This weeks movies reviewed by Paul Byrne, including THE SKIN I LIVE IN, FINAL DESTINATION 5, ONE DAY, CONAN and more…
MOVIES.IE’S ONE TO WATCH THE SKIN I LIVE IN (Spain/16/120mins)
Directed by Pedro Almodovar. Starring Antonio Banderas, Elena Anaya, Marisa Paredes, Blanca Suarez, Jan Cornet, Fernando Cayo, Barbara Lennie.
THE PLOT: Toledo, and top plastic surgeon Robert Ledgard (Banderas) is having a hard time convincing his superiors of a transgenic skin, combining human and pig genes, will protect man from insect bites. Trouble is, the method is illegal. Not that Robert’s all that bothered – he’s got a human guinea pig, Vera (Anaya), sealed up in his mansion just outside town. Just how Vera came to be there is slowly revealed through flashback. It gets weird…
THE VERDICT: If Alfred Hitchcock had directed Mexican soaps, he might just have achieved Almodovar’s mild majestic madness. Those early women-verging-on-drag queens outings have given way to a slow, sweet seduction that, ultimately, is just as high on melodrama. Only now, Almodovar knows that less is more. And he’s also a master craftsman when it comes to the language of cinema. All the better to slip us the tongue when we list expect it. Blissfully bonkers. RATING: 4/5
CONAN THE BARBARIAN (USA/15A/112mins)
Directed by Maruc Nispel. Starring Jason Momoa, Ron Perlman, Rose McGowan, Stephen Lang, Rachel Nichols, Leo Howard.
THE PLOT: His father, Corin (Perlman), having sacrificed himself during an attack by warlords so that his young son (Howard) could live, the adult Conan (Momoa) goes on, yep, a roaring rampage of revenge, tracking down the now nose-free (thanks to the young Conan) Lucius. Who will lead him to the big cheese, Khalar Zym, responsible for the massacre. Along the way, Conan meets Tamara (Nichols), a sexy novice nun. There just aren’t enough sexy novice nuns in cinema today. Not in the mainstream, anyway.
THE VERDICT: Created in 1932 by Robert E. Howard, for Weird Tales magazine (nice to know there were fantasy geeks even then), Conan is perhaps best known to modern audiences through the young-ish Arnie’s take on the sword-wielding lug in his 1982 outing (and its lesser 1984 sequel). A third 1987 film, Conan The Conquerer, never made it into production, the abandoned script becoming 1997’s much-derided Kull The Conquerer. Still, the original hopes for a James Bond style franchise are very much rejuvenated here with this rollicking-verging-on-Rocky-Horror outing that benefits greatly from a surprisingly charming leading man, Jason Momoa (think: Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson, still full of hope and swagger). Not quite The Scorpion King, but, close. RATING: 2/5
ONE DAY (USA/12A/107mins)
Directed by Lone Scherfig. Starring Anne Hathaway, Jim Sturgess, Tom Mison, Jodie Whittaker, Rafe Spall, Patricia Clarkson.
THE PLOT: Based on David Nicholls’ best-selling 2009 novel, Hathaway plays Yorkshire lass Emma, who we first meet on July 15th, 1988 as she has a near-one night stand with smooth Southerner Dexter (Sturgess). For the next two decades, the two friends meet on the anniversary of that day, and we follow their individual lives (his rise and fall as a TV presenter; her slow path to successful children’s author living in Paris), all the while wondering, will they, won’t they?
THE VERDICT: Think Before Sunrise meets Groundhog Day. The reviews for this quirky offering haven’t exactly been shining, with most critics struggling to equate Brooklyn beauty Anne with the Yorkshire ugly duckling of Nicholls’ book. And Hathaway’s accent gets the biggest kicking of all. By gum. Not that it’s actually all that bad. It’s just that the film, despite its intriguing time-leaping central plot device and its two likeable leads, doesn’t quite work on screen as well as it does in print. And you don’t have to have read the book to feel that. RATING: 2/5
FINAL DESTINATION 5 (USA/16/91mins)
Directed by Steven Quale. Starring Nicholas D’Agosto, Emma Bell, Arlen Escarpeta, Miles Fisher, P.J. Byrne, David Koechner, Courtney B. Vance.
THE PLOT: Yep, death still doesn’t like to be cheated, and so, when nice guy Sam Lawton (D’Agosto) shares his vision of a collapsing bridge with his fellow bus travellers, and convinces them to run, the survivors soon realise that their time might actually be up either way. Unless, of course, they can deliver someone else in their place. All it takes is a little push at the traffic lights…
THE VERDICT: It’s always hit and miss with horror franchises, both on an artistic level but, more importantly for those putting up the moolah, at the box-office. For no discernible reason, audiences can decide they’ve had enough of a particular horror kick – the last Saw and Scream outings dying a fittingly horrible death at the box-office. And just as arbitrarily, they can embrace a dead horse’s latest gallop around the multiplexes. Part of the pleasure, of course, is seeing how desperate a franchise can get, and the reanimation of 3D fits perfectly into horror’s bag of crude survival tricks. On the plus side, Final Destination 5 makes darn fine use of 3D. On the negative side, it’s the fifth outing. Of a not-exactly-classic horror franchise. RATING: 3/5
MOVIES.IE’S ONE TO WATCH!
TREACLE JR. (UK/IFI/85mins)
Directed by Jamie Thraves. Starring Aidan Gillen, Tom Fisher, Riann Steele, Cristina Catalina, Carrie Cohen.
THE PLOT: Having bid farewell to his wife and young son in Birmingham, the clearly troubled Tom (Fisher) has taken the train to London, so he can disappear. Chased by a mob in the park on his first night, Tom meets the very chatty, possibly mental Aidan (Gillen) at A&R. When Aidan’s attractive girlfriend Linda (Steele) turns out to be as hard as he is soft, Tom finds himself sympathising with his breezily optimistic new BFF.
THE VERDICT: Aidan Gillen takes Dublin’s answer to Daniel Johnston, Aidan Walsh, and creates an equally loveable, disorientating childlike philosopher and would-be rock god. More Chance Gardener than Forrest Gump, the on-screen Aidan possesses a vulnerability that’s often unsettling. Especially when his hooker girlfriend is beating him about the head and face. Thraves has spoken of Midnight Cowboy, but Adam & Paul is in there too. RATING: 4/5