Paul Byrne gets his hands on the latest set of movies – including Star Trek, Coraline and Cheri!
ONE TO WATCH!
Directed by J.J. Abrams. Starring Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Simon Pegg, Zoe Saldana, Eric Bana.
THE PLOT: Opening a few years before the U.S.S. Enterprise’s maiden voyage, we’re introduced to the ship’s iconic crew – or, at least, its two most iconic: the rebellious James T. Kirk (Pine), still reeling from his father going down with his ship to save his life; the conflicted Spock (Quinto), having to deal with rejection because of his mixed race parentage. The two are quickly at loggerheads once they are called upon to work together, the evil Nero, leader of the cosmic biker gang the Romulus, setting out to avenge the destruction of his planet. By destroying a few others.
THE VERDICT: What could have easily degenerated into Fast Times At Starfleet High is instead, in the steady hands of J.J. Abrams (Lost, Mission: Impossible III, Cloverfield) possibly the smartest, funniest and most thrilling blockbuster you’re going to see all year.
Boasting a taut young cast, a formidable baddie, some shiny hardware and, most importantly, a script that manages to be thrilling, sexy and surprisingly funny, this is the first great movie of the summer. It is summer, right? RATING: *****
Directed by Henry Selick. Starring the voices of Dakota Fanning, Teri Hatcher, Jennifer Saunders, Dawn French.
THE PLOT: Our eponymous little Ms. Jones (Fanning) moves into the Pink Palace Apartments with her always-busy parents, leaving Coraline with lots of time on her hands to explore. In the nearby forest, she befriends a black cat, and an awkward boy, Wybie Lovat (Robert Bailey Jr.), whilst down in the basements, it’s a pair of old vaudeville dames (French and Saunders, I’m afraid), and up in the attic, it’s the acrobatic Mr. Bobinsky (Ian McShane). All very pleasingly oddball, but it’s when Coraline discovers a secret door that leads her to a much more attentive and loving version of her own parents, that things start to get a little wibbly-wobbly wonderful. From there, it’s Pan’s Labyrinth for kids. With a free kaleidoscopic circus thrown in.
THE VERDICT: Two years before HarperCollins published his 2002 Coraline novella, Neil Gaiman (The Sandman, Stardust) presented this bedtime story he’d lazily written over 10 years for his children to stop-motion director Henry Selick, having been enormously impressed by his work on Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas and the Roald Dahl’s James And The Giant Peach. Gaiman’s instincts proved wise – although not quite as magical as Nightmare, Coraline certainly has a charm all of its own. RATING: ****
Directed by Stephen Frears. Starring Michelle Pfeiffer, Rupert Friend, Kathy Bates.
THE PLOT: Ma belle plays Lea de Lonval, a high-class courtesan in Paris, 1906, reaching the end of her, eh, street life a wealthy woman, but plainly not accepted amongst the moneyed gentry. True love may not be out of reach though when a former rival (Bates) asks Lea to teach her 19-year old son, Cheri (Friend), the ways of the world. It’s a lesson that turns into a six-year affair, only coming to an end when Cheri is lined up to marry the pretty young daughter of another courtesan. And that’s when the heartbreak begins.
THE VERDICT: The grumpy but sometimes brilliant Stephen Frears delivers a mild curiousity inCheri, Michelle Pfeiffer turning in a solid performance in an otherwise highly mediocre movie. Having worked with Frears before, on Dangerous Liaisons, Pfeiffer proves a wonder here (as, indeed, does Kathy Bates). But the film itself, as I said, lacks that certain something… RATING: **
Directed by Bent Hamer. Starring Bard Owe, Espen Skjonberg, Ghita Norby, Henry Moan.
THE PLOT: The plot centres on lonely, 67-year old bachelor Odd Horten, about to retire from his job as a train driver on the Oslo-Bergen line, and, invited to slap-up meal in his honour whilst on his penultimate trip to Bergen, our boy ends up missing his final run. Ashamed, he decides to hide in his flat. And then visit his mum. And sell his boat. And go for a sauna at night. And befriend another lost old man. All the stuff old people tend to do. If you live in Norway. Under the watchful eye of a kooky filmmaker.
THE VERDICT: Norwegian writer/director Bent Hamer (Kitchen Stories) returns to his native country after his fine American adventure adapting a Charles Bukowski novel (the Matt Dillon-ledFactotum) with this typically bittersweet tale for the filmmaker.
It’s all sweetly melancholic and darkly humorous, but there’s a tenderness to O’Horten too that saves it from being mean or pointless. RATING: ***
GHOSTS OF GIRLFRIENDS PAST (USA/15A/100mins)
Directed by Mark Waters. Starring Matthew McConaughey, Jennifer Garner, Michael Douglas, Brekin Meyer.
THE PLOT: Beach bum philosopher and perfume whore McConaughey plays Connor Mead, a bad boy photographer who gets the Scrooge treatment the night before his younger brother’s wedding, being visited by the ghosts of three ex-girlfriends, taking him on a trip through his past, present and future. So, you know, he might become a sensitive guy. And not the womanizing asshole that he is.
THE VERDICT: Once again, the hunky Matthew McConaughey shits out a movie that you know he himself would never want to go and see. He’s too busy having tantric sex with himself on a beach somewhere to dip his toes into multiplex romcom fodder like this. Which is all well and good, except his particular brand of multiplex romcom fodder has become increasingly unfunny and unromantic. File this alongside Fool’s Gold. And avoid. RATING: *