This weeks movies reviewed by Paul Byrne including Melancholia, Red State, The Debt, Whats Your Number and more… MELANCHOLIA (Denmark/15A/136mins) Directed by Lars von Trier. Starring Kirsten Dunst, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Kiefer Sutherland, John Hurt, Charlotte Rampling, Alexander Skarsgard, Stellan Skarsgard, Udo Kier. THE PLOT: Separated into two parts, and concentrating on two sisters, the first is given to Justine (Dunst), celebrating her marriage to Michael (Alexander Skarsgard) at the mansion belonging to her sister, Claire (Gainsbourg), and her husband, John (Sutherland). Only Justine isn’t quite up for her big day, and is soon skulking in dark corners, finding no joy in her hate-filled mother (Rampling) nor her free-spirited, alcoholic father (Hurt). The second part is dedicated to Claire, as she struggles to make all her wedding plans actually go to plan, but the domestic blitz is finally overshadowed by that large eponymous planet heading straight for earth. THE VERDICT: Just before I went to see Melancholia, I was defending the mischievous von Trier after another film critic dismissed all his work as “self-indulgent” and “cruel”. After seeing Melancholia though, my argument would have been a whole lot tougher. Man, this film bugged the hell out of me. Maybe it’s Dunst’s jaded eyes-half-shut acting schtick (her Cannes-winning performance here probably induced by re-watching Elizabethtown first thing every morning). Maybe it’s the long, long, long passages – each pregnant with meaning and meanness – where nothing much ever happens. Other than awkward silences and seething hatred. Not so much Festen as Fester, for all its graceful artiness, for all its wry apocalyptic doom and National Geographic porn, Melancholia is not only self-indulgent and cruel, it’s also pretty really, really irritating. RATING: 2/5 WHAT’S YOUR NUMBER? (USA/15A/106mins) Directed by Mark Mylod. Starring Anna Faris, Chris Evans, Ari Graynor, Blythe Danner, Ed Begley Jr., Chris Pratt. THE PLOT: Faris’ thirtysomething singleton Ally Darling decides it’s time to finally find that one special guy – having just recently calculated that she’s already slept with 20 not-so-special guys. And that, as any regular reader of women’s glossy magazines will tell you, is verging on slut. Luckily, across the hall, she’s got a hunky ex-cop neighbour (Evans) who is willing to help her in that search – once he can use her flat in the mornings to avoid his latest one-night stand. THE VERDICT: Hitting some strange and strained middle ground between Kate Husdon conservatism and Kristen Wiig wig-out, Anna Faris reveals her limitations in this so-so girly gross-out. It’s Bridesmaids with all the bad language but none of the side-splitting, taboo-busting wit. But, then again, it’s not Bride Wars. Or A Little Bit Of Heaven. Or Something Borrowed. So, you know, it could be worse. RATING: 2/5 THE DEBT (USA/15A/113mins) Directed by John Madden. Starring Helen Mirren, Sam Worthington, Tom Wilkinson, Ciaran Hinds, Jessican Chastain, Jesper Christensen, Romi Aboulafia, Marton Csokas. THE PLOT: Tel Aviv 1997, and Rachel Singer (Mirren) attends the launch of her daughter’s book launch charting a celebrated 1965 Mossad mission in which Rachel killed a notorious Nazi, Dr. Vogel. Jump back to East Berlin, 1965, and Rachel (Chastain) is teamed with David (Worthington) and Stephan (Csokas) on a mission to capture Dr. Vogel (Christensen) – the former Surgeon of Birkenau – and smuggle him out of the country. But the tables are turned, as Vogel overpowers them, and escapes. It’s agreed amongst the three that they will say Rachel shot the bad doctor as he escaped… THE VERDICT: We’re in Munich territory once again, with the presence of Ciaran Hinds reminding us instantly of Spielberg’s Mossad thriller. Here, director John Madden (Shakespeare In Love, Mrs. Brown) delivers a surprisingly effective political drama – aided and abetted by Matthew Vaughn, Jane Goldman and Peter Straughan’s script (adapting the Israeli 2007 film Ha-Hov), and a sterling cast (Chastain is particularly effective). Still, the final act feels like a pulled punch. RATING: 3/5 RED STATE (USA/18/98mins) Directed by Kevin Smith. Starring Michael Parks, Melissa Leo, John Goodman, Stephen Root, Ralph Garman, Kevin Pollack, Michael Angarano, Nicholas Braun, Kerry Bishe, Kyle Gallner. THE PLOT: After one of them gets an online invitation for group sex, buddies Jared (Gallner), Travis (Angarano) and Billy Ray (Braun) naturally head out into the country to have some fun. Only to find that the woman who sent out the invitation, Sarah (Leo), is part of the Five Points Church, who don’t actually like promiscuous sex. Or homosexuals. Or pretty much anyone who isn’t part of the Five Points Church. And so the torture begins, as these religious wackos head for their own little Waco disaster. THE VERDICT: The once-mighty Kevin Smith has been reduced to pretty much just a mighty mouth these days, thanks to a string of flops, over-self-exposure through the net, and, well, crap films. Like this well-deserved but not very well-aimed swipe at the Westboro Baptist Church. Smith doesn’t do religion well, as anyone who has sat through the diabolical Dogma will know. Early plans to self-release the film alongside a tour of cinemas amounted to nothing as, well, no one expressed much interest. Go see the guy do his stand-up instead (he’s at Vicar Street on Feb 21st, with Jay & Silent Bob Get Old), if you really need your Kevin Smith fix. RATING: 2/5 ABDUCTION(USA/15A/106mins) Directed by John Singleton. Starring Taylor Lautner, Lily Collins, Alfred Molina, Maria Bello, Sigourney Weaver, Jason Isaacs. THE PLOT: When he recognises himself on a missing children website, teenager Nathan Harper (Lautner) soon realises that his recurring nightmare of hiding under a bed as a woman is murdered might actually be true. And that his real name is Steven Price. Contacting the website in question for more information only turns Nathan into a fugitive, the contact on the other end being a Russian terrorist who has been looking for Harry Potter – sorry, little Steven Price. But, who to trust…? THE VERDICT: According to one Lautner fan, Kishoth, Abduction is the best movie of all time. She tweeted. Which pretty much tells you all you need to know about Lautner, and his fanbase. The Twilight star’s solo debut, Abduction has been getting a fair old kicking from the critics, and now Lionsgate, the studio behind it, have pretty much written it down as a loss-maker. Which isn’t entirely fair – as so-so action thrillers go, Abduction is slightly above average. The only real thrills though will be felt by Team Jacob. RATING: 2/5 GUILTY OF ROMANCE (Japan/IFI/112mins) Directed by Sion Sono. Starring Miki Mizuno, Makoto Togashi, Megumi Kagurazaka, Kazuya Kojima, Tsuda Kanji, Staoshi Nikaido. THE PLOT: Growing tired of being the perfect wife to ‘pure’ renowned novelist Kikuchi Yukio (Tsuda), Izumi (Megumi) unlocks her frustrated sexual desires when she is tricked into taking part in a porn shoot. Transformed, Izumi starts leading a double-life, one that leads her to Mitsuko (Makoto), a college professor also leading a double-life, as a cheap call girl. For Mitsuko, it’s not about the money, it’s about the power, and Izumi is soon seduced… THE VERDICT: Perhaps the astounding Cold Fish had set my expectations way too high, but Japanese director Sion Sono’s latest offering left me cold. And, by the end, kinda bored. This, despite the fact that it dealt with the empowerment of women through anonymous sex. Lots and lots of anonymous sex. For money. Sono has said that Guilty Of Romance is the culmination of his ‘trilogy of hate’ (the other film being 2008’s Love Exposure), and once again, we dig deep down into the world of sexual politics and identity, and, in particular, the power of loveless sex. This is a co-production with veteran Japanese softcore merchants Nikkatsu, and, by the end, it’s hard to know who the target market is exactly. Then again, most of the lonely figures mulling around the IFI lobby would clearly welcome a little kinky porn dressed as arthouse. Try to keep at least six seats between you and the next guy. RATING: 3/5 SHARK NIGHT 3D (USA/15A/90mins) Directed by David R. Ellis. Starring Sara Paxton, Dustin Milligan, Chris Carmack, Katharine McPhee, Chris Zylka, Alyssa Diaz. THE PLOT: Seven highly edible high school stereotypes head to a friend’s private lakeside holiday home, only to have their high-fivin’ and ass-oggling interrupted by a very big, very rude, shark. And his mates. No Soul Surfer soul searching here, just a mad panic amongst half-naked teens, keen not to make it onto today’s menu. And, as usual, it’s all down to some mad rednecks, who just don’t like it when readers descend on their backwood home… THE VERDICT: From the director of Snakes On A Plane! From the producers of Hostel! And one of the producers of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre! Yep, thanks to Hollywood’s feeble attempt to battle the internet with 3D, the B-movie is back at your local multiplex, and, now that it’s all shiny and digital, you can really see the cracks in the script. And the acting. And the direction. Wait for the DVD. And a six-pack. Or two. RATING: 2/5 MOVIES.IE’S ONE TO WATCH! CANE TOADS: THE CONQUEST (USA/Australia/PG/84mins) Directed by Mark Lewis. Starring, well, lots of toads. And geeks who know lots about toads. THE PLOT: Some archive footage charts the cane toad’s introduction to Australia in 1934, in an ill-advised attempt to control the sugar cane beetle – we soon realise the error of the Aussie’s ways. The female cane toad can lay up to 50,000 eggs in one year, and that initial population 75 years ago of 102 now stands at 1.5 billion. Which has become something of a problem in Australia. If not a crisis. THE VERDICT: Mark Lewis is a man who knows his toads, the Australian documentary filmmaker having first come to notice in 1988 with Cane Toads: An Unnatural History. Since then, the Emmy-winning filmmaker has given us docs on dogs, rats and chickens, amongst other animals, but, plainly, his heart has always remained with our sticky South American amphibian. Suffice to say, it’s not easy being green these days, especially if you live down under, and Lewis tries to inject a degree of humour when charting the toad’s frightening rise in his native country. The first independently financed doc to be shot in digital 3D, this is a little eye-bulging gem. RATING: 4/5 KILLER ELITE (USA/Australia/16/105mins) Directed by Gary McKendry. Starring Jason Statham, Clive Owen, Robert De Niro, Yvonne Strahovski, Dominic Purcell. THE PLOT: Having retired to the Australian outback, former special ops agent Danny (Statham) is drawn back in when his mentor, Hunter (De Niro), is held hostage in Oman by an old tribal sheikh. The deal is, Danny will get $6m and Hunter if he will track down those responsible for killing the sheikh’s three sons. A failed, and bloody, attempt by Danny to rescue Hunter fails, and so, he accepts the mission – given the proviso that he get a video confession from each, and that the individual murders must be different, so as not to be connected. To add to the fun, the targets are all British Special Air Service members… THE VERDICT: Inspired by former SAS man Sir Ranulph Fienne’s ‘factional’ novel The Feather Men – which the author claimed, controversially, was based on true events – first-time director McKendry makes a fair fist of delivering on the thrills and spills here, but, don’t be fooled by the presence of Robert De Niro; this is very much a typical Jason Statham outing. Which is fine, in an Andy McNab/government-stamped killing is cool, guilty pleasure kind of way. Even by those lowly Partridge standards though, this is pretty dumb and humdrum. RATING: 2/5 HERE COMES THE SON… Of Harold and Louise Harrison, to be precise, Martin Scorsese donning his documentary hat once again for George Harrison: Living In The Material World. It’s a stonking 208 minutes long, and it’ll be hitting our DVD shelves on October 10th, but for those who can’t wait – and would rather see it on the big screen – the IFI will be playing host to Living In The Material World for one night only. That night being Tuesday October 4th, at 7.10pm. Check out www.ifi.ie for full details. STARS IN THEIR EYES Coinciding with three new releases from actors-turned-director – Woody Allen’s Midnight In Paris, Paddy Considine’s Tyrannosaur and George Clooney’s The Ides Of March – the IFI are presenting the first part of their Stars Behind The Camera Season next month. Running through October, the season kicks off with Buster Keaton’s The General on October 1st, at 1pm, followed by Chaplin’s City Lights at 4pm. The other classics on offer comprise of Charles Laughton’s The Night Of The Hunter (Oct 2nd, 1.10pm), Tati’s Monsieur Hulot’s Holiday (2nd, 4.50pm), Allen’s The Purple Rose Of Cairo (11th, 7.10pm), Orson Welles’ Touch Of Evil (20th, 7pm), Gary Oldman’s Nil By Mouth (23rd, 2pm), Agne Janui’s Let’s Talk About The Rain (24th, 6.50pm) and, finally, George Clooney’s Good Night, And Good Luck, which plays on Oct 29th and 30th at 3pm each day. More details on www.ifi.ie. DANCING IN THE DARK The Darklight 2011: Strictly Roots! programme – taking place at The Factory, Grand Canal Dock on Oct 20th to the 22nd – is now online – at www.darklight.ie, of course. Celebrating the spirit of grassroots filmmaking, the programme strands this year are New Indie Voices, Spotlight On Docs, SFX Unplugged, 3-D.I.Y. and Artist In Focus. Darklight are also looking for volunteers to assist with this year’s festival, including front of house, ushering and technical support. So, you know, now’s your chance to actually get involved. And power mingle.