We review this week’s new releases including STAR TREK INTO DARKNESS

STAR TREK INTO DARKNESS (USA/12A/132mins)
Directed by J.J. Abrams. Starring Chris Pine, Benedict Cumberbatch, Zoe Saldana, Zachary Quinto, Karl Urban, Alice Eve, Simon Pegg, Anton Yelchin, John Cho, Peter Weller, Bruce Greenwood, Nolan North.
THE PLOT: We open on a volcanic planet, sometime back in the future, and with the good ship Enterprise hovering nearby, the impulsive, impertinent Captain James Kirk (Pine) and Lieutenant Commander Bones McCoy (Urban) flee the angry natives through a Dr. Seuss landscape as the highly logical Commander Spock (Quinto) tries to cap a volcano that is all set to wipe out this indigenous race. A last-minute rescue – wherein these simple natives witness the Enterprise in full flight – means a swift demotion for Kirk, and a reassignment for Spock. Luckily, there’s a mad doctor on the loose, and he seems set on wiping out the entire Starfleet. With the blessing of Admiral Marcus (Weller), the boys are reunited with their crew, as they go after rogue super-agent John Harrison (Cumberbatch), hiding out deep in Kling-On country…
THE VERDICT: Say what you like about the big, fat corporate branding being force-fed to us by the major studios, when it comes to big, fat entertaining franchise movies, dang, it seems to be working. Last week’s Iron Man 3 was a giddy blast, and now, along comes the second of the rebooted Star Trek outings – and it might just be one of the year’s finest films. J.J. Abrams once again sets his phaser to stun. And he does. Magnificently.
There’s hardly time to breathe with In Darkness before you’re hit with another thrill-ride, well-crafted quip or that all-important emotional punch – think Skyfall with holograms on. The alien-goes-to-Eton look of Benedict Cumberbatch makes for one delicious villain, whilst Pine, Quinto and the gang settle ever deeper into the roles they seem destined to play. Even the stock-character comedy accents of Yelchin (as Russian Tactical Officer Chekhov) and Pegg (as Scottish engineer Scotty) can’t quite derail the sci-fi fantasy fun here. MajQa’.
RATING: 5/5
Review by Paul Byrne

DEADFALL (USA/15A/94mins)
Directed by Stefan Ruzowitzky. Starring Eric Bana, Olivia Wilde, Charlie Hunnam, Kris Kristofferson, Sissy Spacek, Treat Williams.
THE PLOT:
After a little casino heist – their first robbery together – brother and sister Addison (Bana) and Liza (Wilde) are on the run across Michigan when their car flips over. When Addison kills a police officer on the scene, the siblings go their separate ways, the plan being to meet up later and cross the Canadian border. As Addison battles a blizzard, Liza is given a lift by former Olympic athlete Jay (Hunnam), as he heads to a Thanksgiving dinner with his parents (Spacek, Kristofferson). The arrival of Addison at the family gathering proves to be a far-from-cosy occasion…
THE VERDICT:
A gleefully bonkers film, only there really isn’t much to be cheerful about here – unless you try a drinking game as you spot the movie cliches – Deadfall is something of an almighty mess. In fact, it counts as two almighty messes, given that Bana and Wilde drag us through two very different stories (avenging angel in the wild for him; soppy romance for her), before reuniting for an ending that is as ridiculous as it is painful. Hard to know what Bana was thinking here, delivering lines even Michael Bay would wince at. And in an accent that verges on parody. Maybe that’s just Bana’s way of letting us know he doesn’t want to be here either?
RATING: 1/5
Review by Paul Byrne

MUD (USA/12A/130mins)
Directed by Jeff Nichols. Starring Matthew McConaughey, Tye Sheridan, Jacob Lofland, Reese Witherspoon, Sarah Paulson, Ray McKinnon, Sam Shepard, Michael Shannon, Bonnie Sturdivant.
THE PLOT:
In the Arkansas Delta, best friends Ellis (Sheridan) and Neckbone (Lofland) discover outlaw Mud (McConaughey), hiding out from the law having killed the brutal husband of his lover, Juniper (Witherspoon). The two teenage boys, charmed by Mud and his stories, start taking letters to Juniper, who’s hiding out in a local motel, but the latter’s father-in-law has rounded up a posse to take revenge. Mud knows he has to escape down the Mississippi, but his friend Tom (Shepard) is reluctant to help. Ellis, meanwhile, is also dealing with his parents splitting up, and, with May Pearl (Sturdivant), what he believes is first love…
THE VERDICT: S
omehow managing to crawl from the wreckage of a thousand bad romantic comedies (most of them co-starring Kate Hudson) and a series of commercials that both mocked and celebrated his fondness for taking his shirt off, Matthew McConaughey has made some pretty good movies in the last few years. Maybe it’s all about the legacy since becoming a father, but this walking paradox – a Republican who loves Willie Nelson – has at last stopped making movies like FOOL’s GOLD (2008) and GHOSTS OF GIRLFRIENDS PAST (2009), and started making movies like KILLER JOE (2011) and BERNIE (2012). Oh, and Mud, the third feature from TAKE SHELTER director Nichols, and a sweet slice of Americana that a young Terence Malick might just have made. Not that Mud is quite that good… RATING: 3/5
Review by Paul Byrne

THE RELUCTANT FUNDAMENTALIST (USA/UK/Qatar/15A/129mins)
Directed by Mira Nair. Starring Riz Ahmed, Kate Hudson, Liev Schreiber, Kiefer Sutherland, Om Puri, Martin Donovan, Shabana Azmi, Nelsan Ellis.
THE PLOT:
“Looks can be deceiving,” as a young Pakistani professor, Changez Khan (Ahmed) says to his apparent captive, American writer Bobby Lincoln (Schreiber), the latter having been abducted in Lahore whilst we see the former at a music concert with family and friends. The two are meeting in a cheap hotel, where Khan will recount his eventful life to the American reporter. A Princeton prince, a highly successful financial analyst for a famous Wall Street firm, hooking up with boss’s niece Erica (Hudson), which might just be a problem for said boss (Sutherland), given that he’s also Khan’s mentor. But 9/11 derails this glittering rise, as the go-get-’em Khan finds himself being judged, and ostracised, because of his nationality…
THE VERDICT:
An intriguing approach to the great divide that 9/11 brought to the world – and the roots of the great divides that inspired that fateful day – the latest offering from MONSOON WEDDING director Mira Nair shares some of its DNA with the likes of FROST/NIXON. Only here, it’s never easy to measure the good and evil of the two main protagonists. As the story evolves, so do the characters, and it’s left to the viewer to bring their own politics to the table.
Based on the novel by Mohsin Hamid, and brought to the screen by William Wheeler (THE HOAX, THE CAPE), The Reluctant Fundamentalist addresses the wave of xenophobia that swept across America in the aftermath of 9/11 – and it’s a problem that still exists, given the New York Post’s recent controversial coverage of the Boston marathon bombings. A sobering and powerful film.
RATING: 3/5
Review by Paul Byrne

BEAT GIRL (Ireland/PG/92mins)
Directed by Mairtin De Barra. Starring Louise Dylan, Michael Higgs, Percelle Ascott, Craig Daniel Adams, Amy Brangwyn, Jonathan Holby, Alfie Browne-Sykes, Hilary Rose.
THE PLOT:
With her classical pianist mum having just passed, Heather (Dylan) has to move in with her estranged father (Higgs) and her young step-brother, Mike (Ascott) whilst desperately trying to follow in her late mother’s fingertips. “All I need is to nail the audition and win a fellowship,” quips Heather, but, hey, it’s not going to be that easy. Especially when those rejection letters just keep on coming. A night out on the town reveals a world though where a DJ can earn £1,000 a gig – playing nondescript trance to 40 punters, no less. And thanks to a little hipster record shop shoplifting by Mike, Heather is soon being mentored by sweet-natured shop owner Toby (Adams), who appears to be running a harem of female DJs…
THE VERDICT:
A film that’s more notable for its funky release model – beActive launching a multi-platform series with Beat Girl, including a Web and TV series, books, CDs, text columns in DJ and Dance-music orientated magazines, Pinterest, and iPhone/iPad applications – than for what appears on the screen, this could be the future. If it were any good, that is.
Playing like a mediocre Holby City storyline, Beat Girl feels like its trying. It looks fine, the acting’s fine, the lighting’s fine, everything’s pretty much fine, but you never believe in these characters, or their daytime soap problems. It’s like a government-funded infommercial about the pitfalls that can lead to prostitution, with all that nasty sex-for-money business replaced by all that nasty spinning-discs-for-money business.
RATING: 2/5
Review by Paul Byrne

THE EYE OF THE STORM (Australia/IFI/119mins) ***
Directed by Fred Schepisi. Starring Geoffrey Rush, Judy Davis, Charlotte Rampling,
Maria Theodorakis, Alexandra Schepisi, Robyn Nevin, Jamie Timony, Jane Menelaus.
THE PLOT: E
ach with their tails somewhat between their teeth, the grown-up kids Basil (Rush) and Dorothy (Davis) have come home – a stately Sydney mansion – to nurse their sick mother, Elizabeth (Rampling), to a quick and easy death. All the quicker to get their hands on all that lovely inheritance, you see, something that the clearly non-maternal Elizabeth is all too aware of. Which may explain why she keeps on handing out large chunks of money to relative strangers, staff and whoever she happens to fancy. Dorothy is getting over an ugly marriage and an even uglier break-up, whilst Basil is an actor with a knighthood – so, two very troubled individuals with self-esteem issues. Dorothy’s got too little; Basil’s got too much. What mother wouldn’t want to torture such offspring…?
THE VERDICT:
It’s taken two years for this small, smart and sharp Aussie film, director Fred Schepisi (A Cry In The Dark, Roxanne, Last Orders) coming home to adapt Patrick White’s 1973 novel. He’s aided and abetted by a near-perfect cast (even if mum Rampling is only a decade older than daughter Davis), and a wry script. It ultimately may not deliver on its promise, but The Eye Of The Storm certainly makes a fine escape from the mighty crash, bang, wallop of all those superheroes currently kicking the crap out of the box-office.
RATING: 3/5
Review by Paul Byrne

ME AND YOU (Italy/Light House/96mins)
Directed by Bernardo Bertolucci. Starring Tea Falco, Jacopo Olmo Antinori, Sonia Bergamasco, Veronica Lazar, Tommaso Ragno, Pippo Delbono, Rodolfo Corsato.
THE PLOT:
When the shy, sly and retiring Lorenzo (Antinori) suggests to his suffocating mum (Bergamasco) that he join his school on a week-long ski trip, the latter is delighted that the former just wants to leave the house. Truth is, Lorenzo has other plans. Such as using the ski trip money to buy a week’s worth of provisions and hiding out in the family’s basement for a week. Only trouble is, his heroin-addicted sister Olivia (Falco) has decided that the basement is just the place she needs to go cold turkey. Let the bickering, bonding and thoughts about bonking begin…
THE VERDICT:
The fact that Bernardo Bertolucci’s latest offering picked up the film of the year gong from Italy’s Nastri d’Argento probably has more to do with a nod from Italy’s oldest film awards to one of its elder filmmaking statesmen (these days largely confined to a wheelchair, due to health issues). Because, truth be told, ME AND YOU is very ordinary. And very latter-day Bertolucci, his first feature in ten years – following 2003’s The Dreamers – shining a light, yet again, on first lust. Based on Italian author Niccolo Ammaniti’s eponymous novel, we’re once again in a hermetically sealed adolescent world. And, as with The Dreamers, you soon begin to share their cabin fever, if not their muted longings and voyage of self-discovery.
RATING: 2/5 
Review by Paul Byrne