Reviews New Movies Opening December 2nd 2010

This weeks movie reviews by Paul Byrne, including Megamind and Monsters


THE PIPE (Ireland/15A/82mins)

Directed by Risteard O’Domhnaill. Starring Pat O’Donnell, Maura Harrington, Willie Corduff, Mary Corduff.

THE PLOT: Charting the struggles of various residents of Rossport, County Mayo to stop Shell building a high pressure raw gas pipeline across their land, filmmaker Risteard O’Domhnaill witnesses not only the national – and, later, international – coverage of this David and Goliath story but also the internal battles, as the townspeople turned on one another due to campaign clashes. The frustration is palpable, as is the fear, and the sadness, as protestors finds themselves being manhandled by members of the local gardai – people they would have considered friends up until that point.

THE VERDICT: Proving that the law can, indeed, be an asshole, this low-budget account of the panic, pride and police brutality that ensued once the people of Rossport decided that they weren’t going to take Shell’s plans to plonk an oil pipeline through their homes is, unsurprisingly, stirring stuff. O’Domhnaill may err on the John Hinde side in his initial portrait of these country folk but, for their part, Shell took an environmental concern and turned it into a PR disaster when they jailed five of the protestors on June 29th, 2005. It’s a disaster that they still haven’t fully recovered from, Topaz – who took control of Shell and Statoil not long after the jailing – having wisely decided to rebrand their filling stations under the parent name. A rose thorn under any other name is still a prick. RATING: ****



Directed by Tom McGrath. Starring the voices of Will Ferrell, Brad Pitt, Tina Fey, David Cross, Jonah Hill, Justin Theroux, Ben Stiller.

THE PLOT: Ferrell plays the title role, a career master villain – somewhere between Sideshow Bob and Papa Smurf, trapped in the body of mediocre electronica wizard Moby – hellbent on taking over the world, and stopped only by the dashing, crowd-pleasing Metro Man (voiced by the dashing, crowd-pleasing Pitt). You can imagine Megamind’s surprise when his latest dastardly plan to wipe out his arch enemy actually works. And he’s left with the keys to the city. But that’s when Megamind gets bored. And lonely. And decides to build his own superhero – so, you know, he once again has a reason to get out of bed in the morning.

THE VERDICT: It’s a fun movie, but there are many comparisons to be made to Pixar’s towering 2004 highly-similar retro sci-fi superhero offering The Incredibles. The Incredibles is incredible. Fact.Megamind is pretty good. Fact. Still, DreamWorks have another baddie it’s easy to love, and the 3D works particularly well here. And if it all feels like too much of an in-joke by the end, thanks largely to Ferrell, there are laughs to be had here. RATING: ***



Directed by Randall Wallace. Starring Diane Lane, John Malkovich, Dylan Walsh, Dylan Baker, James Cromwell, Scott Glenn.

THE PLOT: Opening in 1969, Denver housewife and mother-of-four Penny Tweedy (Lane) is left devastated when her mother passes away, and she’s left looking after a sickly father (Glenn) and their Virginia horse farm. Rather than sell, Penny decides to breed a champion racehorse, leaving her family back in Colorado as she does just that – Secretariat breaking all records as it wins the 1973 Triple Crown.

THE VERDICT: Disney have been here before, of course, with 2003’s superior legendary-racehorse-biopic Seabiscuit, their latest offering clearly aimed at those God-fearing folk who like a nice cup of tea after an afternoon’s nice, uplifting and inspiring true-life film. The horse in question is indeed inspiring – so much so, you long for a decent documentary on the big guy. Wallace (who co-writes here, having previously directed We Were Soldiers) clearly has God on his side here, as he turns Secretariat’s story into a Narnia adventure, but, as with the Bible, you come away here with the impression that the unvarnished truth would have been so much more interesting. RATING: *



MONSTERS (UK/12A/93mins)



Directed by Gareth Edwards. Starring Scott McNairny, Whitney Able.

THE PLOT: Part road movie, part sci-fi thriller, rich girl Sam (Able) is being escorted out of Mexico – which has become an Infected Zone after a NASA probe returning from Jupiter crashlands there – by one of her father’s employees, photographer Andrew (McNairny). Trying to stay one step ahead of the huge alien creatures, their journey to the final ferry back to the US isn’t all that easy. And once there, it gets a whole lot more difficult…

THE VERDICT: Already shaping up to be this year’s District 9, this inventive no-budget (relatively speaking; under £500,000) sci-fi outing is the first feature from British special effects wiz Gareth Edwards, who sweetly explains his understated monster movie thus; “If Cloverfield is like September 11, my film is Afghanistan six years later – and people have just got bored with it”. There are no cheap B-movie shocks here, only a compelling unease, as we glimpse hell rather than wallow in it. Enjoy. RATING: ****



OF GODS AND MEN (France/15A/122mins)

Directed by Xavier Beauvois. Starring Lambert Wilson, Michael Lonsdale, Olivier Rabourdin, Philippe Laudenbach, Jacques Herlin.

THE PLOT: Algeria, 1995, and a group of French Cistercian monks live in peace and harmony with their Arab neighbours in a remote village. So much so that, after Croatian Christian construction workers are slaughtered by an Islamic fundamentalist group and the monks are offered government protection, their leader, Brother Christian (Wilson) rejects it. When local terrorists storm the monastery, demanding their medic accompany them, Christian again refuses, citing the Qu’ran in support of his position. The terrorists will be back…

THE VERDICT: Based on a true story – which took place in Tibhirine in 1996 – Xavier Beauvois’ quietly devastating film is masterclass in filmmaking. More importantly, it’s a film that will remind you of how trivial and petty we can be in this life, and the immense power of true faith. It’s almost enough to make you a believer, but, either way, Of Gods And Men will move you deeply. Unless, of course, you have no soul. In which case, you’re probably too busy anyway, campaigning your local cinema for another screening of Bon Jovi: The Circle Tour. RATING: ****



Directed by Jalmari Helander. Starring Onni Tommila, Jorma Tommila, Tommi Korpela, Rauno Juvonen, Per Christian Ellefsen.

THE PLOT: Santa is the baddie of the piece in this black comedy, American tycoon Riley (Ellefsen) unearthing a frozen, horned, child-snatching Saint Nick – and his not-so-little elves; naked old men – in remote northern Finland. Mayhem ensues, as reindeers are slaughtered, widowed dad Rauno (Tommila) finding a grumpy old man in his wolf pit and assuming it’s the rampaging Santa. Only, he’s told, it’s a thorny old elf. With local children – and all the radiators – having been kidnapped by the elves, Rauno decides to take matters into his own hands…

THE VERDICT: Santa’s suffered some indignities in his time – being kidnapped for the Oogie Boogie man; being arrested for impersonating himself on 34th Street; having Vince Vaughn as a brother; being Tim Allen; being hijacked by Coca-Cola – but this Finnish outing might just top the lot, turning him into every kid’s nightmare. As opposed to Billy Bob Thornton’s Bad Santa, which turned him into every dressing room assistant’s nightmare. It’s a joke that just about sustains for 82 minutes, creator Helander promoting his hit Rare Exports online shorts (about hunting and farming Santas) to a feature debut. It’s all good, unclean, family-unfriendly fun. RATING: ***



Directed by Patrick Keiller. Narrated by Vanessa Redgrave.

THE PLOT: Our narrator (Redgrave) informs us that cans of films and a notebook have been discovered, featuring “picturesque views on journeys to sites of scientific and historical interest” as they chart intellectual outcast Robinson’s latest trek – Oxfordshire and Berkshire during the financial crisis of 2008.

THE VERDICT: Keiller previously charted the travails and thoughts of his fictional sociologist inLondon (1994) and Robinson In Space (1997), a method of deferred narration, aided and abetted in those earlier, celebrated outings by featuring the voice of the great Paul Scofield. Redgrave is a fine narrator, but the line between Robinson and Keiller has been blurred here, this creation somewhere between Adam Curtis, Mark Thomas and Alan Bennett (or is it John Shuttleworth), there’s an earnest, admirable quality to Robinson In Ruins. It’s just, ahem, a tad dull. RATING: **


THE WARRIOR’S WAY (New Zealand/16/100mins)

Directed by Sngmoo Lee. Starring Kate Bosworth, Dong-gun Jang, Geoffrey Rush, Danny Huston, Tony Cox.

THE PLOT: Mighty young warrior Yang (Jang) is given the job of slaying the baby of an enemy clan that will them be extinguished, but he refuses. Fleeing with the small child to a small town, where he teams up with the town drunk (Rush) and a knife-thrower from the circus (Bosworth) to save the baby’s life against the circling danger. Only trouble is, each of these new allies have dark secrets. Yowsa.

THE VERDICT: What the hell happened to Kate Bosworth, once the rising star of Wonderland, Blue Crush and Tad Hamilton? Who’s her agent, Stevie Wonder? She really should get someone else to read these scripts. Sitting on a shelf since February 2008, there was no sign of a press screening for this New Zealand offering. Which either means it sucks the big one. Avoid. RATING: n/a