, Andrea Riseborough, Phil Davis, Sean Harris, John Hurt, Helen Mirren.

THE PLOT: It’s Brighton, 1964, and the battle between mods and rockers rages on. Just after his gang leader is killed by a rival gang, Pinkie Brown (Riley, so effective as Ian Curtis in Control) recognises one of the attackers as Fred Hale (Harris), setting off a revenge killing that gets mildly complicated by, of course, a rather attractive young waitress (Riseborough).
THE VERDICT: Just as the Coens have said that their True Grit is not a remake of the 1969 film but a new adaptation of the original Charles Portis novel, director Joffe has been at pains to point out that he wasn’t remaking the acclaimed Boulting brothers’ 1947 film here but adapting Graham Greene’s 1938 novel. Not that such declarations of intent have saved this film from getting a mild kicking from the critics. Joffe throws in some interesting ideas of his own, but the early promise soon gives way to cliché and, hey, scenes faithfully lifted from the earlier big-screen version.RATING: **

BARNEY’S VERSION (USA/15A/134mins)
Directed by Richard J. Lewis. Starring Paul Giamatti, Rosamund Pike, Minnie Driver, Rachelle Lefevre, Scott Speedman, Bruce Greenwood, Dustin Hoffman.

THE PLOT: Based on Mordecai Richler 1997 novel, Giamatti plays unlucky-in-love Barney Panofsky, who not only has the misfortune of marrying three times but he also becomes a murder suspect along the way. Oh, and he makes crap TV shows for a living. Over 40 years, we follow Barney through his many trials and tribulations, many of them of his own making, his latest – marrying Driver’s shrill Jewish princess – tempered somewhat by his becoming instantly besotted with the angelic Miriam (Pike) at the wedding reception.
THE VERDICT: Giamatti’s on familiar territory here, but director Paul J. Lewis never quite manages to get a proper hold on Richler’s sprawling satire, resulting in a film that’s only sporadically funny and ultimately annoying. Good to see Hoffman continue on his merry cameo way though. RATING: **

BIUTIFUL (Mexico/Spain/15A/147mins)
Directed by Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu. Starring Javier Bardem, Maricel Alvarez, Eduard Fernandez, Diaryatou Daff, Cheick Ndiaye.

THE PLOT: Barcelona, present day, and small-time crook Uxbal (Bardem) believes in being strict with his kids and even stricter with their bi-polar, stripper mum (Alvarez). It’s hard to be a saint in the city though when you’re being sold short by not only your Senegal black market street traders and the corrupt cop you’re bribing but also the Chinese factory owner who treats his immigrant workers like, well, Chinese immigrant workers. And that’s when Uxbal learns that he’s about to die of cancer.
THE VERDICT: As with Black Swan, this is a film that I know I should have loved a lot more than I actually did. It’s dark, it’s depressing, a spiral of paranoia, a high-wire act between death or glory. And it’s shot almost entirely with a jerky handheld camera. So, you know, it’s art. Lots of art. As with Black Swan, I just found this overplayed, a tad overlong, and ripe with soap opera plot points. Still, some of the geekier film critics at the screening were clearly in lonely bedsit heaven. One of them even smiled. RATING: ***

 

CHINA IN YOUR HANDS
Just a reminder about that new addition to the Chinese New Year Festival in Dublin, the wittily-named Chinese Film Festival running from Feb 4th until the 13th.
Amidst the European and world premieres are Stephen Shin’s Blood Oath (headlined by Gong Li), Xiaogang Feng’s Aftershock and Quan’an Wang’s Apart Together. There will also be a selection of Chinese documentaries and animation to help mark The Year Of The Rabbit.
Full details on dublincity/cny.

 

JIM’LL FIX IT
Next month, the IFI will be paying tribute to writer, director, actor, chancer Jim Sheridan with a retrospective of his films, and a few old friends.
Kicking off on Feb 3rd at 6pm with the Oscar-winning My Left Foot, the season will be launched on the night by leading man Daniel Day-Lewis, along with guests Brenda Fricker, Hugh O’Conor, and Sheridan himself. Two days later, on Feb 5th at 3pm, it’s 1979’s Mobile Homes, introduced by Peter Sheridan, followed by a public conversation between the two Dublin brothers. On Feb 7th at 6.15pm, it’s The Field, followed by a talk with Jim Sheridan, Luke Gibbons and Brenda Fricker.
Other films include In The Name Of The Father (Feb 8th at 6pm), Some Mother’s Son (Feb 9th at 6.40pm), The Boxer (Feb 10th, 6.40pm), In America (Feb 12th, 4pm), Bloody Sunday (Feb 13th, 2pm) and Brothers (Feb 21st, 7pm). Full details on ifi.ie.