Directed by Hoyt Yeatman. Starring Bill Nighy, Zach Galifianakis, Will Arnett, and the voices of Nicolas Cage, Sam Rockwell, Penelope Cruz, Tracy Morgan.
THE PLOT: Trouble kicks in early on, when you realise that Galifianakis (the surrealist comic who stole the show as lone wolf-pack Alan in The Hangover) has to play it straight as the nerdy young scientist who has the brains and the brainwave to put together a fearsome foursome of furry felon fighters. Rockwell, Cruz and Morgan lend their voices to the hi-tech-laden guinea pigs whilst joining them for some underground computer wizardry is Cage, voicing the star-nosed mole Speckles. Steve Buscemi, meanwhile, pops up as self-serving hamster, and Jon Favreau provides the voice of the portly Hurley.
The plot has our boys having to prove that the world is about to come to a very sticky end, thanks to some transforming chips implanted in the many, many household electronics produced by seemingly sinister industrialist Leonard Saber (Nighy), before Special Agent Kip Cillian (Arnett) and his crew shut them down for good. Cue an explosion of high-octane chases and low-brow one-liners. A guinea pig shouting “Pimp my ride!” isn’t exactly cutting edge.
THE VERDICT: It had all the makings of being the year’s most sublimely ridiculous blockbuster, but G-Force ends up being just another CGI crash-bang-wallop for kids. Which, given that it boasts not only such comic talents as Zach Galifianakis, Will Arnett (Arrested Development, Blades of Glory), Tracy Morgan (30 Rock) and Bill Nighy, but also SPECIAL AGENT GUINEA PIGS, well, it’s a shock to the system that this movie isn’t wall-to-wall hilarious.
It’s Jerry Bruckheimer’s Tales From The Riverbank. Only not as wildly wonderful as that might sound. I was hoping for Bolt meets Lancelot Link: Secret Chimp; instead, this is Alvin And The Chipmunks meets Team America: World Police. RATING: ***
Directed by Tony Scott. Starring Denzel Washington, John Travolta, Luiz Guzman, John Turturro, James Gandolfini.
THE PLOT: Washington takes on the role originally played by Walter Matthau, as the ordinary Joe subway dispatcher trying to talk sense to a cold-blooded mercenary (Travolta, going all Broken Arrow on the Robert Shaw role) who’s hijacked a train and is threatening to systematically kill all the passengers onboard unless he gets $10million (up from $1m in the original, but that’s inflation for you).
THE VERDICT: The great thing about Hollywood remaking cult classics is that they often remind you of the fact that, yep, they sure don’t make ’em like they used to. Which isn’t always a bad thing, of course, but The Taking Of Pelham 123 – based on the much-loved 1974 hit – simply proves that slick camera trickery and fat cat superstars are no match for true grit.
Denzel Washington and John Travolta are the fat cat superstars in questions, both solid actors who have had their fare share of the good, the bad and the ugly splattered across their bulging CVs. Their latest together certainly isn’t ugly – this is directed by Tony Scott, after all, and he and brother Ridley have always been visual masters – but The Taking Of Pelham 123 isn’t particularly good, or bad, either. RATING: **
Directed by Avie Luthra. Starring Meera Syal, Nitin Ganatra, Zubin Varla, Andrea Riseborough, Leena Dhingra.
THE PLOT: Present day, Luton, and a voice from the grave introduces us to her three offspring – TV sitcom writer Atul (Ganatra), psychiatrist Hardeep (Varla) and librarian Rashmi (Syal). Just to some weeks earlier, and Rashmi is unhappy in his relationship, Hardeep is incapable of a relationship, and Atul gets turfed out by their alcoholic mother after one too many bad dates.
THE VERDICT: So much is wrong with this movie, it’s hard to know where to start. Suffice to say that it’s dull, and unfunny, and lacks any insights into the mad, sad and bad world of thirtysomething dating. This is the sort of movie that turns up on TV3 on a Tuesday night. Where it belongs.
Directed by Anne Fontaine. Starring Audrey Tautou, Benoit Poelvoorde, Alessandro Nivola.
THE PLOT: Audrey Tautou is perfectly cast as Gabrielle Bonheur Chanel, the second daughter of a travelling salesman, born on August 19th, 1883, into a poorhouse, her mother dying of tuberculosis 12 years later. With her father unable to raise his six children alone, the young Chanel spent seven years in a Roman Catholic orphanage, where she learnt the trade of a seamstress. Her work later as a dancer (to help keep her tailoring business afloat) brought Coco to the attention of millionaire playboy Etienne Balsan (Poelvoorde, from Man Bites Dog), who introduced his striking young mistress to the high life before she finally found her feet, and her first love – British industrialist Arthur ‘Boy’ Chapel (Nivola) – along with her own voice. All the while, the influence of that drab orphanage plays a part in Chanel’s love of stripped-down designs that bravely went against the lavish costuming of the times.
THE VERDICT: Despite the fact that it deals only with her early years, before all the power and the glory, Anne Fontaine’s Coco Before Chanel is still an intriguing little film. Even if it never quite hits the high notes of La Vie En Rose. Fontaine (who co-scripted the film with her sister, Camille) presents an always watchable, visually beautiful film, and Tautou delivers one of her finest performances, but there’s still something a tad plain about this film. Perhaps that’s the way Coco would have wanted it? RATING: ***
Directed by Courtney Hunt. Starring Melissa Leo, Misty Upham, Charlie McDermott, Michael O’Keefe.
THE PLOT: Leo plays Ray Eddy, whom we first meet as she tries to hold it together outside her beat-up trailer home, her beloved double-wide about to be delivered for a second time and her gambling-addicted husband having just fled with the $4,000 balance. Desperate times call for desperate measures, and rather than go running off after her errant hubby – something Ray’s 15-year old son, T.J. (McDermott), insists upon – a chance meeting with a local Native American girl, Lila Littlewolf (Upham), leads to a little people-smuggling from Mohawk no-policeman’s-land into America. Naturally, this easy money comes at a price.
THE VERDICT: The dark horse in the Best Actress nominations at this year’s Oscars, Melissa Leo certainly turns in a raw and powerful performance as a single, trailer-park mum on the verge of doing something very drastic. Which is, of course, just the sort of role a woman has to play to get a little Oscar action around here.
American indie to the core – bad lighting, ugly cast, depressing smalltown lives, Cooder-esque soundtrack – Frozen River isn’t quite the classic thriller some critics have been claiming it is (then again, you should never believe an Empire quote). This is ain’t no Blood Simple, no One False Move, but it is a solid slice of drama that boasts a distinctly Sean Penn state of mind. RATING: ***
IFI AUGUST BANK HOLIDAY
Over the August bank holiday, the IFI will be host to some special screenings, including a return of the popular documentary The Liberties, Saturday at 1pm; the premiere of the new family film The Race, starring Colm Meaney and Susan Lynch, at 12 noon on Sunday, whilst on Monday at 1.45pm, there’s the acclaimed 2-parter Mesrine, starring Vincent Cassel in a Cesar-winning performance as the notorious French gangster. Check irishfilm.ie for full details.
JOSEPH LOSEY RETROSPECTIVE
Running through the month of August, A Dark And Dangerous Poetry: The Films Of Joseph Losey looks at the work of the Cannes-winning director who brought us such films as The Accident and The Go-Between.
Having started out in radical theatre, Losey launched his film career in the 1940s, his glittering career derailed after he was blacklisted as a communist during the McCarthy trials. Moving to the UK, Losey began to shine once more, working with the likes of Harold Pinter, Tom Stoppard and, beyond the shoreline, Bertolt Brecht and Tennessee Williams.