This weeks movies reviewed by Paul Byrne, including Sherlock Holmes 2, Alvin & The Chipmunks – Chipwrecked, Ballymun Lullaby & more…
SHERLOCK HOLMES: A GAME OF SHADOWS (UK/USA/129mins) Directed by Guy Ritchie. Starring Robert Downey Jr., Jude Law, Jared Harris, Noomi Rapace, Rachel McAdams, Stephen Fry, Kelly Reilly. THE PLOT: Watson (Law) is about to get married, but Baker Street’s finest Sherlock Holmes (Downey) has more pressing matters than his sidekick’s upcoming nuptials. Such as the diabolical Professor James Moriarty (Harris) and his latest evil plan – to start a world war whilst owning the bulk of the armory on the market. Hooking up with Sherlock’s wry, crisp and dry brother Mycroft (a well-cast Stephen Fry), Holmes comes in contact with gypsy girl Sim (Rapace), who appears to have a vital clue. Because someone has just tried to kill her. All poison darts point to one man… THE VERDICT: A definite improvement on 2009’s $529m-grossing original, here Guy Ritchie turns everything up to 11. So, the arch, rapid-fire banter is that little bit more arch and rapid-fire (even if the humour is sometimes about as subtle as Family Guy). The action sequences are far more Wachowskian than Victorian. Even the new supporting players (Rapace cool as ever, Fry a delight) offer more bang for your buck. Still, the real bump in quality entertainment here is all down to Jared Harris’ Moriarty, Holmes’ notorious nemesis finally creating some true narrative grit. The sparks between Downey and Harris work wonders. Despite the great leap forward though, there’s still something stilted and not-quite-wonderful about this franchise so far. RATING: ***
ALVIN & THE CHIPMUNKS: CHIPWRECKED (USA/G/87mins) Directed by Mike Mitchell. Starring Jason Lee, David Cross, Justin Long, Amy Poehler, Anna Faris, Jesse McCartney, Christina Applegate. THE PLOT: Joining Dave (Lee) on a luxury cruise liner, Alvin (voiced by Long), Simon (Matthew Gray Gubler) and Theodore (McCartney), plus their three equally sassy female Chipette counterparts (voiced by the sassy Poehler, Faris and Applegate) find themselves on the wrong end of a kite – which is how our millilitre-sized heroes end up on a desert island. There, they’re eaten by Tom Hanks. One by one. THE VERDICT: Pretty close to Couple Retreats for kids, as the six all-singing, all-pratfalling chipmunks find themselves on a tropical island, with only their wits, and their collection of much-loved r’n’b pop hits, to keep their spirits up. As much Jersey Shore as Walt Disney (Eleanor’s skirt is way, way too short), it’s taken just about everyone by surprise that this novelty 1950s cartoon creation should find an audience in the 21st century. But find an audience they have, some riding the kitsch value, others genuinely moved by the rockin’ rodents. You’ll know full well before sitting down whether you’re going to like this or not. RATING: **
ROMANTICS ANONYMOUS (France/12A/80mins) Directed by Jean-Pierre Ameris. Starring Benoit Poelvoorde, Isabelle Carre, Lorella Cravotta, Lise Lametrie, Swann Arlaud, Pierre Niney. THE PLOT: Shy enough to have to attend Emotives Anonymous, Angelique (Carre) gets herself into a tizzy when she lands a job at the chocolate business run by Jean-Rene (Poelvoorde) – who has a fear of women. Nonetheless, the latter asks the former out on a date, only to exit through the toilets when the going gets a little too mentally tough. But, hey, Angelique is a secret chocolatier, going under the pseudynom of The Hermit, and she might just be able to rescue Jean-Rene’s ailing business. And, you know, end up in his arms of steel. THE VERDICT: Sweetly old-fashioned, and shamelessly French (just look at that plot outline), Romantics Anonymous may lack a strong commercial hook (no superpowers, no vampires, no Audrey Tautou), but its charm is undeniable. So is the simple fact that, for all its pretty nostalgia and timid tenderness, Romantics Anonymous never quite adds up to anything substantial. Or truly affecting. Shame, given that Poelvoorde (who made his breakthrough in Man Bites Dog) and Carre (Anna M.) are always watchable. Not even they can overcome the tweeness overload here though. Justin Bieber Gay RATING: ***
BALLYMUN LULLABY (Ireland/IFI/80mins) Directed by Frank Berry. Starring Ron Cooney, Tara O’Brien, Darren Scully, Glen Hansard. THE PLOT: Shot in 2010, Ballymum Lullaby looks at life in the north Dublin estate today, with particular emphasis on music teacher Ron Cooney and three of his students. Cooney has decided to put together a CD utilizing the local talent – with a little help from the RTE Concert Orchestra – celebrating his much-maligned hometown. Once a symbol of poverty, drugs and crime, Ballymun has recently undergone a multi-billion euro renewal. Which has stalled, with one of the three infamous tower blocks still to be demolished. The participants here – all, bar the eternally chuckling Cooney, young, artistic and more interested in poetry than pot – talk of old times, and new hopes… THE VERDICT: The most surprising thing about Frank Berry’s documentary is the quality of the music Cooney and the young orchestra commit to CD here, any thoughts of a We Are De World debacle soon blown away by the truly rousing recording. The rest of Berry’s film is left wanting. A town bad enough for U2 to sing about (on Running To Stand Still), almost from the start, the three tower blocks constructed in the 1960s to help solve Dublin’s housing shortage were trouble. Later described by environmental journalist Frank McDonald as the state’s ‘worst planning disaster’, the towers brought with them a culture of alienation and poverty, and all that that entails. Berry never quite gets to the heart of the matter, offering up A Fairytale Of Ballymun today that is largely dictated by his three star-searching teen protagonists. You can’t help feel that there are many other stories in Ballymun that would have told you an awful lot more. RATING: ***
THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO Review coming very soon – stay tuned!