Paul Byrne reviews this weeks movies, including Captain America, Arriety, Zookeeper & More

CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE FIRST AVENGER (USA/PG/122mins)

Directed by Joe Johnston. Starring Chris Evans, Hugo Weaving, Tommy Lee Jones, Samuel L. Jackson, Dominic Cooper, Stanley Tucci, Toby Jones.

THE PLOT: Just a skinny kid from Brooklyn, Steve Rogers (Evans) nonetheless has a lot of guts as a soldier, ready and willing to fight in the Second World War. Only problem is, there isn’t any muscle covering those guts, and so, this 90-pound asthmatic is entered into a new government experiment to microwave themselves some Super Soldiers. And that’s when Captain America is born. Just in time to fight the evil German scientist Red Skull (Weaving) and his super Nazis, the Hyrdra organisation.

THE VERDICT: Saved from being just another Marvel comicbook adaptation by a winning central performance by Chris Evans, the American military might jingo-ism of this 1941 creation is neutered somewhat by the creation of a retro-futuristic world where, well, nothing is entirely real. So, you know, don’t get all bent out of shape over America kicking the world’s ass. This is the Second World War, and it’s a cartoon reality. Even with the fine supporting cast though, am I the only one who’s really not all that excited about the Marvel motherload ensemble The Avengers, due out next year? RATING: 3/5

ZOOKEEPER (USA/PG?101mins)

Directed by Frank Coraci. Starring Kevin James, Rosario Dawson, Leslie Bibb, Ken Jeong, Donnie Wahlberg, Cher, Adam Sandler.

THE PLOT: Having just been dumped by his girlfriend (Bibb) after an awkward marriage proposal, the eponymous and anonymous Griffin (James) decides throwing himself into his work at Boston’s Franklin Park Zoo is the best way to mend a broken heart. And that’s when the animals decide to reward the moping zookeeper for his tireless good work by letting them join in on their chats. When the love of his life comes back into view, Griffin reckons the best way to win her back is to make her jealous, and so convinces fellow worker Kate (Dawson) to pose as his girlfriend…

THE VERDICT: We’ve reached a point in cinema where we’ll happily accept a talking gorilla giving advice on matters of the heart, but I’m not so sure we’ll ever reach the point where any everyday schlub like Kevin James is going to be torn between two hotties like Rosario Dawson and Leslie Bibb. Attempting to tap into that lucrative family market where fart jokes and naughty monkeys are the height of comic sophistication, Zookeeper falls well short of recent predecessors such as Night At The Museum and Eddie Murphy’s Dr. Doolittle update. And given that both of those movies kinda sucked, that doesn’t say a lot for this sorry crock of cappuchin crap. RATING: 1/5

MOVIES.IE’S ONE TO WATCH!

ARRIETY (Japan/G/94mins)

Directed by Hiromasa Yonebayashi. Starring the voices of Mirai Shida, Ryunosuke Kamiki, Tatsuya Fujiwara, Keiko Takeshita, Tomokazu Miura.

THE PLOT: Moving in with his great aunt Sadako (Takeshita) in her rambling old house in the country, young boy Sho (Kamiki) is due for an operation that will hopefully save his life. Late one night, when Arriety (Shida) joins her father, Pod (Miura), in venturing out from beneath the floorboards on a mission to ‘borrow’ a cube of sugar and some tissue paper, the miniature teenage girl comes face to face with the napping Sho. Who tells her not to be afraid. But Borrowers – 10 centimetres-high inhabitants of a house’s nooks and crannies – aren’t supposed to mix with humans, and Arriety’s family are soon making plans to move on…

THE VERDICT: Based on Mary Norton’s 1952 children’s classic, Studio Ghibli chief Hayao Miyazaki has wanted to adapt The Borrowers to the big screen for decades, finally leaving the actual job of directing his labour of love to animator Hiromasa Yonebayashi. Less of an acid trip than earlier Ghibli offering, Arriety may be a deliberate attempt to tap into the Western market with such a universally-loved story (and there are American and European dubs of the film, the latter led by our own Saoirse Ronan), but this is unmistakably the studio that brought us Kiki’s Delivery Service, Princess Mononoke and Spirited Away. Like the recent Ponyo though, your (inner or actual) kid might actually be able to understand this one. RATING: 4/5

HORRID HENRY: THE MOVIE (UK/USA/G/93mins)

Directed by Nick Moore. Starring Theo Stevenson, Scarlett Stitt, Siobhan Hayes, Mathew Horne, Tyger Drew-Honey, Angelica Huston, Richard E. Grant, Noel Fielding, Jo Brand.

THE PLOT: Yep, as the poster says, Here Comes Trouble, little Henry (newcomer Stevenson) determined to leave his school in a daze. Which isn’t all that difficult when you’re dealing with a headmistress called Ms Oddbond (Rebecca Front), a terrifying teacher called Miss Battle-Axe (Huston), a roaming rocker called Ed Banger (Fielding), Jo Brand as Demon Dinner Lady, and a rival, scheming headmaster called Ed Van Wrinkle (Grant). Let the cartoon battles begin!

THE VERDICT: Having made his debut in 1994, dastardly schoolboy Henry has so far been the star of twenty story books, six joke books, 13 TV series activity books, 10 compilation books, four annuals and a bedtime outing for World Book Day. There’s also the CITV TV series, a radio show, and an album, Horrid Henry’s Most Horrible Album. Oh, and let’s not forget the 22 DVDs. Or the 18 audiobooks. What took Vertigo Films so long in jumping on this modern-day Dennis The Menace juggernaut? To be fair, they’ve pulled together a stellar cast, with just about everyone who’s anyone in UK acting circles getting involved. Well, everyone who’s too ugly for Potter, that is. Angelica Huston seems to be having the most fun, touching on her turn in The Witches as the spinsteresque teacher. Shot in 3D, with a cast that resembles the books’ originals not one jot, this is a loud and brash kiddie movie that nonetheless manages to strike the funny bone occasionally. With a water-filled balloon, of course. RATING: 2/5

MOVIES.IE’S ONE TO WATCH!

POETRY (South Korea/IFI/139mins)

Directed by Lee Chang-Dong. Starring Jeong-hie Yun, Nae-sang Ahn, Hira Kim, Da-wit Lee, Yong-taek Kim.

THE PLOT: Set in present day South Korea, 66-year old Mija (Yun) has her distant teenage grandson Wook (Lee) staying with her as she battles the early stages of Alzheimer’s with poetry classes at a local adult education centre. The community is reeling from the suicide of a teenage girl after being sexually abused by male classmates, and Mija is stunned to discover that Wook was one of those classmates. As the parents of the accused decide to offer blood money to the peasant mother of the girl in question, Mija concocts her own plan…

THE VERDICT: A film all about quiet devastation that, yep, is quietly devastating. Not quite Up, but then, not Down & Out either, as our 66-year old protagonist embraces the magic of the world around her just as the mounting evidence would seem to suggest there is little joy and wonder on offer. Despite her grim reality, Mija sees a light, and a way forward, and if you haven’t got a lump in your throat by the closing scene, may Godard have mercy on your soul. RATING: 4/5