Directed by Adam McKay. Starring Will Ferrell, Mark Wahlberg, Samuel L. Jackson, Dwayne Johnson, Steve Coogan, Michael Keaton, Eva Mendes.
THE PLOT: Cop partners Allen Gamble (Ferrell) and Terry Holtz (Wahlberg) might as well be called Charlie Chalk and Mickey Cheese – the former is a devoted desk jockey, the latter a trigger-happy hothead who’s been grounded. Just as their precinct’s shining heroes (Jackson and Johnson) do one Michael Bay leap too many, the duo unwittingly find themselves uncovering some high-level financial corruption (led by Coogan’s dodgy fund manager) that calls on them to, well, go into full Lethal Weapon mode.
THE VERDICT: Adam McKay and his regular leading man Ferrell set out here to poke a little fun at the reluctant-buddy-buddy cop thriller, and, for the first half especially, they succeed, wonderfully. Wahlberg is no stranger to playing the straight man, of course, having miraculously managed to keep a straight face all the way through Shyamalan’s The Happening, but it’s Ferrell who steals the show here with his sweet infantile obliviousness. Which extends to regarding Eva Mendes as something of a battle-axe. RATING: ****
Directed by Brendan Muldowney. Starring Darren Healy, Nora-Jane Noone, Rachel Rath, Claire Byrne, Ian O’Doherty.
THE PLOT: Opening like CSI: Dublin, as we glimpse bloodied feet, police sirens wailing and the flash of a street fight, newspaper photographer Paul (Healy) shakes his head as he hurries along to the Four Courts, a quick piggyback on a Black Maria getting him an Evening Herald cover-shot of his man. A good son, Paul visits his ailing father every day, impressing the old man’s nurse (Noone) enough for a date. When a sadastic latenight mugging turns him into a whimpering wreck though, Paul’s journey from victim to Travis Bickle both speeds up and dooms the couple’s blossoming romance. The ending might just have you spewing your popcorn all over the back of a fellow cinema-goer’s head.
THE VERDICT: Modern life can be pretty rubbish, especially on the mean streets of Temple Bar – that seems to be the message behind Brendan Muldowney’s Death Wish outing, our happy-to-lucky Dublin photographer’s life slowly descending into a Gasper Noe film. A decent drama that builds to shocking conclusion, this is nonetheless a film with more promise than prowess. RATING: ***
Directed by Nick Moran. Starring Rupert Friend, Natasha McElhone, Ioan Gruffudd, Bernard Hill, David O’Hara, James Fox.
THE PLOT: Based on Kevin Lewis’ eponymous 2003 misery memoir and its 2005 sequel, the early years of our beleagued young hero (William Finn Miller) can be summed up by a line from his physically abusive, chain-smoking, acrylic-nightgown-wearing mum (McElhone); “Clean yourself up and fuck off to school”. This after yet another beating, young Kevin – who has the face of an angel, and the mouth of a Gibson – having tried to protect his drunken, epileptic, long-suffering father from mum’s battering wok. From there, it’s well-meaning foster carers and mentors (Hill, Fox, Gruffudd), a glittering career in boxing cut short by a doomed flirtation with the stock exchange, and a lethal friendship with an East End gangster (O’Hara) who introduces the adult Kevin (Friend) to the wonders of street bouts and crippling debt.
THE VERDICT: Having made his directorial debut with the Joe Meek biopic Telstar, former Guy Ritchie monkey Nick Moran proves yet again that he might not be all that much more than a pretty face with this comically bad biopic. It’s impossible to know if Friend is doing a diabolical job at winning our sympathies as Knightley’s fella is battling not only cliched direction, poor lighting and a seemingly skint props department, but the fact that the real-life Kevin – as we find out during the closing credits – does actually suffer from a Helfgott-esque, hydrogen-fey voice. You keep thinking of that poor Doberman in Up. As for the movie itself, this is Oliver Twist meets Biffa Bacon, in Mike Leigh’s Precious. RATING: *
Directed by Debra Granik. Starring Jennifer Lawrence, John Hawkes, Kevin Breznahan, Dale Dickey, Garrett Dillahunt, Sheryl Lee.
THE PLOT: Set in the scary wilds of the Ozark Mountains in Missouri, where poverty has fashioned a dark and tribal community, teenager Ree (Lawrence) is suddenly the man of the house when her father goes missing. Leaving Ree with two younger siblings and a mentally-ill mother to take care of. Informed that her father is one week away from breaking bail, with the family home as bond, Ree has to try and unravel the mystery behind his disappearance. And, as usual in this criminal underworld, no one’s particularly keen on talking. Because, you know, “talking just causes witnesses”.
THE VERDICT: Winner of the Grand Jury Prize at the Sundance Festival (completing an underclass fighter-women trilogy of sorts there, after wins for Precious and Frozen River), this riveting second feature from Debra Granik (who debuted with 2004’s Down To The Bone) introduces us to a Midwest wilderness that’s positively subterranean, but, thankfully, free from any Deliverance cliches. Lawrence is incredible in the title role, as is John Hawkes as her scary, bedraggled uncle Teardrop, and Granik manages to deliver a world that is both gritty and Lynchian. Like Kilcoole. RATING: ****
Directed by Stephen Frears. Starring Gemma Arterton, Roger Allam, Dominic Cooper, Luke Evans, Tamsin Greig, Janmes Naughtie.
THE PLOT: Based on Polly Simmonds comic strip in The Guardian, Arterton is the former ugly duckling who’s turned into a smokin’, denim-hot-pants-wearing babe, and so creates quite a stir when she returns to her quaint old country hometown. Where the tweed-fueled locals haven’t seen denim hot pants in quite some time. If ever. Soon, the sultry waif is dating self-important rock star Ben (Cooper) whilst her childhood sweetheart, Andy (Evans), works patiently on the rundown Drewe family home. It takes one more dumb relationship for Tarama to recognise her true love though.
THE VERDICT: Grumpy Stephen Frears takes on a deceptively light and fluffy comic strip all about the sexual escapades of a Dorset dolly – who woulda thunk it? Actually, Frears seems capable of tackling just about any genre, but here, the light and fluffy overrides Simmonds’ acerbic humour, leaving you with a film that is little more than an alright Carry On. RATING: **
Directed by Sanaa Hamri. Starring Queen Latifah, Common, Paul Patton, James Pickens Jr., Pam Grier.
THE PLOT: Latifah plays Leslie, a physical therapist and all-round nice girl who never quite gets a break when it comes to men – thanks largely to shallow, hot best friend, Morgan (Paula Patton). When a chance meeting at a petrol pump station bags Leslie an invite from New Jersey Nets star player Scott (Common) to a birthday party, her hopes of a Cinderella moment are dashed when Morgan gets her teeth into the star attraction. But Morgan ain’t on the poster – so, we know who Scott ends up truly falling in love with…
THE VERDICT: A romantic comedy. With Queen Latifah. And Common. Yep, it’s pretty much as bland as it sounds, but it could have been worse, Sanaa Hamri playing to the romantic comedy’s strengths as much as its cliches. Still, this will be in the bargain bins before you can say “De La Soul probably don’t return her calls these days”. RATING: **
Directed by Pedro Gonzalez-Rubio. Starring Jorge Machado, Natan Machado Palombini, Nestor Marin, Roberta Palombini.
THE PLOT: After a brief intro charting the doomed love affair between Mexican Jorge and Italian Roberta, the former takes their five-year old son Natan to stay with him and his father, Matraca (Marin), in their shack sitting over the Banco Chinchorro, Mexico’s largest coral reef. Taking his son to where the wild things truly are proves an education and a half for the young boy, as the three spend their days fishing and bonding, and chilling, in this tropical paradise.
THE VERDICT: Try to imagine Ken Loach and Jacques Cousteau working on a movie together, and this might just be the result, a visually beautiful tale all about fathers and sons. This video diary may be a fiction, but the emotions, the beauty and the love are plainly real. At times, you almost expect David Attenborough’s dulcet tones to pop up, as the three generations laze in hammocks, or father and son engage in a mock wrestling match. A slow-burning delight. RATING: *****