This weeks new movies reviewed by Paul Byrne, including Marley, Lockout, Breathing, Elles, Gone and more…
Directed by Kevin Macdonald. Starring Bob Marley, Bunny Livingstone, Cindy Breakspeare, Jimmy Cliff, Junior Marvin.
THE PLOT: Charting Marley’s extremely humble beginnings in a small, square, hilltop shack in the village of Nine Mile in Saint Ann Parish, Jamaica to his slow, steady rise through the melting pot of Trench Town and Coxone Dodd’s groundbreaking Studio One to Bob’s immersion in Rastafarianism (basically Scientology for stoners) and eventual international breakthrough in England with a career-launching 1975 gig at the Lyceum. Along the way, we realise that rejection as a mixed race kid is the spark of Marley’s ambition, starting with his largely absent, freewheelin’ father, ‘Captain’ Norval Sinclair, a man who fathered quite a few illegitimate children as he roamed from town to town. The latter years, as success turned Norval’s equally freewheelin’ son (carrying on the baby mama tradition, with 11 kids from 7 different relationships) into something of an Elvis figure, take on an air of impending tragedy, Marley passing away on May 11th, 1981 from a cancer that had gone untreated since its first detection, under a toe nail, in July 1977.
THE VERDICT: Having passed through the hands of Martin Scorsese (who left due to ‘scheduling conflicts’) and Jonathan Demme (who walked after producer Steve Bing didn’t approve of his edit), Scottish filmmaker Macdonald returns to the documentary format of his 1999 breakthrough One Day In September with this solid if not exactly remarkable exploration of reggae’s first and only true international star. It’s the early years that throw up the most interesting colours, and the most intriguing characters, huge success bringing with it an element of Marley simply taking care of business. No Senna, Macdonald’s documentary will delight the Rizla crowd, but you can’t help feeling there’s a more fascinating film to be made here. Made with the Marley estate’s approval, this plays more like a polished introduction than an in-depth exploration. After 144 minutes, them belly full, but we hungry. RATING: 3/5
Directed by Karl Markovics. Starring Thomas Schubert, Karin Lischka, Georg Friedrich, Gerhard Liebmann, Stefan Matousch.
THE PLOT: Having grown up in institutions, and now serving time for accidentally killing another boy five years ago, 19-year old Roman (Schubert) secures a job through the centre’s day-release scheme at Vienna’s municipal morgue. A corpse with his surname prompts Roman to go in search of the mother (Lischka) who gave him up as an infant, but, despite creating a dashing backstory for himself, she is unimpressed…
THE VERDICT: If you only see one bleak Austrian tale of redemption this weekend, hey, you could do worse. Interesting to note that imdb inform us that people who liked Breathing also liked Michael and The Kid With A Bike. Not that actor-turned-director Karl Markovics quite reaches the parts of the latter, but Breathing is slyly seductive, with non-professional lead Thomas Schubert offering up a touching and tangible performance. Winner of the Grand Prix at Ukraine’s Molodist Festival last October. RATING: 4/5
Directed by Heitor Dhalia. Starring Amanda Seyfried, Jennifer Carpenter, Wes Bentley, Sebastian Stan, Nick Searcy, Joel David Moore.
THE PLOT: It’s been a year since Jill (Seyfried) survived a kidnap ordeal, and now she’s determined to find the dungeon she was held in by searching the 5,000-acre Forest Park just outside her home city of Oregon. When she’s not attending her night class in self-defense, or working at the diner, that is. Returning home one night to find her sister Molly has gone, Jill is convinced it’s the same kidnapper. Only trouble is, no one else believes it…
THE VERDICT: There’s been little love from the critics, or at the US box-office, for this seemingly standard-issue thriller. Certainly, Seyfried is no stranger to slightly ambitious but ultimately generic fare, and Gone would seem to follow on in that tradition. But there’s something almost admirable about the fact that this abandoned little offering (Gone arriving in the US without any real advertising) is the simple fact that it actually has the cajones to play down its serial killer. The final act is a lesson in understatement, and even anti-climax, and is all the more admirable for it. Still not a great movie though. RATING: 2/5
ELFIE HOPKINS (UK/16/88mins)
Directed by Ryan Andrews. Starring Ray Winstone, Jaime Winstone, Kimberley Nixon, Kate Macgowan, Steven Mackintosh, Rupert Evans, Aneurin Barnard.
THE PLOT: Not much to do for teen slacker Elfie (Jaime Winstone) and her stoner best bud Dylan (Barnard) in their sleepy little English village – until, that is, some strange new neighbours move in. Who plainly don’t realise that this is a local village for local people. Elfie suddenly has a reason to let her inner Nancy Drew spring forth, and is soon investigating this odd little family – and discovering that, where’er they go, there’s always a spike in missing people…
THE VERDICT: Okay, so, you’ve got to imagine Twilight meets Harriet The Spy via – and this is the important bit – a large dose of Jeunet et Caro’s Delicatessen. Only, with all the gothic wit and sly sophistication of Twilight. Not Delicatessen. Or Harriet The Spy, for that matter. Still, director and co-writer Ryan Andrews takes a good run at delivering a few frights and chuckles here, whilst it’s nice to see pop Ray make a cameo in support of his sprog’s latest big-screen onslaught. It’ll die a death at the box-office, of course. Which is somewhat fitting. RATING: 2/5
Directed by Malgorzata Szumowska. Starring Juliette Binoche, Anais Demoustier, Joanna Kulig, Louise-Do de Lencquesaing, Krystyna Janda, Andrzej Chyra.
THE PLOT: Binoche plays journalist and family woman Anne, researching an article on prostitution by talking to two young students who have turned to being part-time horizontales in order to make ends meet. Their tales aren’t always touching, involving as they do some serious degradation by the odd client, but the girls themselves are proud, independent and unashamed. Which initially shocks Anne, as she then feels a growing connection to her frank and open subjects. And a creeping feeling that, hey, doesn’t society make all women prostitutes?
THE VERDICT: It’s a well-worn argument, and the only truly shocking thing about Elles is that a 40-something Parisienne journalist could ever be so naïve as Anne. The rest is arthouse rumpy-pumpy dressed up as art house drama. Binoche is always watchable, and she manages to hold your attention as her bored housewife goes about her boring housewife day, but the point of Elles is so plainly obvious that you’re never all that interested in the outcome. Especially given that it’s inevitable. With just a tint of ambiguity. Being French. RATING: 2/5
SALMON FISHING IN THE YEMEN (USA/12A/106mins)
Directed by Lasse Hallstrom. Starring Emily Blunt, Ewan McGregor, Amr Waked, Kristen Scott Thomas, Catherine Steadman, Rachel Stirling, Tom Beard.
THE PLOT: Based on the 2006 prize-winning novel by Paul Torday, and with a screenplay by Simon Beaufoy (The Full Monty, Slumdog Millionaire), Salmon Fishing In The Yemen tells the story of a frustrated British government expert (McGregor) in fisheries who reluctantly attempts to fulfill the wishes of a wealthy Yemeni sheikh (Waked) to introduce salmon fishing to his desert country (or, as he sees it, “a wealthy man’s bagatelle”). Still, the British prime minister’s press secretary seeing the project as the perfect goodwill story of Anglo-Arab relations. Acting on behalf of the sheikh is consultant Harriet (Blunt), who soon finds herself attracted to the fisheries expert. As luck would have it, he’s estranged from his career-minded wife. And her boyfriend is missing in action in the war.
THE VERDICT: Garnering good reviews and not-all-that-bad US box-office, Salmon Fishing In The Yemen is one of those intriguing little films that doesn’t quite deliver on its promise. Mainly because Ewan McGregor – a graduate of the C&A School Of Acting – is in the lead role. The man with the Jim Fixed It For Me smile has buried many an intriguing film, and this is yet another slightly under-the-radar, low-budget and quirky mainstream offering that bears the curse of the inanely grinning Scot. Blunt, of course should have known better, whilst Hallstrom (we’re so very, very far from My Life As A Dog now) once again opts for the soft option, taking out much of the political bite of Torday’s original novel. RATING: 2/5
Directed by James Mather, Stephen St. Leger. Starring Guy Pearce, Maggie Grace, Peter Stormare, Joseph Gilgun, Vincent Regan, Lennie James, Peter Hudson, Nick Hardin.
THE PLOT: Best to let Pearce’s character, wrongly-convicted former agent Snow (“The best there is, but he’s a loose cannon”), give you the get-out-of-jail-free offer as it’s presented to him. “Don’t get me wrong, it’s a dream vacation. I mean, I go into space, I get inside the maximum security nuthouse, get past all the psychos, save the President’s daughter – if she’s not dead already… I’m thrilled that you would think of me”.
THE VERDICT: Taking the Alcatraz logic one step further by moving Fraggle Rock into outer space, Lockout is all booming bass and no melody. Thankfully though, it does have Guy Pearce in full action hero mode, and enough self-mocking zingers to keep you watching the fireworks. The special effects are pure 1990s video game, which seems fitting, given that there’s little here that’s even within a mile of originality. But, hey, this is co-written by pulp prince Luc Besson (with the two Irish directors, begorrah!), the master of the highly sleek and ultimately slapstick genre homage. By rights, the diminutive, derivative Frenchman should be paying John Carpenter a cut here. Joe Gilgun (Woody from This Is England) makes a fine psycho though. RATING: 2/5
THE MONK (Spain/France/15A/100mins)
Directed by Dominik Moll. Starring Vincent Cassel, Deborah Francois, Josephine Japy, Sergi Lopez, Catherine Mouchet, Jordi Dauder, Frederic Noaille.
THE PLOT: Spain, the 17th century, and having been abandoned as a child, Ambrosio (Cassel) grows up to be a pious Capuchin friar. When a waxen-masked young man joins the monastery, it soon becomes apparent that it is Ambrosio that they seek, not God. Revealing herself to be a woman, Valerio (Francois) finally seduces Ambrosio, the two becoming lovers as the latter becomes intoxicated with desire. And he desires the virtuous young Antonia (Japy) most of all…
THE VERDICT: The idea of the feral Vincent Cassel getting medieval on our asses is an enticing one, but The Monk – based on Matthew Lewis’ 1796 novel – is sadly a little too bonkers for its own good. Never quite capturing that “exquisite bliss” of sin that Lewis so devilishly explored in the original book, director Domink Moll (Harry, He’s Here To Help, Lemming) somehow manages to make Vincent Cassel look mildly ridiculous. Which, if memory serves, hasn’t really happened since he foolishly signed on to Mayall and Edmondson’s disastrous Guest House Paradiso 13 years ago. RATING: 2/5
Reviews by Paul Byrne