Paul Byrne reviews the latest batch of movies including The Hangover, Doghouse and Looking for Eric
MOVIE.IE’S ONE TO WATCH!
THE HANGOVER (USA/16/100mins)
Starring Bradley Cooper, Zach Galifianakis, Ed Helms, Heather Graham, Justin Bartha.
THE PLOT: It’s almost as though the kids from Superbad have all grown up – or tried to – and are now heading for a bachelor blow-out party in Las Vegas for the weekend. The lucky man is Doug (Bartha, from the National Treasure outings), and he’s joined by his buddies, ladies man Phil (Cooper) and henpecked dentist Stu (Ed Helms, from The Office), along with future brother-in-law, and fifth wheel (even if there is only four of them), Alan (the leftfield comedian Zach Galifianakis, who pretty much steals the show here). After a quick celebratory shot of tequila on the roof of Caesars Palace, Phil, Stu and Alan wake up in their trashed $4,200-a-night penthouse suite to find a chicken roaming free. And a tiger in the bathroom. And a baby in the corner. And Stu missing a tooth. Oh, and no Doug.
THE VERDICT: What follows is the search for Doug, as the previous night’s debauchery is slowly pieced back together in the hope of figuring out just where the boys lost the groom. What could have been a one-joke movie though turns into something inspired, thanks to a trail that becomes increasingly noir, and laughs that become increasingly bizarre, thanks largely to the great Galifianakis. A performer at The Cat Laughs back when it was still special, Galifianakis is now the toast of Hollywood. Whether he likes it or not. Believe the hype – The Hangover is this year’s Knocked Up. And, yep, it’s a hoot. RATING: ****
LOOKING FOR ERIC (UK/France/Italy/Belgium/15A/102mins)
Directed by Ken Loach. Starring Eric Cantona, Steve Evets, Stephanie Bishop, Gerard Kearns.
THE PLOT: When we first meet Eric Bishop (Evets), he isn’t having the best of days, a fact made plainly obvious by his driving the wrong way round and round a roundabout at great speed until he eventually crashes. A postman going slowly postal, Eric’s life is crumbling around him – the great lost love of his life, Lily (Bishop), hasn’t spoken to him in years. At home, it might as well be Fraggle Rock, thanks to two stepsons going out of control.
In the midst of a growing depression, one joint too many brings Eric face-to-face with his idol, Eric Cantona, the French footballing legend with a penchant for confusing philosophical gems. Not exactly what the doctor ordered, but the former Manchester United no.7 soon has his downtrodden namesake fighting back – but then, son Ryan gets entangled with a local gang boss.
THE VERDICT: Having approached Ken Loach with a script idea about a fan who became a friend, Eric Cantona was convinced by the revered English filmmaker and his writing partner Paul Laverty to go for something a little bit more fantastical in Looking For Eric. And it just about works.
Loach and Laverty (who gave us The Wind That Shakes The Barley, along with the likes of Bread And Roses, Sweet Sixteen, My Name Is Joe, Carla’s Song and Ae Fond Kiss) are more known for their social realism, but here, they mix in a little dose of magic realism. Which provides plenty of opportunity for wonderful gags and deep introspection, but the novelty wears somewhat thin by the time we get around to some comic vigilante justice. RATING: ***
THE LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT (USA/18/110mins)
Directed by Dennis Iliadis. Starring Garret Dillahunt, Spencer Treat Clark, Sara Paxton, Joshua Cox, Monica Potter.
THE PLOT: As is so often the case in horror, it’s all a pretty teenager daughter’s fault, young Mari (Paxton) and her friend Paige (Martha Macisaac) hooking up with a young pot dealer (Clark) – who just happens to have a psycho dad. Something the girls soon learn when pops (Dillahunt), his brother (Aaron Paul) and his girlfriend (Riki Lindhome) turn up and decide that, given they’re currently on the run, the girls are a security risk. Which means they must be disposed of. Much Cape Fear-like madness – along with a lot of blood and gore – ensues.
THE VERDICT: Yet another Wes Craven low-budget classic is given a slick, mid-budget Hollywood makeover, once again proving the old idiom, they don’t make ’em like they used to.
Then again, when teenagers keep on flocking to see pretty teenagers get killed in shocking and, hopefully, new ways, you can hardly blame Hollywood for refrying. Or Wes Craven, who again acts as producer here, just as he did on the 2006 update of another of his ’70s horror classics, The Hills Have Eyes, and the various Nightmare On Elm Street sequels and spin-offs.
This time out though, there’s little in the way of subtext, or subtlety, or metaphors about a battered America (the original came out in 1972, after Manson, Vietnam, Nixon and a host of other horrors) in this tale of a family’s holiday break at their lake house turning into a nightmare. Go see Drag Me To Hell again instead. RATING: *
Directed by Shane West. Starring Stephen Graham, Danny Dyer, Noel Clarke, Terry Stone.
THE PLOT: The plot has likely lad Neil (Dyer) and a bunch of his mates taking recently-divorced buddy Vince (Stephen Graham) on a little holiday to a remote village in order to cheer the poor sod up. Only trouble is – Bish! Bosh! – there’s been a nasty virus round these here parts, and now all the women in the area are man-eating manhaters. Literally.
THE VERDICT: Danny Dyer takes time off from his busy TV work tracking down deadly men for the Bravo network to make a film that shares quite a bit of its DNA with Lesbian Vampire Killers. Only, this Brit horror flick about a bunch of lads being set-upon by sexy killer women isn’t one of the worst movies of the year. In fact, it ain’t half bad, mum.
Director Shane West (Phantasmagoria, Razor Blade Smile) and debut writer Dan Schaffer try to mix in some Freudian slips amongst all the hot chicks and bloodletting, but, at heart, this is just good, unclean, non-family fun. RATING: **
RED CLIFF (China/15A/148mins)
Directed by John Woo. Starring Tony Leung Chiu-wai, Takeshi Kaneshiro, Zhang Fengyi, Chang Chen.
THE PLOT: Based in part on the Three Kingdoms period in third-century China, a 14th-century fiction classic, Luo Guanzhong’s Romance Of The Three Kingdoms, and the imagination of Woo and three other writers, Red Cliff opens in 208 AD, with the land of Wu being invaded by the warlord Cao Cao and his million soldiers. The only hope for Wu is to take the battle to the sea, where Cao Cao has no real experience. Let the dirty great big battle scenes commence!
THE VERDICT: Taking a break from his floundering Hollywood career, John Woo goes back to his roots and a little bit further with this costume actioner that, with a budget of $80m, has the honour of being the most expensive Chinese-language film ever made. Those hoping for some Woo-esque balls-out balletic shoot-outs might be disappointed. Those looking for a beautifully-crafted historical epic will not.
Originally released in Asian markets as two films with a running total of four and a half hours, this Western edit can only make you wish that the full double-bill might head our way. Chances are though, you’ll only find that on DVD. One of those movies that really makes no concessions to the MTV generation, Red Cliff is a masterful piece of filmmaking. RATING: ****
At the IFI Saturday and Sunday, you can catch Billy Wilder’s sublime Some Like It Hot (Sat 1.40pm/Sun 3pm), whilst also on Saturday, at 7pm, Imagining Ulysses is – according to the IFI (I haven’t actually seen this) – ‘a visually stunning and highly inventive documentary on the writing and reading of Joyce’s epic novel’. I haven’t actually seen this one, so, the choice, as always, is yours. For more info, log on to irishfilm.ie.
THE NAME’S BOND…
Bond fans may want to get themselves down to the Light House Cinema i Dublin’s Smithfield area over the coming Sundays, as they launch a season of classic 007 films. Kicking off Sunday afternoon with Dr. No, the three other restored classics areFrom Russia With Love (21st), Goldfinger (28th) and On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (July 5th). All screenings start at 4pm