Directed by Todd Philips. Starring Robert Downey Jr., Zach Galifianakis, Michelle Monaghan, Juliette Lewis, Danny McBride, RZA, Matt Walsh.
THE PLOT: New York, and uptight businessman and father to be Peter Highman (Downey) finds himself banned from flying after a tussle with deluded and possibly dangerous would-be actor Ethan Tremblay (Galifianakis), the latter offering the suddenly wallet-less former a lift in his rental to Hollywood. Where Ethan is going to make it as an actor. Thanks, in no small part, to his big perm. And his love of Two And A Half Men. You can guess the rest…
THE VERDICT: …especially if you’ve ever seen John Hughes’ towering 1987 comedy, Planes, Trains And Automobiles. Downey and Galifianakis are, of course, strong enough individuals to bring their own particular slant on the much-loved Steve Martin and John Candy outing, but unlike Hughes, Philips (and his three co-writers) fails to deliver the heart and soul, and the belly laughs, that you expect from the man who gave us The Hangover, Old School and the criminally underrated Starsky & Hutch. RATING: **
Directed by Matt Reeves. Starring Chloe Moretz, Kodi Smit-McPhee, Richard Jenkins, Elias Koteas, Cara Buono, Sasha Barrese.
THE PLOT: Nowhereville, middle America, and 12-year old Owen lives with his single mum in a small apartment, where he acts out his revenge fantasies on the bullies at school. He unwittingly finds an ally in new neighbour Abby (Moretz), who has moved in next door with what would appear to be her father (Jenkins). Only he’s not. His job is to go out in search of blood for Abby, a fact that slowly dawns on Owen. Who’s been too busy coping with his first kiss.
THE VERDICT: It’s been said before – mainly by me – but Hollywood has a nasty habit of turning sacred cows into hamburgers, but here, director Reeves (Cloverfield) sticks surprisingly close to Tomas Alfredson’s stunning 2008 movie, and its original source novel, both entitled Let The Right One In. He’s aided and abetted wonderfully by two stunning leads (13-year old Moretz – aka Hit-Girl – could easily become the next Jodie Foster), solid supporting cast (Jenkins and Koteas especially), and a brave adherence to that menacing melancholy and sweet innocence of Alfredson’s perfect offering. The latter, of course, should be force-fed to every Twilight fan out there. RATING: ****
Directed by Jeff Tremaine. Starring Johnny Knoxville, Steve-O, Chris Pontius, Bam Magera, Ryan Dunn, Preston Lacy, Spike Jonze, Will Oldham.
THE PLOT: Playing like Grown Ups, only funny, Johnny and the boys reunite for some mindless, shirtless, clueless fun – such as Electric Avenue (a taser obstacle course) and The High Five (a giant hand springloaded), plus a midget bar fight that gets beautifully surreal, Will Oldham wrestling a gorilla in a swanky hotel room, and the obese Preston Lacy working up a sweat for Steve-O to knock back.
THE VERDICT: You’ll have already decided going in whether you’re going to enjoy this or not, but there’s no denying that the hit-rate isn’t all that high. Hollow laughter rings out on at least half the stunts and pranks here, and the fact that bees were CGI-ed in for some beehive tetherball helps you remember that ringleader Knoxville and quite a few of his crew are all ex-stuntmen. Their pain isn’t always real. And neither is their laughter. RATING: **
Directed by Clio Barnard. Starring Manjinder Virk, Christine Bottomley, Neil Dudgeon, Monica Dolan, Danny Webb, Kathryn Pogson.
THE PLOT: Starting with Lorraine (Virk) and Lisa (Bottomley), the two grown-up daughters of the late English working class playwright Andrea Dunbar (Rita, Sue And Bob Too) recall their troubled childhood, before other relatives give their version of events, alongside TV clips of Dunbar herself being interviewed about her success as a writer, and reinactments of her largely autobiographical work growing up in the 1970s and ’80s on The Arbor, then regarded as the toughest street in Bradford. Dunbar went on to write three plays, have three kids by three different fathers, and suffer from alcoholism and domestic violence, before dying of a cerebral hemorrhage on December 20th, 1990, at the age of 29.
THE VERDICT: They call it verbatim theatre – actors miming along to original recordings of the real-life people they’re portraying – and it’s incredibly effective here. Once you get over the creeping Creature Comforts sensation. Writer/director Clio Barnard employs various platforms, from talking heads to old TV footage and the staging of Dunbar’s work on the green outside the old family home, giving The Arbor a sweetly surreal air, the whole thing proving a sly, mildly dizzying seduction. Dunbar would have been proud. RATING: ****
Directed by Kevin Gruetert. Starring Tobin Bell, Sean Patrick Flannery, Costas Mandylor, Betsy Russell, Dean Armstrong, Gina Holden.
THE PLOT: With Jigsaw still casting a long shadow over his victim’s lives – well, those who managed to surive, that is – the hardy but still jittery band of survivors turn to one of their own, Bobby Dragen (Flannery), who just happens to be a self-help guru. And like all self-help gurus – I’m talking to you, Deepak – he’s riddled with dark, twisted secrets. All he needs are some wide-eyed victims.
THE VERDICT: The splattered brains behind this little moneyspinner got the fright of their lives when Saw IV opened poorly at the US box-office back in 2007. How they must wish 3D was available to them back then – something they’ve decided to exploit to its fullest here, no doubt. Despite the fact that the filmmakers claimed this is The Final Chapter, audiences have decided this is another Saw too many. Which is fair enough. RATING: **
ANOTHER YEAR Another Year, the latest film from director Mike Leigh, centres on a group of people who are dealing with getting older, albeit in very different ways.
At first, it may not be clear as to what the focus of Another Year is, however, as the story progresses; single and manic Mary (Lesley Manville) is thrown into stark relief against the comfortable relationship between Tom (Jim Broadbent) and Gerri (Ruth Sheen) and their acceptance of getting older. Gerri’s meeting with Janet (Imelda Staunton) at the start of the film acts as a prologue, and sets the tone for Mary, who – even though she may hide her fears well to begin with – is not as different to Janet as she would like to think.
The absolute standout performance in Another Year is Lesley Manville as Mary. She completely embodies this frantic, desperate character that forms the narrative centre of the film. Normally the protagonist changes during the course of the film, but it is Mary’s inability to change that makes her such a fascinating character. Of course, Ruth Sheen and Jim Broadbent are great as the warm, generous couple who Mary relies on, and David Bradley – in an utterly monosyllabic role – does not shy away from the awkward air his character creates, but embraces it and makes it his own.
Mike Leigh is famed for the way that he creates film – through improvisation with the actors, who have no idea what the story will be when they sign on for the film. It is this style that allows for such well-developed and rounded characters. Mike Leigh is often accused of having a voyeuristic style of film making, and there are definitely moments in Another Year when the audience feels like they are intruding, but this is the sign of a perfectly formed cinematic world – not too far from our own – which is inhabited by these characters.
Another Year is much darker in tone than it’s predecessor – Happy Go Lucky – and deals with the universal issues of getting older and reflecting on our lives. This is not a film that will leave the audience feeling upbeat, but for Lesley Manville’s performance, and Mike Leigh’s ability to turn the trivial into the tragic it is definitely one to watch. (Review by Brogen Hayes) RATING ****
OOH, LA, LA!
This year’s IFI French Film Festival boasts over twenty Irish premieres, a Yves-Jacques Cousteau retrospective, special guests John Boorman, Michel Ciment and Lolita Chammah, the latest from Jean-Luc Godard, and a tribute to the late, great Claude Chabrol.
Running from November 18th to the 28th, the festival opens with The Names Of Love, newcomer Sara Forestier already causing a stir, whilst fans of France’s answer to Robert De Niro, Gerard Depardieu, will be delighted to know that he’s reportedly back on form, for My Afternoons With Margueritte (co-starring 96-year old Gisèle Casadesus) and Mammuth, both screening.
Also screening is Xavier Beauvois’ hard-hitting Grand Prix winner Of Gods And Men – which dramatises the 1996 kidnap and murder of a group of French Cistercian monks by Islamic fundamentalists in Algeria – alongside Rachid Bouchareb’s equally controversial Outside The Law, which follows three brothers through the bloody struggle of Algerian independence.
Ciment will be present to debut his documentary John Boorman: A Portrait, the Wicklow resident hopping on his Honda 50 for the big occasion.
Full details can be found on www.ifi.ie/french2010, or you can call the IFI box-office on (01) 6793477.