Directed by Jamie J. Johnson. Starring Marina Baltadzi, Yiorgos Ioannides, Mariam Romelashvili.
THE PLOT: Following some of the contestants at the 2007 Junior Eurovision Song Contest – which is open to children between 10 and 15 – we get to meet the likes of Tom Jones’ Cyprian Mini-Me, Yiorgos Ioannides; Bulgarian tween-pop singer/songwriter Marina Baltadzi; and the budding Shirley Bassey from Georgia, Mariam Romelashvili, sorely aware that her country needs winners right now. All are hoping to knock ’em dead at the final in a Rotterdam stadium, in front of 6,000 people.
THE VERDICT: About as enjoyably camp, funny and uplifting as you would expect a documentary all about a teen version of the Eurovision would be, this is akin to Mad Hot Ballroom meets Mamma Mia!. When one of the young contestants squeals that they’re pissing their pants with excitement over singing in front of 6,000 people, you believe them.
Whatever you may think about the rights and wrongs, the good and bad, about these star-crossed youths chasing their dreams of fame and fortune so desperately, it’s almost impossible not to get caught up in their wide-eyed enthusiasm. RATING: ****
ANGELS & DEMONS
Directed by Ron Howard. Starring Tom Hanks, Ewan McGregor, Stellan Skarsgard, Ayelet Zurer.
THE PLOT: Harvard symbologist Robert Langdon (Hanks) tries to rescue four kidnapped contenders for the Pope’s position as a ticking anti-matter bomb sits somewhere deep within the Vatican. Throw in Ewan McGregor – the 21st century’s answer to Troy McClure – as the late Pope’s right-hand Carmerlengo, and you’ve got yourself a B-movie pot-boiler that abandons all hope of good storytelling with an OTT finale straight out of Naked Gun.
THE VERDICT: The good news about Angels & Demons is that it’s much better than its predecessor, The Da Vinci Code (2006). The bad news is, it’s still really, really bad. It’s just a little bit faster, that’s all. Not even the great Stellan Skarsgard can save this one. Avoid. Or you’ll burn in hell. RATING: *
SYNECDOCHE, NEW YORK
Directed by Charlie Kaufman. Starring Philip Seymour Hoffman, Samantha Morton, Hope Davis, Michelle Williams.
THE PLOT: As this tale about a theatre director (Hoffman) who decides to re-create his own life in an ever-evolving theatre experiment that results in a blurring of the line between art and reality – as individuals start to interact in real-time with their stage counterparts – twists ever-further into uncharted territory, you quickly realise that this is one of those films that you can only truly love or really, really hate.
THE VERDICT: Everything about Synecdoche, New York – from its ridiculous, hard-to-pronounce title to its highly-convoluted plotting – annoyed the bejiggers out of me. And it’s not like I really, really wanted to like this quirky little American indie offering. It’s Philip Seymour Hoffman! It’s Charlie Kaufman – writer of Being John Malkovich, Adaptation and Eternal Sunshine of The Spotless Mind! It’s bonkers!
The idea of a script eating itself something Kaufman has been edging towards with each consecutive release. Here though, the little clever clogs has bitten off more than he can chew. RATING: **
Directed by Dito Montiel. Starring Channing Tatum, Terrence Howard, Zulay Henao.
THE PLOT: Channing plays Alabama knucklehead Shawn McArthur, hustling a living selling books out of, eh, blanket on the streets of New York when he’s mugged by two goons in the employee of the Fagin-like Harvey Boarden (Howard).
As Shawn gives his two muggers the old one-two, Harvey sees dollar signs. As luck would have it, this lowlife Trump has connections in underground bare-knuckle fighting, and he’s soon got Shawn down amongst the muscle-bound freaks and geeks that try to make their living by being the toughest nutjob in town.
THE VERDICT: If you need to know the rest of the story, ask the nearest five-year old. It’s hard to figure out what the point of Fighting is. Other than, perhaps, to show us how irritatingly smug Terrence Howard can be. And how much of a useless hunk of muscle leading man Channing Tatum is.
This is the sort of movie that makes Jason Statham look like Orson Welles… RATING: *
Brought to you by those clever people at Darklight, tomorrow the IFI will play host to Dublin: The Movie, with a guest appearance from ‘curator’ Lenny Abrahamson (who directed the wonderful Adam & Paul and the intriguing Garage).
Shot entirely between 12.01am and 11.59pm on Thursday, June 26th 2008, Darklight invited thirty filmmaking teams and individuals to come together to make the series of short pieces that combine to make Dublin: The Movie. So, you know, continuity might be a bit out the window. The screening takes place tomorrow, 1.30pm, at the IFI, followed by a Q&A with Abrahamson, who remixed the edit in four days.