This weeks movies reviewed by Paul Byrne, including Rewind, The Eagle, Cave Of Forgotten Dreams, A Turtles Tale, Country Strong and more…

CAVE OF FORGOTTEN DREAMS (Canada/Various/G/90mins)

Directed by Werner Herzog. Starring Werner Herzog, Dominque Baffier, Jean Clottes, Jean-Michel Geneste, Carole Fritz.

THE PLOT: Roving reporter Werner gets exclusive access to the historical Chauvet caves of Southern France, wherein lies the oldest known pictorial creations of humankind. With special clothing, confinement to a two-foot walkway, and time restrictions of six days of four shooting hours, the going was tough. But Werner is happy. Very happy.

THE VERDICT: The great German filmmaker turns his eclectic eye onto 3D for this documentary inspired by a New Yorker article by Judith Thurman (who turns up here as a producer). Herzog is no fan of 3D, and doesn’t plan on using it again, but he felt the bulges and contours of the rockface – which the artists had incorporated into their paintings – were perfect for the format. He was right. It’s still a documentary about pre-historic paintings in a cave though. RATING: 3/5

THE EAGLE (USA/UK/12A/114mins)

Directed by Kevin Macdonald. Starring Channing Tatum, Jamie Bell, Donald Sutherland, Tahar Rahim, Mark Strong, Denis O’Hare.

THE PLOT: The year is 140, during the reign of Antonius Pius, the Romans managing to stamp all over England and happy to leave Scotland to the Scottish after a major defeat saw their emblem, a golden eagle, stolen. Keen to avenge his father – who many held responsible for losing the eagle – young Roman warrior Marcus (Tatum) calls on his Celtic warrior slave (Bell) to lead him through rebel territory.

THE VERDICT: It should come as no surprise, given that Kevin Macdonald (The Last King Of Scotland, Touching The Void) is behind the camera, that The Eagle is actually quite a solid, old-fashioned adventure yarn. Tatum and Bell are well cast, but it’s Tahar Rahim (so memorable in the lead in Un Prophete) as a wild painted prince who steals the show. RATING: 3/5

COUNTRY STRONG (USA/12A/117mins)

Directed by Shana Feste. Starring Gwyneth Paltrow, Garrett Hedlund, Leighton Meester, Tim McGraw, Marshall Chapman.

THE PLOT: Life is pretty much a country song for country diva and rehab regular Kelly Canter (Paltrow), scoring more headlines than hits these days. And so her husband/manager (McGraw) takes her on a three-city Texas tour, along with cotton-pickin’ stud Beau (Hedlund) and self-confessed country Barbie Chiles (Meester). Give it ten minutes, and one of the gang is hooking up with another. Cue doorknob turning, much screaming, and, baboom!, yet another country song is born.

THE VERDICT: It must have been tough for writer/director Shana Feste to see Crazy Heart beat her to the punch here, as Gwyneth Paltrow takes on a role that might as well be Bad Blake in drag. She can hold a tune, and she can act, but she’s Gwyneth Paltrow. So, naturally, you can never quite warm to her drowning country star. And, subsequently, this otherwise fine little melodrama. RATING: 2/5

FASTER (USA/16/98mins)

Directed by George Tillman, Jr. Starring Dwayne Johnson, Billy Bob Thornton, Oliver Jackson-Cohen, Carla Gugino.

THE PLOT: Like a bat out of hell – or, to be more precise, an ex-con out of prison – the man known only as Driver (Johnson) has a mission on his mind. It involves a revenge killing, and driving his car very, very, very fast. So he can gun down those men who gunned down his brother 10 years ago. And that, blissfully, is pretty much it.

THE VERDICT: Although a relief to see Johnson steer away from his toothless Disney outings for a return to the early raw power outings that made his name, Faster is the ultimate one-track film. Which is both its blessing and its curse. Hollywood has been re-embracing such B-movie madness of late, and Faster is only hampered by the presence of former Southern mystic and ex-movie star Billy Bob Thornton. The twat. Oh, and the redemption theme that kicks in way too early. RATING: 3/5

A TURTLE’S TALE: SAMMY’S ADVENTURE 3D (Belgium/G/88mins)

Directed by Ben Stassen. Starring the voices of Dominic Cooper, Gemma Arterton, John Hurt, Christine Bleakley, Robert Sheehan.

THE PLOT: Life on open sea turns out to be pretty perilous for our little turtle (Cooper), spending his first hatching hours being snatched by a hungry seagull and going on to put up a good fight against harpoons, hippies and heartbreak. Yep, heartbreak, Sammy travelling what seems to be the entire seascape of planet earth before being reunited with childhood sweetheart Shelly (Arterton).

THE VERDICT: This Belgian offering won the Best Feature at the Cartoon Movies 2010 – which really makes you wonder about the competition. Competent, even sweet, but clearly just for the very young. And anyone who hasn’t seen Finding Nemo. Or any of its other pale imitators. Director Stassen specializes in 3D ‘ride’ films, and the background scenery and the occasional eye-popping visual are about the only notable factors here. RATING: 2/5

 

LIMITLESS (USA/15A/105mins)

Directed by Neil Burger. Starring Bradley Cooper, Robert De Niro, Abbie Cornish, Andrew Howard, Anna Friel.

THE PLOT: Cooper is nice guy Eddie Morra, a likeable loser who discovers a wonderdrug that turns everything in his brain up to 11. And before you can say “The Nutty Professor!”, Eddie is living life to the max, writing a critically-acclaimed novel, making a fortune on Wall Street, and – in a sure sign that he is now using 100% of his noggin rather than the traditional 10% – chopping off his dumbass ponytail.

THE VERDICT: Bradley Cooper takes centre stage for this mindbending thriller that opened at no.1 in the US last weekend – finally making the Hangover hunk a bona fide box-office star after the near-disasters that were The A-Team and Case 39. Based on the Alan Glynn novel The Dark Fields, it’s not quite The Matrix. This one should get the braincells popping. RATING: 3/5 

 

REWIND (Ireland/15A/82mins)

Directed by P.J. Dillon. Starring Allen Leech, Amy Huberman, Sophie Brosnan, Simon Delaney, Rachel Dowling.

THE PLOT: Happily married mum Karen (Huberman) finds playing happy families suddenly under threat with the arrival, fresh out of prison, of ex-boyfriend, Karl (Leech). Soon, she’s on a road trip back to her troubled past, determined to keep her husband and young daughter safe. And none the wiser.

THE VERDICT: Haven’t caught this one yet, so, will have the review up as soon as I do. Here’s hoping it doesn’t suck.

RATING: n/a