This weeks movies reviewed by Paul Byrne, including Dark Shadows, Charlie Casanova, Jeff who lives at home and more..
CHARLIE CASANOVA (Ireland/16/94mins) Directed by Terry McMahon. Starring Emmet Scanlan, Leigh Arnold, Johnny Elliot, Thomas Farrell, Damien Hannaway, Ruth McIntyre, Glenn McMahon. THE PLOT: Shot over 11 days, this no-budget Irish thriller centres on a small group of Dublin yuppies being led astray by the eponymous Charlie, a Chris Finch motormouth who flips over into full-scale sociopath after he’s involved in a latenight hit and run. As his meandering philosophical musings play overhead (“I thought my answers were the problem, but I was just asking the wrong questions” being about the only coherent one), Charlie leaves the fate of the night, his friends and his best friend’s missus to the turn of the cards. Charlie sees himself as the ace of spades. He’s really just the two of clubs.
THE VERDICT: Jaysus, what a bad film. Scanlan appears to be aiming for a demonic Joe Pesci, but falls somewhat short, at a drunken Joe Pasquali. With his macho moustache and tendency to SHOUT WHEN HE’S BEING EMOTIONAL, what we have here, no less, is The Son Of Taffin. Yep, it’s really that bad. Writer/director Terry McMahon wears the large-scale rejection of his film like a badge of honour, convinced that the bulk of his film’s audience just don’t get it. And, to be fair, Charlie Casanova has picked up one or two festival awards over the last two years, but, by as early as the third day, festival patrons are often dizzy and delusional from lack of sun. This is Ireland’s answer to The Room. Is it any wonder that the Irish Film Board so vehemently rejected the script? This is the sort of film that could only ever truly work as an ambush on latenight TV, a diddley-aye Twilight Zone episode where the viewer is left wondering if it was all just an unfunny Savage Eye sketch that got really, really out of hand In two words, jaw-droppingly shite. And you can quote me on that. . RATING: 1/5
DARK SHADOWS (USA/12A/113mins) Directed by Tim Burton. Starring Johnny Depp, Michelle Pfeiffer, Eva Green, Jackie Earle Haley, Bella Heathcote, Chloe Grace Moretz, Gulliver McGrath, Jonny Lee Miller. THE PLOT: Maine, 1760s, and wealthy young Barnabas Collins (Depp) loses his parents, his one true love and daylight when he spurns the continued advances of horny housemaid Angelique (Green). Angelique turns out to be no angel – she’s secretly a witch, and her vampire curse sees Barnabas chained and buried alive in a coffin, only to be dug up during construction work 196 years later, in 1972 – when he finds his descendants are now highly dysfunctional and almost destitute. And it’s all Angelique’s doing. And so Barnabas sets about restoring his family name, and fortune… THE VERDICT: Burton, of course, need only have said the words ‘Depp’ and ‘vampire’ to get this little passion project greenlit, a big-screen adaptation of a short-lived gothic soap opera that, in the late ‘60s and early ‘70s, hit a peak of 20 million viewers a week in the US. The film is basically The Addams Family meets Fatal Attraction, and it’s deeply, dippy Burton. Which might be the problem. The Tim & Johnny Love-In could be due a fall, and this underwhelming film – a film that seems to have sparked little or no anticipation – could be their first big-budget flop. Of course, given that arse such as Charlie And The Chocolate Factory and Alice In Wonderland have both brought in a billion or so each at the box-office, a Tim & Johnny flop would still probably turn a profit for Warners. Whatever happens, there’s little doubt that, here, the thrill is gone. And Johnny’s beginning to look a little Madame Tussaud’s these days. Here’s hoping Rumplestiltskin can relight the duo’s fire. RATING: 2/5
GOODBYE FIRST LOVE (France/Germany/15A/110mins) Directed by Mia Hansen-Love. Starring Lola Creton, Sebastian Urzendowsky, Magne-Havard Brekke, Valerie Bonneton, Serge Renko, Ozay Fecht. THE PLOT: Life would appear to be sweet for young teens Sylvain (Urzendowsky) and Camille (Creton), as we meet the former riding his bike through Paris, grabbing some condoms, and heading over to the latter, opening her door naked and ready for some love action. But Camille loves Sylvain more than Sylvain loves Camille, which would explain why he feels no great pain about heading to South America for almost a year. The 19-year old Camille is still somewhat heartbroken four years later, as she studies architecture, but finds solace of sorts with her Norwegian professor, Lorenz (Brekke). The years pass, and Camille plans on moving in with Lorenz when she learns that Sylvain is back in town… THE VERDICT: Said to be somewhat autobiographical for writer/director Hansen-Love, Goodbye First Love is every inch the classic arthouse movie – French, beautifully shot, tender performances, that title, an older man affair, the deep, deep significance of a hat. Jaysus, it’s almost as if Jerry Bruckheimer was producing. Still, the performance from Creton is indeed tender, and moving, whilst Hansen-Love captures the pain and the ectasy of teenage love just so. Imagine Larry Clark, with a soul. RATING: 4/5
HOW I SPENT MY SUMMER VACATION (USA/16/95mins) Directed by Adrian Grunberg. Starring Mel Gibson, Kevin Hernandez, Daniel Gimenez Cacho, Dolores Heredia, Peter Gerety, Peter Stormare. THE PLOT: Opening with a grindhouse-worthy car chase, we’re introduced to a man known simply as Driver (Gibson) as he speeds his way to the Mexican border, stolen cash and clown mask both present and correct. It’s the cash that saves this gringo from being handed over by the upstanding Mexican police force, choosing instead to send the latest American fugitive to the large, overcrowded prison El Pueblito instead. A city unto itself, El Pueblito is a challenge that Driver has to take on slowly at first, aided and abetted by a 10-year old boy (Hernandez)… THE VERDICT: Called Get The Gringo in the US – where it’s going straight to VOD – the fact that Mel Gibson’s latest offering isn’t all that bad (think Man On Fire with lots of moustaches, and Peckinpah on producing duties) hardly matters. Because, as we all know, Mel Gibson is a raving loon. And there are plenty of recordings now to prove it. So, the hugely arrogant asshole (and I say that having tried to interview the man on more than one occasion) is box-office poison right now. Now, if only there’s some way that he can drag Russell Crowe down with him… RATING: 2/5
JEFF WHO LIVES AT HOME (USA/15A/83mins) Directed by Jay and Mark Duplass. Starring Jason Segel, Ed Helms, Judy Greer, Susan Sarandon, Rae Dawn Chong, Steve Zissis, Evan Ross. THE PLOT: The two comic middleweights Helms and Segel play a pair of mismatched brothers who do a little bonding as the latter helps the former tail his possibly adulterous wife (Greer) for an afternoon. Segel’s Jeff is a stoner who rarely leaves the family basement; Helms’ Pat has let himself, and his marriage, fade away. Naturally, they’re Starsky & Hutch routine doesn’t quite go to plan, but, hey, the two brothers become ever so slightly closer. Their exasperated mum (Sarandon) meanwhile has a secret admirer at work, and her life is about to have enjoy a Thelma & Louise flashback… THE VERDICT: With co-stars such as Sarandon and Greer (so effective in The Descendants as the other wife), it’s clear that Jeff, Who Lives At Home is far from broad Adam Sandler territory. The brothers behind the camera, Jay and Mark Duplass, previously gave us The Puffy Chair (2005) and Baghead (2008), these mumblecore pin-ups landing in the mainstream with 2010’s Cyrus. Despite the bigger names and the bigger budgets though, the term Quirky Indie Comedy clearly still applies, with Jeff just a little too cool and aloof to have any real emotional resonance. RATING: 2/5
SUCK ON THIS As part of their Carl Dreyer season, the IFI will be screening his 1932 classic Vampyr this Sunday, May 18th, with live accompaniment from Steven Severin, co-founder of Siouxsie And The Banshees. Having turned his talents towards original scores for films in recent years, it’s perhaps unsurprising to discover exactly what kind of films former goth pin-up Severin likes to play along to. Besides Dreyer’s Vampyr, Severin has, amongst others, also written a musical score for Jean Cocteau’s Blood Of A Poet. Based on Irish writer Sheridan Le Fanu’s Carmilla, Vampyr tells of a young student of the occult arriving at an inn and receiving a mysterious package containing a book about vampires. Naturally, the rest of his stay at the inn totters along without incident. You can catch this very special screening of Vampyr at the IFI Sunday May 18th at 6.30pm. Full details on ifi.ie.
OI! YOU! LIGHTHOUSE! NOW! Having picked up two awards at the recent Jameson Dublin International Film Festival from the incorruptible Dublin Film Critics Circle, including Best Film, Gareth Evans’ kick-ass martial arts outing The Raid will receive a special screening this Sunday at The Light House. And Evans himself has hand-picked a week’s worth of films to follow, all going under the rather funky title of Fight House. The films chosen include John Woo’s Hard Boiled (1992), manga classic Akira (1988), Shogun Assassin (1980), Park Chan Wook’s sublime Old Boy (2003), Peckinpah’s The Wild Bunch (1969) and a Jackie Chan double-bill, Police Story (1985) and Project A, Pt. 2 (1987). Incidentally, The Raid now comes with the subtitle Redemption, which Evans has explained is down to a good old rights dispute. Still the same wonderful film that knocked ‘em dead at Sundance and SXSW last year. And the DIFF this year, of course. Visit lighthousecinema.ie for full details.
ACHTUNG, BABY! Starting on May 10th, the IFI present German Film Week, with new films from Volker Schlondorff and Andreas Dresen amongst the much-loved oldies. It was Schlondorff who brought Gunter Grass’ The Tin Drum to the big screen in 1979, which won that year’s Best Foreign Film Oscar, whilst Dresen, not so well known here, will have his latest offering, Stopped On Track, screened, having won Un Certain Regard at Cannes last year as well as a clutch of Lolas (Germany’s answer to the Oscars). The programme consists of Calm At Sea (May 10th, 6.40pm), followed by 6.50pm screenings for Cracks In The Shell (May 11th), Almanya: Welcome To Germany (May 12th), Colour Of The Ocean (May 13th), 4 Days In May (May 14th), The System (May 15th) and Stopped On Track (May 15th). Check ifi.ie for full details.