Paul Byrne gives his verdict on the latest movie releases including Salt and The Expendables

SALT (USA/12A/100mins)
Directed by Philip Noyce. Starring Angelina Jolie, Liev Schreiber, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Daniel Olbrychski.

 


THE PLOT: Taking on some unexpected relevance in recent weeks, the plot concerns pesky Russian sleeper spies setting out to bring down the good ol’ U.S. Of A from within, the happily married CIA pin-up Evelyn Salt (Jolie) finding her crime-busting life turning upside down after a Russian defector (Olbrychski) informs her all about a program involving children being indoctrined as spies for his beloved Motherland. And Evelyn Salt, he informs her, was one such child. Cue the theme from The Fugitive, as Ms. Salt goes on the run, surviving a high-octane assault-and-battery course before finally… well, let’s just say that Angelina’s sexy killing machine lives on to fight another box-office weekend.


THE VERDICT:
One of the few true box-office stars left on the planet, Angelina Jolie takes an actioner originally lined up for yesterday’s man Tom Cruise, and she delivers the only real thrills to be found in the slick but soulless Salt. It would be that Jolie supremacy too that has helped the film cruise past the $100m in the US last week.


Director Philip Noyce does a fine job, and supports from the likes of Olbrychski and Liev Schreiber keep the drama ticking alongside all that action. In the end though, coming across like an anemic Bourne outing, this feels like too much salt – and ketchup – and not enough chips. RATING: **


THE EXPENDABLES (USA/15A/103mins)
Directed by Sylvester Stallone. Starring Sylvester Stallone, Jason Statham, Jet Li, Dolph Lundgren, Eric Roberts, David Zayas.

 


THE PLOT: Plainly still high on his Rambo and Rocky comebacks, Stallone comes up with a plot very much in keeping with the former, as a bunch of mercenaries are hired by the CIA to take out a South American despot General (Zayas) and the cocaine kingpin (Roberts) bankrolling him. It’s a suicide mission. Just like our boys like ’em.
The plot is very much secondary here, of course, Stallone and co-writer Dave Callaham merely needing a framework for lots and lots of action sequences, with just the occasional manly heart-to-heart so the explosives expert have time to line up the next big bang.


THE VERDICT: Who woulda thunk it – get a bunch of dead 1980s action heroes, put them in a retro 1980s action movie, and, boom, you’ve got yourself a no.1 hit.
Given that Stallone has rallied together the likes of Arnie, Lundgren, Li, Willis, Rourke and Eric Roberts, they really should have called this The Exbankables. Throw in the new generations of throwbacks – Jason Statham and mixed martial arts expert Randy Couture amongst them – and you’ll soon find yourself in B-movie heaven. RATING: **

 

 

MARMADUKE (USA/G/87mins)
Directed by Tom Dey. Starring the voices of Owen Wilson, George Lopez, Steve Coogan, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Emma Stone, Fergie, Kiefer Sutherland.


THE PLOT:
Marketing whizz Phil (Lee Pace) moving his wife and three kids from Kansas to Orange County, having landed a job with the organic dog-food company run by the pushy Don Twombly (William H. Macy). Taking up most of the space on the journey is Marmaduke, who quickly makes some new Heinz friends – nervous Giuseppe (Mintz-Plasse), the cool Raisin (Coogan) and tomboy Mazie (Stone) – but is keen to get friendly with the pure bred collie Jezebel (Fergie). The latter is the main squeeze of the park’s big cheese, Bosco (Sutherland).


THE VERDICT:
Having scored one of the biggest box-office weepie hits of recent years with the Snoopy-snuffs-it tearjerker Marley & Me, Owen Wilson pushes his luck, and increases his bank balance considerably, by voicing the big-screen adaptation of thr startingly unfunny comic strip all about a Great Dane. Wilson voices the oversized family pet as a California surfer dude, which clashes somewhat with the less-than-balletic physique of this monster mutt. And, eh, that’s about it. The young ‘uns will love the doggies wisecracking, dancing, surfing and farting, but anyone over the age of of 12 would find far more fun and frolics taking the dog for a walk. RATING: **

 

PYJAMA GIRLS (Ireland/IFI/70mins)
Directed by Maya Derrington. Starring Lauren, Tara, their mates, and families.



THE PLOT:
Ostensibly centred on a would-be fashion wave hitting north Dublin council estates – where young girls have decided that the pyjama is far cooler and more individual than any tracksuit – Derrington’s documentary concentrates largely on teenage mates Lauren and Tara. The former lives with her nan, with whom, after a year together, there’s constant bickering. Lauren’s little sister lives with their aunt, mum having long ago left the picture, thanks to drugs, a family curse. In comparison, Tara lives a life of luxury and familial bliss, her mum tellingly refusing to let Lauren inside their home.

 


THE VERDICT:
The girls unwittingly reveal a lot about themselves, and their lives in Ballyfermot, through their constantly bellowed bravado, some cruel truths to be read between the wisecracks. For her part, Derrington keeps a distance, reserving judgement by letting the sisters do it for themselves. A special mention should go to Dennis McNulty’s minimalist electronic soundtrack. And to Pat Shortt, for playing all the women over 40. RATING: ***

 

 

THE ILLUSIONIST (UK/France/12A/90mins)
Directed by Sylvain Chomet. Starring the voices of Jean-Claude Donda, Edith Rankin, Jil Aigrot, Didier Gustin, Frederic Lebon.


THE PLOT: Based on an unproduced script by the late Jacques Tati (France’s Charlie Chaplin), the story centres on an old stage entertainer who finds he’s becoming yesterday’s man, being forced into smaller and smaller venues as the new breed takes over. But then, a young fan comes along and changes everything…


THE VERDICT:
The maker of the Oscar fave The Triplets Of Belleville takes on an unproduced Jacques Tati script – what more could you want? It’s supposed to be another magical, mysterious and mischievous animated wonder. Or so all the reviews tell me. And the reviewers here in sunny Ireland who caught it. I was away that day, so, I’ll review it next week – but something tells me you too should go and see it in the coming week.
RATING: ****

 

OLD LANG’S EYE

 


The IFI will be marking the major restoration of Fritz Lang’s 1927 masterpiece Metropolis (including an extra 25 minutes not seen since the premiere) with two major seasons celebrating the German filmmaker’s work, and the works that have been influenced by his most famous film.
Running from September 4th to the 19th, the first season looks into Lang’s early works, the season comprising of Dr. Mabuse The Gambler (Sept 4th, 1pm); Spione (Sept 5th, 1.15pm); Woman In The Moon (Sept 11th, 1pm); The Testament Of Dr. Mabuse (Sept 18th, 2pm); M (Sept 19th, 1pm) and The Thousand Eyes of Dr. Mabuse (Sept 19th, 2pm).

 


The second season, charting films heavily influenced by Metropolis, comprises of Things To Come (Sept 1st & 2nd, 6.40pm); Alphaville (Sept 4th, 1.45pm); Dr. Strangelove (Sept 5th, 2pm); Dark City (Sept 11th, 1pm); The Matrix (Sept 18th, 1.20pm) and Brazil (Sept 19th, 1pm).
The great Metropolis returns to the IFI on Sept 10th, running until the 23rd. Full details on www.ifi.ie.

 


20th CENTURY DOCS

 


The Cork Heritage Day takes place on August 28th, with various historical and heritage buildings all over the city opening their doors to the great unwashed. To celebrate the occasion, Civic Trust House will be screening Mitchell & Kenyon In Ireland, 26 short films – painstakingly restored – that show Cork and the rest of the country at the start of the 20th century. Commentary will be read by Fiona Shaw, alongside a new soundtrack. This BFI wonder is also available on DVD, along with an 18-page booklet, but for those of you keen to see it on a really big telly, be at the Civic Trust House next Saturday at 4pm. Just make sure you have a wash beforehand.