Directed by Jorge Michel Grau. Starring Francisco Barreiro, Alan Chavez, Paulina Gaitan, Carmen Beato, Jorge Zarate, Esteban Soberanes, Humberto Yanez.
THE PLOT: Mexico City. After a man stumbles through a mall before finally collapsing, lifeless, in a pool of black tar vomit, his waiting family fall into a panic. Dad was supposed to bring home some fresh meat. In the form of another luckless human being. Eldest son Alfredo (Barreiro) doesn’t want to take on the responsibility; hotheaded younger son Julian (Chavez) does, but their stern mother (Beato) knows the latter would be a disaster. And besides, he’d probably just bring home whores, like his father. Sis Sabina (Gaitan) meanwhile has to contend with not only the loss of her father but also the amorous advances of Julian.
THE VERDICT: They say the family that preys together stays together, and it’s certainly a lesson to be learnt here in Michael Grau’s sweetly stark offering. It’s been compared to Let The Right One In, and although Grau never quite reaches that modern classic’s depth of pained beauty, once again the mix of the magical and the mundane within the horror genre proves compelling. There’s a guilty pleasure in witnessing a dowdy mother serial killer blankly clubbing a new victim to death whilst her bickering, cautious children recoil. Throw in two incompetent cops looking for glory, and you’ve got yourself one of the year’s finest films. RATING: ****
Directed by Andy Frickman. Starring Kristen Bell, Jamie Lee Curtis, Sigourney Weaver, Betty White, Cloris Leachman, Odette Yustman.
THE PLOT: Shiny, happy blonde beauty Marni (Bell) is more than a little disappointed to discover that her brother is about to marry the girl (Yustman) who made her schooldays hell. Schooldays being a time when Marni was something of an ugly duckling. Just to prove such bullying is timeless, Marni’s mum (Curtis) is shocked to discover that her future daughter-in-law’s aunt Ramona (Weaver) was her school torturer. Naturally, the wedding preparations don’t run all that smoothly. Thanks to Marni’s roaring rampage of revenge.
THE VERDICT: This is My Best Friend’s Wedding without the laughs. Or the sweetness. Or the reason to exist. That such a solid cast should end up in such a soft mess is a shame though, the likes of Curtis and Weaver pretty much at sea with such a weak script. Not even former Mary Tyler Moore Show stalwarts White and Leachman can lift proceedings. Nor can a late appearance by the great Hall & Oates. Following on from When In Rome, Kristen Bell should seriously consider firing her agent. RATING: **
Directed by Ruben Ostlund. Starring Villmar Bjorman, Lola Ewerlund, Maria Lundqvist, Henrik Vikman, Linnea Car-Lamy, Cecilia Milocco.
THE PLOT: Sweden, a series of characters and incidents – Villmar (Bjorkman) injuring himself at a party; teens Linnea and Sara getting flirty and dirty on the net before later being drunk and abusive on a train; a bunch of male friends getting together for a reunion; teacher Cecilia (Milocco) confronts another teacher about manhandling a student; on the coach famous actress Maria (famous actress – in Sweden, anyway – Maria Lundqvist) is riding, the driver refuses to proceed until the person who damaged the toilet cubicle owns up.
THE VERDICT: Director (and co-writer, alongside producer Erik Hemmendorff) Ruben Ostlund has admitted that the computer game SimCity was an influence here (which explains why he chose to shoot each take 50 or 60 times with his largely inexperienced cast), but fellow Swede Roy Andersson (You, The Living), Michael Haneke and Ulrich Seidl (Import, Export, Dog Days) are clearly part of the DNA here too. The five stories are largely unconnected, Ostlund keeping his distance as he explores the dangers of peer pressure (demonstrated early on when a pupil is tested by a class secretly instructed to constantly disagree with her), resulting in a curious experiment with a sting in the tale. RATING: ***
After a late night party, a group of friends awaken to bright lights descending on the city of Los Angeles. People are pulled to these beautiful lights where they are swallowed into alien spacecraft. Skyline is the story of a group of friends and the lengths they must go to in order to survive.
Skyline is the second full-length feature film from Colin and Greg Strause – known collectively as The Brothers Strause, also known for providing special effects for Avatar, Titanic and X Men Origins: Wolverine as well as directing the video for Nickleback’s breakthrough hit – How You Remind Me. If you were thinking that this combination does not bode well for Skyline, well, you’d be right.
There is so much wrong with the film, it’s hard to know where to begin. The performances are completely one dimensional, which means it’s hard for the audience to form an emotional bond with characters whose motivation and drive are far from clear. All the big movie clichés are there: Elaine (Scottie Thomspon) is pregnant, Jared (Eric Balfour) is injured but hiding it, Terry (Donald Faison) is having an affair with his assistant and Candace (Brittany Daniel) smokes. These character traits make it painfully clear to the audience who will live and who will die. Skyline trundles down a well worn predictable path and not even the detailed and intricate special effects and CGI can make up for underdeveloped characters and a plot that seems only to consist of the words ‘Look scared and run away’.
It’s a shame that Faison, Balfour and David Zayas (Dexter’s Sergeant Batista) were not able to replicate their strong TV performances, but blame cannot be wholly placed with them. Skyline was made without the help of any major studio, and it shows. The script is trite, the plot is paper-thin and the focus of the film is on the CGI.
We never learn why the aliens have landed on earth, where they are from and what they want. In the same way, we never know if they can be defeated, who survives and what happens to Elaine. It’s clear that the ending is left open for a sequel, but Skyline is one of the worst executed cinematic ideas since Swept Away. A film doesn’t have to say something new for it to work, but has to – at least – say something. Skyline’s plot is moved so far into the background that, in the end, the film says nothing at all.
Skyline Review by Brogen Hayes
‘TIS THE SEASONS…
Members of the Irish trad wonderband Kila will be providing the live accompaniment to two screenings of the 1935 film The Seasons at the Linenhall, Castlebar, Co. Mayo on November 15th.
Pretty much an intimate diary of life in the little village of Kilkelly, Co. Mayo in 1935, amateur filmmaker Dr. John Benigus Lyons set out to chart the social and agricultural life there over the course of a year. The filmmaker’s granddaughter only discovered the reels in recent years.
The screenings take place at 6.30pm and 8.30pm, with tickets (€15/€12conc) available from the Linenhall Arts Centre (box office: 094 902373), and further info on www.ifi.ie.
LOVERS OF MUSIC, BEWARE!
Those soft rockers Bon Jovi will be inflicting a performance from their recent Springsteen Lite Tour on cinema-goers around the country on Thursday 11th, for a one-off special. Ditto Stiff Little Fingers’ tribute act Green Day, who will have their 21st Century Breakdown MTV special broadcast at the Light House and cinemas around the country on Monday November 15th. You have been warned.
THE DUDE ABIDES
Those clever clogs at Dublin’s Screen Cinema will host a special screening at 8.40pm on Monday November 15th of The Big Lebowski, as part of their ’90s love-in season. Come dressed as The Dude, and it’s only a fiver in!
Other films lined up include The Matrix (landing Nov 29th/cheapskates: dress as Agent Smith and Pulp Fiction (December 13th/cheapskates, bring Uma Thurman along; she’s loaded). Full info onwww.screencinema.ie.