Paul Byrne gives his verdict on the latest movie releases including The A-Team and The Karate Kid THE A-TEAM (USA/12A/117mins) Directed by Joe Carnahan. Starring Liam Neeson, Bradley Cooper, Jessica Biel, Sharlto Copley, Quintion Jackson. THE PLOT: There isn’t too much of a plot to get excited about here, director Joe Carnahan (Smokin’ Aces) opting instead for buckets of flashes, bangs and wallops, as he moves the action from Vietnam to Iraq, our boys double-crossed on a secret mission to, eh, recover counterfeit plates in Baghdad. Hot on their tail is Face’s ex, Charissa (Biel), and, hey, the boys can run, but they seemingly can’t resist blowing up everything in their path. THE VERDICT: Yep, the four Special Ops fugitives that tore up the TV ratings in the mid-1980s finally make it to the big screen, with some big-name actors, and Biel for the boys. Our own William John Neeson even gets to chew on some Ghandi quotes here – being the proper actor that he is – but, other than that, this is very much business as usual. Which is disappointing. If only they’d swapped some of those explosives for some truly witty dialogue. And an inspired script. RATING: ** THE KARATE KID (USA/China/12A/140mins) Directed by Harald Zwart. Starring Jackie Chan, Jaden Smith, Taraji P. Henson, Wenwen Han. THE PLOT: Will Smith’s precocious little tyke Jaden plays the put-upon Dre Parker who, after moving with his mother from Detroit to China, soon finds the language isn’t his only battle – a local bully quickly inspires some serious kick-ass training. The bully’s ass being the main target for the kicks, of course. Luckily for Dre, he’s found an unlikely mentor in quiet maintenance man Mr. Han (Jackie Chan). THE VERDICT: The reviews have been surprisingly positive, given that it’s a remake of a much-loved, kitschy 1984 hit, and it’s led by the offspring of a soul-crushing Hollywood dynasty (Jaden’s mum is Jada Pinkett Smith, who’s like a black Sarah Jessica Parker, only without the hit franchise), but this particular Rocky-for-runts is over two hours long. Which makes no sense. And Smith is just too cool from the outset. You know he’s going to win the day. That Ralph Macchio kid in the original – now, that little tyke (last seen popping up in Ugly Betty and Law & Order) looked like a genuine loser. RATINGS: ** SPLICE (Canada/France/15A/104mins) Directed by Vincenzo Natali. Starring Adrien Brody, Sarah Polley, Delphine Chaneac, Brandon McGibbon, Abigail Chu. THE PLOT: Brody and Polley play genetic engineers couple Clive and Elsa (names tellingly taken from the cast list of Bride Of Frankenstein), who decide to ignore their superiors and press ahead with their human and animal DNA cocktails. They create a motherless child, Dren – a creation the childless Elsa is soon mothering to adulthood (Chaneac). And that’s when things start getting a little weird. And sexual. And dangerous. THE VERDICT: Somewhere between The Fly and Rosemary’s Baby, with this smart-but-silly biogenetics horror romp you’re never quite sure whether to laugh or cry. Gradually, director/co-writer Vincenzo Natali (Cube) lets the smart slip away, and the silly to take over. For the first hour or so though, he had me. RATING: *** MOVIES.IE’S ONE TO WATCH! GAINSBOURG (France/USA/15A/130mins) Directed by Joann Sfar. Starring Eric Elmosnino, Lucy Gordon, Laetitia Casta, Doug Jones. THE PLOT: The film charts Serge’s early years, being born Lucien Ginsbourg in Paris, 1928, the son of Jewish émigré parents. Attending arts school, the young Lucien has to leave Nazi-occupied Paris, but is soon playing piano in a Paris bar once the war ends. As his songs make him famous, Gainsbourg (Elmosnino) launches his own career as a singer, his celebrity growing as he dates the likes of Birkin (Jordan) – with whom he has daughter, Charlotte, his teenage duet on Lemon Incest – and Brigitte Bardot (Casta)… THE VERDICT: Jane Birkin isn’t too happy with it, but the critics have been pretty darn ecstatic about Joann Sfar’s evocative biopic – or ‘fairytale’, as the credits state – of the lascivious lounge lizard who was one of France’s most celebrated popular artists of the last century. Like a rampant, constantly aroused Leonard Cohen, Gainsbourg was an icon of his generation. For Sfar, the mission though is to concentrate on the artist, not the latter-day unshaven Lothario. If you want to understand the lure of that latter-day Gainsbourg Sfar isn’t so crazy about, just pop along to youtube and enjoy his 1986 chatshow appearance alongside Whitney Houston, the 58-year old crooner flatly saying of the 25-year-old, still-hot and still-functioning, soul diva “I would like to ferk her”. Live on air. He would have been a much better bet than Bobby Brown. And a much better ferk too, most likely. Sfar’s film is made with blatant poetic license, but, you feel, that’s just how Gainsbourg would have wanted it… RATING: **** HE’S ALRIGHT, JACK Running throughout the month of August at the IFI, Jack Nicholson: American Rebel Season highlights the 1970s work of that grinning Buddha of Cool, from his breakthrough in 1969’s Easy Rider (screening August 1st, 1.30pm and 6pm) through such wonders as Carnal Knowledge (2nd, 1.15pm, 6pm), The King Of Marvin Gardens (3rd, 1.30pm, 6.40pm), The Last Detail (5th, 6.40pm), Chinatown (7th & 8th, 1.20pm), and One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest (31st, 6.10pm). The great Five Easy Pieces will run at the IFI from August 13th to the 26th. Full details on www.ifi.ie. HONG KONG PHEW-EE! The home of John Woo, Wong Kar-wai and Stephen Chow (go buy Kung Fu Hustle now!) is celebrated in the Hong Kong Season at the IFI, running from August 3rd to 22nd. As well as such acclaimed offerings as 1984’s Long Arm Of The Law and 1999’s Running Out Of Time, there are more contemporary films, such as the martial arts extravaganza Storm Warriors, the soul-searching drama Written By (which opens the season) and the IFI Family animation offering McDull Kung Fu Ding Ding Dong. Full details on www.ifi.ie. DARK MATTERS After Dublin: The Movie and Hotel Darklight, those clever Darklight people are offering up yet another moviemaking challenge in the form of this year’s project, Free Your Film. Brought to you in association with Sony Ericsson. The plan is for 3 new short films to be made, each with a budget of €3,000, a Vivaz handset HD camera and an experienced producer on board, with the finished films being premiered on the opening night of the Darklight Film Festival, and then sitting pretty on the their and Sony Ericsson websites. To be in with your chance to be making one of those 3 short films, check out www.darklight.ie/freeyourfilm.