Directed by Nicholas Stoller. Starring Russell Brand, Jonah Hill, Colm Meaney, Rose Byrne, Lars Ulrich.
THE PLOT: Hill plays hapless record company dogsbody Aaron, given the unenviable task of, well, getting faded, jaded Brit rocker Aldous Snow (Brand) to LA’s Greek theatre on time, all the way from London, via an appearance on the Today show in New York. Much revelry, bacchanalia and arguing in pubs and clubs ensues.
THE VERDICT: Neither a disaster nor a diamond, this spin-off from 2008’s Forgetting Sarah Marshall also comes from co-writer and director Nick Stoller, who believed there was still life in former bad boy Russell Brand’s fallen rock god. And he’s right.
Think My Favourite Year crossed with Midnight Run, crossed with Almost Famous. It’s a comedy that’s almost great, but faking a rock star always falls flat when it comes to those fake classic hits. Brand though is once again a natural as the slovenly, sexually-charged, drug-humping rocker. RATING: ***
Directed by Woody Allen. Starring Larry David, Evan Rachel Wood, Patricia Clarkson, Ed Begley Jr., Michael McKean.
THE PLOT: Openly misanthropic, divorced and with a failed-suicide-jump limp, New Yorker Boris Yallnikoff (David, in a role originally written for Zero Mostel 30 years ago) reckons modern life is rubbish. And he’s happy to tell his cafe buddies all about it. And us, Boris often talking directly to camera, much to the bemusement of those around him. Having little patience, or tact, for the children (“sub-mental cretins”, to be exact) he teaches chess, Boris is more than a little weary when a homeless teenage girl (Wood) tries to charm her way into his home for some food and shelter. Before you can say Pygmalion though, the New Orleans beauty pageant contestant is forming a crush on her genius guardian. It doesn’t take the cantankerous Boris too long to succumb to Wyman fever, and the two marry. Much to the shock and chagrin of the girl’s Bible-bashing mother (Clarkson). And her best-friend-bonking husband (Begley). These country bumpkins’ conversion to the bohemian New York lifestyle is a somewhat inevitable comic twist.
THE VERDICT: On paper, putting grumpy old funnymen Woody Allen and Larry David together sounds like comedy heaven. On film though, it never quite lifts beyond two heavyweights shadow boxing. One of them, of course, regarded by many to be a shadow of his former self.
Like a footnote sketch in a better Allen movie stretched beyond breaking point, Whatever Works almost works, but, in the end, you’re left with a film that has some wonderful moments, and lots and lots of not-so-wonderful moments.
A farce verging on vaudeville, Woody supplies Larry with oodles of angry and sarcastic monologues about the state of the world today, but the latter is plainly not always entirely comfortable with such worthy and wordy diatribes. Still, for Allen fans, there’s plenty here to chew on. And spit out. RATING: ***
Directed by Marcus Dunstan. Starring Josh Stewart, Michael Reilly Burke, Andrea Roth, Juan Fernandez.
THE PLOT: Hard-working ex-con Arkin (Stewart) has just finished refurbishing the large home of millionaire jewel trader Michael Chase (Burke) when he discovers that his ex-wife needs to pay off a loan shark tonight – or else. So, Michael decides that his plan to rob Michael’s home has to be moved forward a tad. Once inside the house though, he quickly realises that he’s not the only one out to make life hell for Michael and his family. There’s a serial killer on the loose too, and he’s booby-trapped the house with various instruments of torture.
THE VERDICT: It’s pretty obvious from the get-go that the (splattered) brains behind , director Marcus Dunstan and co-writer Patrick Melton, were heavily involved in the fading Saw franchise. The duo were responsible for the last three installments of that sadistic, bone-sawing, eye-popping, gut-removing box-office sensation, and no doubt having recognised that all good money-spinners must come to an end, decided to try and start up a new one all of their own.
Holding back for as long as they can here on the money shots, Dunstan and Melton aim for a little art to along with all the inevitable bloodletting that’s finally unleashed in the third act. Naturally, it all ends in a big explosion. And a possible sequel. RATING: **
Directed by Robert Luketic. Starring Kristen Bell, Josh Duhamel, Angelica Huston, Will Arnett, Danny DeVito, Jon Heder.
THE PLOT: Bell plays New York museum curator Beth, getting ready for her first big show and heading out to her sister’s wedding in Italy first. Spotting that hunky best man Nick (Duhamel) is already with someone, Beth, naturally, gets hammered and ends up picking up coins out of the Fountain Of Love. As luck, and magic, would have it, the five men who threw the coins are now madly, deeply in love with Beth. Luckily, Nick is one of them. But the other four (Danny DeVito’s sausage salesman and Jon Heder quarterwit amongst them) are now acting like Pepe Le Pew in heat, making it very difficult for true love to find a path. Or for Beth to keep her job at the Guggenheim.
THE VERDICT: Okay, she’s a little too cute for her own good – blonde hair, pocket-sized, button nose, gold-star-on-her-copy smile – but Kristen Bell is more than just your average Hollywood babe.
As anyone who saw her breakthrough TV series, Veronica Mars, will testify. Or her fine turn as the titular hottie in Forgetting Sarah Marshall. Or (deep breath), Couples Retreat, Heroes, Deadwood and Fanboys.
So, why is it that Kristen Bell so often ends up in bad movies? Incredibly bad movies. Such as the Vince Vaughn-spearheaded Couples Retreat. And now, Bell has got another romcom dud to add to her CV.
You really have to wonder, who’s reading Ms. Bell’s scripts for her? Stevie Wonder? RATING: **
IFI FAMILY FESTIVAL
Those fine folks at the IFI are holding their annual Family Festival from July 8th to July 11th, with the usual line-ups of premieres, short films, workshops, special events and very special guests.
Top of the pile this year is, undoubtedly, the Irish premiere of Toy Story 3, already Pixar’s biggest US opener, and another certifiable charmer from the Beatles of computer animation. Director Lee Unkrich (who worked on the original Toy Story, and co-directed the second outing) will be in town to take part in a special Q&A after the screening, the questions being posed by some (very) young reporters.
Opening the festival will be the French animation offering Mia And The Migoo, coming complete with a guest reader, who will be handling all the subtitles at the festival.
Other events include an open-air screening of the Oscar-nominated Irish animated feature The Secret Of Kells; Irish art, music and technology group Synth Eastwood creating an interactive film fun installation, providing the children themselves an opportunity to star in their very own film, lined up to close the festival.
This year’s workshops will focus on animation, in recognition of Ireland’s two Oscar noms in that field this year (the other being Brown Bag’s Granny O’Grimm’s Sleeping Beauty).
Aimed at young film fans aged 4 to 12, the weekend’s activities and screenings are free – so, advance booking would be wise. You can check out all the details at ifi.ie, or by calling the IFI on (01) 6795744.
THE GOONIES RIDE AGAIN!
Continuing their Screen Hearts ’80s season, Dublin’s Screen Cinema will be hosting a special anniversary screening of a certain 1985 classic with The Goonies Pirate Party on Thursday July 1st. All pirates are welcome, and there will be swashbuckling aplenty in Doyle’s pub across the road after the screening.
Other ’80s gems lined up for the summer include Top Gun, Gremlins and The Breakfast Club, the latter heralding a John Hughes tribute. There will also be an Arnie action season. Yowsa. For full details, check out screencinema.ie, or call the box-office on 1520 927005.