Directed by Ken Wardrop. Starring a bunch of Irish females. Rabbiting on about Irish males.
THE PLOT: Over the course of 80 minutes, Wardrop lets the mna na hEireann talk about the men in their lives, and consider the life in their men. The whole spectrum of standing by your man is covered, from young girls talking about their dads, older girls talking about brothers, and boyfriends, and, later, husbands. From first love to becoming a widow, Wardrop’s charming documentary charts the life of the Irish male from the cradle to the grave through the eyes of the women who love them.
THE VERDICT: Try to imagine, if you will, a Creature Comforts special centred on Irish women – some of them quite possibly Pat Shortt in drag – talking about the men in their lives, and you’re somewhere close to the mildly guilty pleasure here. The women of Ireland indulging in their favourite pastime; talking about men – how could it not be a delight?
For some men, of course, the very definition of a chick flick is any movie in which the woman talks. Well, it would appear that young Irish filmmaker Ken Wardrop has just made the ultimate chick flick in this sweet and wonderful – and award-winning – gem.
A winner at the most recent Galway, Dublin and Sundance film festivals, His & Hers is the inevitable leap from ten award-winning, largely autobiographical shorts for Wardrop to his feature debut. Made for just €100,000, it may not have the flash, bang or wallop of Prince Of Persia or the glamour and glitz of Sex & The City 2, but His & Hers beats both hands down when it comes to humour and heart.RATING: ****
Directed by Nicole Holofcener. Starring Catherine Keener, Oliver Platt, Rebecca Hall, Amanda Peet, Ann Morgan Guilbert.
THE PLOT: Catherine Keener turns in yet another extremely Catherine Keener-esque performance as retro-furniture gallery owner Kate, slowly beginning to realise that she and her husband, Alex (Platt, an actor who seems to have eaten all his early potential, with extra chips), basically make their living by preying on the shell-shocked relatives of the recently deceased for their second-hand furniture. Adding to her sense of guilt is their expressed plans to turn the neighbouring apartment of 91-year old Andra (Guilbert, who might just be Jerry Stiller in a nightgown) into their master bedroom. Which can’t come too soon for the ailing old dear’s perma-tanned granddaughter Mary (Peet), a selfish go-getter who’s happy to leave all the nursing and affection to her sister, Rebecca (Hall), a shy, sensitive and achingly single mammogram radiology technician. Mary’s also single, but that still doesn’t explain why she ends up in bed with Alex.
THE VERDICT: The latest offering from Nicole Holofcener (Friends With Money, Lovely & Amazing, Sex & The City) is a film primarily about middle-class guilt amongst New York’s brownstone brigade – which, of course, is always fertile ground if you’re looking for some Woody Allen-esque comic insights into modern life. Only trouble is, for all its cleverness and good intentions, this film is quite annoying. Very, very annoying, in fact. Verging on Hal Hartley.
The weight of the world seems to be permanently resting on Catherine Keener’s head, making her eyes droop and her hair lank and lifeless. You’ll feel the same way by the end of this film. RATING: **
Directed by Rick Famuyiwa. Starring Forest Whitaker, America Ferrera, Carlos Mencia, Regina King.
THE PLOT: Director Rick Faulyiwa takes a necessarily lighthearted approach to this fluffy confection about two ethnically-divided families sharing a wedding, with Whitaker and co. generally enjoying a fine Carry On, but…
…this is low-wattage stuff. Delayed from its original May 12th release, and reviewed then, there’s still very little excuse to be found for this film, a fine cast slumming it in a would-be wacky comedy that Tyler Perry could churn out in his sleep. And that’s saying something, given that the comedies he churns out when he’s awake aren’t all that noteworthy. RATING: **
Directed by Robert Luketic. Starring Ashton Kutcher, Katherine Heigl, Tom Selleck, Catherine O’Hara, Katheryn Winnick.
THE PLOT: Holidaying with her overbearing dad (Selleck) and her tipsy mum (O’Hara), the recently dumped Jen (Heigl) falls head-over-heels for the hunky Spencer (Kutcher) and the two are soon setting up home together. Only trouble is, Spencer’s really a killer-for-hire, and his attempts to give up the bad life to settle down in the suburbs with his oblivious beloved is soon up in smoke – literally – as new neighbour after new neighbour tries to wipe him out.
THE VERDICT: Ashton Kutcher and Katherine Heigl attempt to go True Lies – or Mr. Smith & His New Bride, to be more precise. Enough said. RATING: *
Directed by Jorma Taccone. Starring Will Forte, Kristen Wiig, Val Kilmer, Ryan Philippe, Maya Rudolph, Powers Boothe.
THE PLOT: Our retired action hero (played by creator Will Forte) is called back into service after his arch enemy Dieter Von Cunth (Kilmer, of course) returns to his devilish ways. Teaming up with straight-laced soldier boy Lt. Dixon Piper (Ryan Philippe) and his trusty, ditzy sidekick Vicki St. Elmo (the great Kristen Wiig), MacGruber must not only stop the evil Cunth, but he must also, if he can find the time, finally avenge his wife’s death, and make sure no one steals his removable car stereo.
THE VERDICT: As with so many Saturday Night Live characters who find themselves promoted to the big screen, MacGruber failed to find an audience in the US, and is even more unlikely to find one here. Given that pretty much no one knows who the guy is. Who he is is a back-to-the-eighties action hero with a mullet fit for Paul King, and one very foul mouth. Think Steven Seagal, after catching his paunch in the car door.
Inspired by the American TV series McGyver, Forte co-wrote the script with John Solomon and first-time feature director Jorma Taccone, and, perhaps inevitably, the trio have settled on the National Lampoon approach for this broad parody of the 1980s action hero genre. So, we get nods to Lethal Weapon, Rambo and Die Hard amongst the often lowbrow but sometimes well-aimed gags. Still, Rainier Wolfcastle has done it all before. And better. RATING: **
Directed by Alain Renais. Starring Andre Dussollier, Sabine Azema, Emmanuelle Devos, Mathieu Amalric, Anne Consigny.
THE PLOT: Packed with the sort of plot developments and pregnant pauses that would have Jerry Bruckheimer jumping out the nearest window (a good thing, of course), Renais indulges in a series of slow reveals and a deliberately stilted reality as he introduces us to Georges Palet (Dussollier). This OAP’s quiet, retired life is interrupted when he finds a discarded wallet and immediately starts fantasising about the woman, Margeurite Muir (Azema), to whom it belongs. When the latter fails to live up to her side of the bargain, Georges becomes obsessed, going so far as to slash the woman’s tyres after she insists he desist in calling her every day.
All you really need to know about these two individuals is that she drives a bright yellow sports car, lives in what appears to be a converted cave, and boasts an electric-shock mass of henna hair. He, on the other hand, has a red typewriter. I repeat, a red typewriter. For his part, Renais appears to have gotten a camera crane for Christmas. And some horse tranquilizers.
THE VERDICT: In what might just be a case of the emperor modelling his fine new summer outfit, legendary French director Alain Renais has received some ecstatic reviews for his latest offering. Personally, I thought the film was bonkers. By the end, I was convinced the title must refer to the fact that everyone involved got very, very stoned and then just made it up as they went along.
Much has been made of the fact that Renais (who gave us such classics as 1959’s Hiroshima, My Love and 1961’s Last Year At Marienbad) is now in his late ’80s (he actually turned 88 on June 3rd), but that shouldn’t blind us to the fact that Wild Grass is something of a mess. Sidney Lumet gave us the sublime Before The Devil Knows You’re Dead three years ago, and he’s 86 later this month. Renais, on the other hand, is closer to Nicolas Roeg in his dotage, the 81-year old English master who previously gave us Walkabout, Don’t Look Now and The Man Who Fell To Earth hitting the ground with a thud with the Irish-set Puffball in 2007.
If you let Emmanuelle Beart loose in an old folks home, she might come up with something like this. RATING: **
THE MAGNIFICENT TWO
The IFI are playing host to two very special re-releases this month, with the return of Godard’s Breathless on June 25th to mark its 50thanniversary, and Akira Kurosawa’s birth 100 years ago being celebrated with a June 18th to 24th run of Rashomon. Be there. Or thereabouts.
TRIBUTE TO DEIRDRE O’DONNELL
Presented in association with Ireland On Sunday, the IFI will be holding a Tribute To Deirdre O’Donnell, the founder of Dublin’s Focus Theatre, on Sunday June 20th at 1pm. The tribute will take the form of Ronan O’Leary’s documentary, Hold The Passion, which was filmed just before O’Donnell’s death in 2001. There will be a discussion with the filmmakers, as well as appearances by Michael D. Higgins and Tom Hickey. Full details on ifi.ie.