Paul Byrne reviews the latest movies including Greenberg and Letters to Juliet

GREENBERG (USA/16/107mins)

Directed by Noah Baumbach. Starring Ben Stiller, Greta Gerwig, Rhys Ifans, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Koby Rouviere.

 

THE PLOT: Stiller plays Roger Greenberg, fresh out of a mental ward and moving into his brother’s vacant house in LA. From the start, it’s clear that our boy is having a hard time being so very alone, so very 40something, and in so very soulless a city. The neurotic Roger soon finds himself in a strange, and strained, relationship with housesitter Florence (Gerwig), two lost souls swimming in and out of lust and listlessness.

 

THE VERDICT: A return to form for The Squid And The Whale writer/director Noah Baumbach after 2007’s staid Margot At The Wedding (a film that, to be fair, came with a warning; i.e. Nicole Kidman headlines!), the story idea here was created by the helmer and his missus, Jennifer Jason Leigh, who also co-stars as Roger’s ex-. It’s all very grown-up and 1970s American indie, and there’s nothing wrong with that every now and then. Stiller has rarely been better… RATING: ****

 

 

LETTERS TO JULIET (USA/15A/105mins)

Directed by Gary Winick. Starring Amanda Seyfried, Gael Garcia Bernal, Vanessa Redgrave, Christopher Egan.

THE PLOT: Seyfried plays Sophie, a newbie at the New Yorker enjoying a Tuscan pre-honeymoon with her chef boyfriend, Victor (Bernal). Only, Sophie isn’t really enjoying her Tuscan pre-honeymoon with her chef boyfriend, Victor. Distracted by all the lovely edibles on offer, Victor has been neglecting Sophie, and before you can say Lost In Translation, our girl is all alone in Verona – home of Juliet, and a weeping wall where women can leave their penned cries for love. When Sophie lands a job answering some of the letters, she stumbles across a 1957 plea, and soon, wily English dame Claire (a showstealing Redgrave) and her bookish grandson Charlie (Egan) are on their way.

 

THE VERDICT: What exactly is going on with budding young starlet Amanda Seyfried? Ever since she broke through as the daughter in Mamma Mia! two years ago, the girl has not stopped shooting out movies. We’ve had five in a little over a year – and that’s in-between Seyfried’s recurring role on HBO’s Big Love and a cameo in Seth MacFarlane’s ferociously unfunny American Dad!.

 

Already this year, Seyfried has played the lovelorn girlfriend waiting patiently for missives from her soldier sweetheart in Dear John, and now, she’s up to her neck once again in Basildon Bond. This woman really should get a mobile. Given the fluffy storyline, and the postcard location, this is one exceptionally dull film. RATING: **


BROOKLYN’S FINEST (USA/18/132mins)

Directed by Antoine Fuqua. Starring Richard Gere, Ethan Hawke, Don Cheadle, Wesley Snipes, Brian F. O’Byrne.

 

THE PLOT: Gere leads a just-about-all-star cast, playing the clearly suicidal Eddie (we know this, because first thing in the morning, he rehearses putting a gun into his mouth; always as telltale sign), with Hawke as the plainly dangerous Sal (not averse to shooting his criminal cohorts in the face), and the always watchable Cheadle is Tango, heading up a major coke ring. Only thing is, all three men are close-to top-of-the-rank cops. Naturally, these three strangers are going to meet. And it’s going to get ugly.

 

THE VERDICT: Having proven that he’s good as giving us cops who are really robbers with Training Day, director Antoine Fuqua here goes inside a New York precinct. Like so many modern American movies trying to dig deep inside the rules, regulations and mindsets of the criminals and crimestoppers, Fuqua’s fine film just ain’t no match for that recent TV masterpiece, The Wire.

 

That said, there’s much to enjoy here – even if the cast is peppered with yesterday’s men.

 

It all ends in a nice old bloodbath, or two, and if Fuqua never quite offers up much in the realm of rhyme or reason, there’s nonetheless a daring brutality here that is always watchable. RATING: **

 

 

BRONCO BULLFROG (UK/IFI/86mins)

Directed by Barney Platts-Mills. Starring Del Walker, Anne Gooding, Sam Shepherd, Roy Haywood, Chris Shepherd.

 

THE PLOT: With the original negative having been literally rescued from the bin at a film lab, this intriguing tale of love across the class divide sees welder’s mate (Walker) finding his love for a schoolgirl (Gooding) doesn’t quite have her wealthy mum popping the champagne. And so they run away, with the eponymous Bronco (Shepherd) as their low-watt guide.

 

 

THE VERDICT: When Variety reviewed writer/director Barney Platts-Mills 1969 East End improv offering, they concluded their short, sharp take on the $48,000 film by stating, “It would be pointless to comment on the non-existent acting. There is behavior, instead.”. Ooh, get her.

 

I’m sure Mike Leigh and Ken Loach would have something to say about that.

 

One of those films where the very thing that makes it poor (the non-professional acting, the home-movie shooting style) makes it rich…RATING: ***

 

 

DENIS, DENIS!

 

The great French filmmaker Claire Denis is currently the subject of a major retrospective at the IFI. Running until the end of the month, today at 2.25pm it’s 2005’s Towards Mathilde; tomorrow at 2pm, it’s Denis’ 1988 debut Chocolat (not the Depp-goes-Irish-traveller outing, ladies), followed by I Can’t Sleep (June 19th, 1pm), Nenette And Boni (20th, 3.15pm), Trouble Every Day (26th, 3.10pm), Friday Night (27th, 1.15pm) and The Intruder (30th, 6.30pm). Full info on www.ifi.ie.

 

 

ON YER BIKE

For one night only, the Light House in Dublin will be playing host to the only Irish screenings of two new documentary films – Cam McCaul’s mountain bike extravaganza Follow Me, and Seasons (both films PG), which follows seven of the world’s top mountain bikers (including the UK’s Downhill World Champion, Steve Peat) over a full year.

 

The special double-bill takes place at the Light House on Wednesday June 16th at 8.30pm.