Reviews New Movies Opening May 29th 2009

Paul Byrne reviews the latest releases including Drag me to hell, A Girl Cut In Two and Obsessed




Directed by Sam Raimi. Starring Alison Lohman, Justin Long, Lorna Raver, Dileep Rao.

THE PLOT: Ambitious young loans officer Christine Brown (Lohman) bites off a lot more than she can chew when takes refuses a haggard old gypsy an extension on her mortgage.  The computer says no, so, naturally, said one-eyed hag (Rivers) spits out a curse on the pretty bank clerk before up and dying.  Much B-movie madness ensues.

THE VERDICT: After the overblown and underloved Spider-Man 3, Sam Raimi takes refuge in his schlock horror roots here, setting out to brown, season and thicken the underpants of even the toughest Bisto kids with a retro outing that even boasts a 1980s Universal logo. Raimi succeeds, wonderfully,  when it comes to delivering good old-fashioned, no-nonsense, subtext-free frights. And Lorna Raver makes for a hag worthy of her own Halloween float.

Warning: May Cause Anal Leakage.

RATING: ****





Directed by Claude Chabrol. Starring Ludivine Sagnier, Francois Berleand, Benoit Magimel.


THE PLOT: The ageing novelist Charles Saint-Denis (Berleand) is happily married to a woman he constantly refers to as “a saint” – a role his wife is becoming a little tired of, but she just can’t tear herself away from the man she loves. Even when he starts openly dating the perky, perfect little weather girl, Gabrielle (Sagnier). As the two begin their perhaps inevitably doomed affair, Gabrielle also finds herself being wooed by filthy rich fop-about-town Paul Andre Claude Gaudens (Magimel). The latter is used to getting whatever he wants, making the hard-to-get and independent Gabrielle all the more attractive. Or course, the latter’s refusal to be swept off her feet by fine restaurants and fast cars may have something to do with a growing obsession with her Jules Renard-quoting older lover.

When proceedings with the latter take a distinctly turn into Night Porter territory, there’s misery around the corner for each of our three star-crossed lovers.


THE VERDICT: A love story about the battle between obsession and possession, A Girl Cut In Two could – nay, should – have been a mess. It’s the sort of film that only the French can get away with, the fine line between arthouse and soft porn forever present, but veteran director Claude Chabrol (79 in June, the sly old dog) here manages to make something potentially ridiculous rather sublime. RATING: ****




Directed by Steve Shill. Starring Beyonce Knowles, Idris Elba, Ali Larter, Jerry O’Connell.


THE PLOT: Those popping along to Obsessed to catch the voluptuous Ms. Knowles strut her stuff will be disappointed, given that Beyonce plays pretty much a supporting role to the film’s true leading lady, Ali Larter (best known as Niki Sanders on TV’sHeroes). Larter plays Lisa, the perfectly postured and poised psycho who decides, in a flash, that natty investment broker Derek (Elba, who played Stringer Bell on The Wire) is the man of her dreams. Which turns out to be something of a nightmare for Derek, and his missus, Sharon (Knowles), when the new office minx just can’t convince her man to do the indecent thing, and cheat on his wife. And God knows she tries everything known to man, woman and beast to change his mind.


THE VERDICT: It’s hard to figure out just why it is that a pale Fatal Attraction imitation such as Obsessed should hit the no.1 spot in the States. Especially once you’ve seen it. Of course, movies hit the no.1 spot on their opening weekend not because everyone loves the film, but because cinema-goers just really, really want to see it. And perhaps the reason lots of Americans wanted to see Obsessed is because it stars Beyonce Knowles in a really, really bad wig. Truth is, I really can’t think of any other reason. This is straight-to-DVD stuff. Avoid. RATING: *




Directed by Bruce Hendricks. Starring Nick, Joe and Kevin Jonas. And a bunch of screening tweens.


THE PLOT: Kicking off, rather unwisely, with a nod to The Beatles’ 1964 film, A Hard Day’s Night, director Bruce Hendricks (who introduced the world to Nick, Joe and Kevin when they popped up in Miley Cyrus’ 3D concert film, Best Of Both Worlds) concentrates thereafter on the boys in concert, with only the odd trip backstage, or out amongst the screaming, fainting fans. Unlike Miley’s outing though, where a story revolved around the concert footage, here, it’s song after song, after song. Which, when they’re as spectacularly unmemorable as the dross the Jonas boys offer up, is probably not a good idea.


THE VERDICT: What to say about Jonas Brothers: The 3D Concert Experience? Well, on the plus side, it’s mercifully short, and, in its defense, it does exactly what it says on the poster. On the negative side, it’s a piece of crap.

In other words, if you’re one of the tween sensation’s legion of dedicated fans, you’ll lap this up. If, on the other hand, you’re of sound mind and body, you won’t. That a concert film as weak as this, full of highly forgettable songs, will only appeal to the hardcore fan is obviously a concern for both the Jonas Brothers and for their soul-keepers, Disney. I see growing pains on the horizon… RATING: *





Directed by Renny Harlin. Starring John Cena, Aidan Gillen, Ashley Scott, Steve Harris.


THE PLOT: The man known in WWE circles as Dr. of Thuganomics plays New Orleans cop Danny Fisher, out to rescue his kidnapped wife from an arms dealer with a score to settle. And, er, that’s about it. Harlin throws plenty of action set-pieces at the screen, and Cena does a decent enough job of punching out, beating up and shooting down the endless army of thugs sent his way. Of special interest to Irish cinema-goers will be the presence of Aidan Gillen, playing the psycho with a grudge, Miles Jackson. He’s a psycho with an admirable imagination, as he sets out a series of challenges and humiliations for the cop who not only sent him away but, he feels, contributed to his girlfriend’s death during the high-speed chase that finally ended in his capture.


THE VERDICT: Following in the footsteps of Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson, WWE heavyweight John Cena takes on the action man role in this standard-issue shoot-’em-up offering from the once-hot Renny Harlin (Die Hard 2, Cliffhanger, The Long Kiss Goodnight, the career-stopping Cutthroat Island). It’s all not-very-good, not-very-clean familiar fun, but the fact that the 12 rounds on offer feel like at least double that by the time the closing credits roll reflects the fact that this is highly predictable action film that offers up nothing new whatsoever. RATING: **





Directed by Dennis Lee. Starring Julia Roberts, Willem Dafoe, Ryan Reynolds, Emily Watson, Carrie-Anne Moss.


THE PLOT: Fallen box-office angel Julia Roberts plays good, pregnant mum Lisa Taylor, Willem Dafoe is domineering dad Charles, Cayden Boyd is the bullied teenage son, Michael, and Hayden Panetierre is Lisa’s unhappy teenage sister, Jane, coming to spend the summer. Jump to 22 years later, and there’s tragedy in the air, after Lisa is killed in a car crash on her way to a family celebration. As the family reels, the grown-up Michael (Ryan Reynolds) is struggling with a fear and loathing of his father, a situation not helped by the fact that he’s planning to release a memoir about his childhood


THE VERDICT: It’s hard to find something to hold onto with this movie, or figure out what it was that anyone saw in writer/director Dennis Lee’s script. I’m guessing Roberts presence must have sealed the deal – the fact that her hubby, Danny Moder, is DP would suggest a little spot of nepotism, especially given that he makes such a bland job of the cinematography. Despite its heavyweight cast, Fireflies In The Garden is an extremely lightweight affair about a grieving family facing up to some ugly and awkward truths. This belongs on TV3. On a Tuesday. Around 2pm.




Directed by Safy Nebbou. Starring Catherine Frot, Sandrine Bonnaire, Wladimir Yordanoff, Arthur Vaughan-Whitehead, Michael Aumont.


THE PLOT: Coming across as increasingly crazy – Haneke crazy – Elsa Valentin (Frot) is having a hard time breaking up from the father of her young son, Thomas (Vaughan-Whitehead). The main issue is custody, Alain (Aumont) pointing out to his soon-to-be ex-wife that she has “a history”. That history slowly becomes apparent after Elsa becomes obsessed with tracking down Lola (Heloise Cunin), orchestrating a friendship between the young girl’s brother and her own son just so she can be close to her. As Lola’s parents (Bonnaire, Yordanoff) become increasingly suspicious of Elsa’s motives, a confrontation sparks a surprising twist.


THE VERDICT: Based on a true story, Mark Of An Angel charts one woman’s nervous breakdown as she becomes convinced that a young girl she spots at a birthday party is the baby she lost seven years before in a hospital fire. A film that manages to be both disturbing and immensely moving, this is one of those films that haunts you for days afterwards. Which, you know, is a good thing. RATING: ****




Directed by Pat Holden. Starring Stephen Graham, Nicky Bell, Liam Boyle, Oliver Lee, Lee Battle.


THE PLOT: It’s Liverpool, 1979, and 19-year old clerical worker Carty (Bell) would happily turn his back on his beloved underground bands for just one day of unadulterated football hooliganism. It’s a dream that becomes a reality when he befriends gang member Elvis (Boyle), the latter happy talk about art and music in return for letting the former tag along on awaydays battering rival fans.


THE VERDICT: Adapting his own novel, writer Kevin Sampson has been vocal in his rejection of suggestions of change to his script over the ten years its taken Awaydays to make it to the big screen. You can’t help feeling though, as this so-so film unfolds, that he might have been wise to take onboard some Robert McKee bullet points. Despite such a promising premise, Awaydays never delivers on its early promise, and ends up being something of an own-goal. RATING: **




The Irish Film Institute will be marking the 125th anniversary of one of Ireland’s most celebrated musicians with a specialdouble-bill exploring the life and music of John McCormack.


Taking place on Sunday June 14th at 1pm, the two screening comprise of Martin Dwan’s The People’s Tenor – charting McCormack’s rise from his Athlone home to the Royal Opera House, Papal honours and global fame – alongside the Irish singer’s first talking picture, Song O’ My Heart.


Martin Dwan will be present to introduce the double-bill. Further info on, or phone (01) 6795744.



The annual documentary festival Stranger Than Fiction hits the IFI on June 18th for its now-customary weekend of real-life wonders. And this year, the documentaries on offer tackle wannabe popstars in Afghanistan, activist pranksters and a 101-year-old sex therapist. Typical.


On the home front, there’s The Liberties, a collection of short films that focuses on the individuals that go to make this Dublin landmark what is, whilst Irish Communities On Film is a two-pronged curated programme that looks at the Irish emigrant in Irish Communities Abroad, and those closer to home in Alternative Communities In Ireland, exploring settled communities here, including an order of silent monks in Roscrea and The Screamers, who set up home in the 1970s just outside Donegal. Of course.


Running from the 18th to the 21st