This weeks movies reviewed by Paul Byrne including Anonymous, Monte Carlo and The Help THE HELP (USA/12A/146mins)Directed by Tate Taylor. Starring Emma Stone, Bryce Dallas Howard, Viola Davis, Jessica Chastain, Octavia Spencer.THE PLOT: Set during America’s civil rights movement of the 1960s, the plot centres on a group of black maids and the southern belles that they have to cook, clean and child-rear for. On the maid side, Spencer plays the sassy, eye-rolling Minny, best friend to Davis’ steely, determined Aibileen, the film’s narrator. On the wealthy southern employers side, Howard leads the way as the baddie of the piece, Hilly Holbrook – determined, amongst other things, to get her Home Help Sanitation Initiative (i.e. compulsory separate toilets for black domestic staff) onto the books – whilst the omnipresent Chastain is wonderful as the WASP outcast too ditzy to be racist.Emma Stone, meanwhile, is the single, independent young journalist determined to tell the longsuffering maids’ stories.THE VERDICT: Based on Kathryn Stockett’s 2009 bestselling debut novel, this $25m film has already made over $165m at the US box-office alone. Far more Oprah Winfrey than Spike Lee, The Help tackles the issue of racial discrimination, and the role of women, in 1960s America without ever showing any of the more obvious horrors of that time. Which is just the way actor-turned-director Tate Taylor wanted it, convinced that it’s just as potent to show the everyday cruelties of the time – such as a grown woman being forced to use a specially-built segregated outhouse – rather than the headline-grabbing atrocities Hollywood usually shines a light on. And he may have a point. Still, a little more righteousness and a little less Rockwell wouldn’t have gone amiss. RATING: 3/5 MONTE CARLO (USA/G/90mins)Directed by Thomas Bezucha. Starring Selena Gomez, Leighton Meester, Katie Cassidy, Andie MacDowell, Brett Cullen, Luke Bracey, Pierre Boulanger, Corey Monteith.THE PLOT: Having saved up for a trip to Paris – her high school graduation treat – Grace (Gomez) is none too impressed to discover that her stepsister Meg (Meester) and best friend Emma (Cassidy) will be coming along for the ride. On a package tour there, the trio take shelter in a swanky hotel only to find Grace being mistaken for ultra-rich socialite Cordelia Winthrop-Scott. When a charity event in Monte Carlo is mentioned, the girls see no reason not to play along with the ruse. And that’s where Grace falls for Australian hitchhiker Riley (Bracey), Meg for Theo (Boulanger), and Emma just misses her boyfriend, Owen (Monteith). Oh, the deception!THE VERDICT: It’s The Princess & The Spoilt Brat, as US teen sensation Selena Gomez – who might just be Mrs Justin Bieber one day, if all the tabloid wishes come true – hits a very traditional plot device, the doppelganger switch, in this polished nerd of a movie. This was originally going to be Jez Butterworth’s follow-up to 2001’s Birthday Girl, the script then concerning four New Jersey women pretending to be wealthy abroad so they could snag some men. This Disney-esque tween adventure though isn’t even The Sisterhood Of The Travelling Pants. This is just pants. RATING: 1/5 MOVIES.IE’S ONE TO WATCH!MISS BALA (Mexico/15A/112mins)Directed by Gerardo Naranjo. Starring Stephanie Sigman, Irene Azuela, Miguel Couturier, Gabriel Heads, James Russo, Laksmi Picazo, Jose Yenque.THE PLOT: All-Mexican girl 23-year old Laura Guerrero (Sigman) has a dream – and that dream is to represent all the beautiful women of her state. And move on from selling t-shirts for a living. Oh, and world peace, no doubt. Laura finds little peace though on the path to being crowned Miss Bala, having to make a pact early on with local drug gang leader Lino (Hernandez) after her best friend, Suzu (Picazo), goes missing – shortly after a party erupts in a hail of bullets. Lino needs Laura for an elaborate plot, and the target is the President. Who, traditionally, gets to sleep with the newly-crowned Miss Bala.THE VERDICT: Director and co-writer (along with Mauricio Katz) Gerard Naranjo (I’m Gonna Explode) pulls no punches when it comes to tackling the drug trafficking in his native Mexico. It turns over billions of dollars every year, and costs thousands of lives, with corruption at just about every level helping maintain such world-beating numbers. Produced by buddies Gael Garcia Bernal and Diego Luna, Miss Bala (which translates, crassly enough, as Miss Bullet) has wowed them on the festival circuit, delivering real thrills and spills along with that political bite. Sigman does a fine job too with a role that has to hit emotions both true and false. RATING: 4/5 ANONYMOUS (USA/UK/12A/129mins)Directed by Roland Emmerich. Starring Rhys Ifans, Vanessa Redgrave, Joely Richardson, Rafe Spall, Jamie Campbell Bower, Sebastian Arnesto.THE PLOT: Pitching the notion that the wily Shakespeare (Spall) was merely a front man for Edward de Vere, Earl of Oxford (Ifans), after a present day speech from an actor telling a theatre audience just that, we jump to Elizabethan London as playwright Ben Jonson is called upon to be the public face for the Earl’s covert authorship. Jonson’s not interested, but he knows a man who is – a young out of work actor by the name of Billy Shakespeare. Yowsa.THE VERDICT: With the films release cut to just 250 screens (in the claim of building word of mouth), this hilariously bad historically-bonkers costume drama from the mind of Roland Emmerich (who’s basically M. Night Shyamalan without the twists) seems destined for a fate worst than death – an early trip to DVD. It’s a film that was laughed off the screen at Cannes (where it caused a row during a public debate), and it was laughed off the screen at the Dublin press screening too.RATING: 1/5 OOH, LA LA…Details of the 2011 IFI French Film Festival – which runs from November 16th to the 27th – have just been announced.Along with the premieres (21 in total, including new work from the Dardenne brothers) and much-loved classics, this year’s festival boasts special guests Sandrine Kiberlain, director Claude Miller and veteran character actor Jean-Pierre Darroussin.Also in attendance will be Philippe Ramos (Outside Satan, The Life Of Jesus), Luce Vigo (president of the Prix Jean Vigo) and leading critic and documentary filmmaker Michel Cement (Once Upon A Time… A Clockwork Orange).The festival kicks off with a Gala screening of The Bird, Yves Caumon’s latest offering, with both the director and his leading lady, Kiberlain, in attendance.Other highlights include two newbies from Catherine Deneuve – His Mother’s Eyes and Christophe Honore’s Beloved (which was the closing film at Cannes this year); three period dramas – Bertrand Bonello’s House Of Tolerance, Abdellatif Kerchiche’s Black Venus and Philippe Ramos’ The Silence Of Joan.Darrousin will be attending a screening of Early One Morning, whilst there will be a major retrospective of director Claude Miller’s work to mark his visit.The festival closes with the Dardenne’s The Kid With A Bike, a major hit at Cannes. Full details onwww.ifi.ie/french2011. BEIJING WENT MY HEARTSTRINGSThe Dublin Chinese New Year Festival are celebrating the Year of the Dragon in 2012 with the addition of awards to their annual film festival here in Ireland.Those fine people at DCNYF are looking for live-action or animated short films containing an intercultural theme, focusing on Sino-Irish relations. Also, you should try and get the dragon in there somehow too. Given the year that’s in it.Six shorts will be selected for screening during the festival – which runs from January 20th to February 3rd next year – to run alongside shorts from China. All entries must be in DVD format with a short submission document to be sent, by 5pm, December 2nd 2011, to Film Shorts Entry – DCNYF, Office For Integration, Community & Enterprise Section, Block 4 East, Floor 1, Dublin City Council, Wood Quay, Dublin 8. BIG IN, EH, IRELANDDue to, yep, popular demand, this year’s Japanese Film Festival will be expanding its multi-city tour around Ireland. The 4th Japanese Film Festival hits the four country roads on November 6th and parks itself back home on the 20th, along the way calling to Cork (Nov 6th-11th), Dublin (10th-13th), Limerick (14th-15th & 19th), Waterford (16th & 17th) and finally Galway, on the 19th and 20th of November.There will be nine feature films on offer, six of which are Irish premieres, and tickets go on sale from October 29th from www.accesscinema.ie.