Directed by Ryan Murphy. Starring Julia Roberts, Javier Bardem, James Franco, Richard Jenkins, Viola Davis.
THE PLOT: Having suffered an unhappy marriage, a bitter divorce and a sour affair, New York writer Elizabeth (Roberts) decides a year travelling the world might just help her learn to – gulp! – love again. And, you know, a hunky foreigner or two. So, we get four months of thin Lizzy chilling out in Italy and eating lots of fine food; four months of not-so-thin Lizzy trying to meditate in an Indian ashram; and four months in Bali, where Liz is nearly run over Felipe (Bardem). And then, of course, she dies of chronic halitosis.
THE VERDICT: The decline and fall of Julia Roberts continues, albeit at a slow, steady pace, with this leisurely film based on Elizabeth Gilbert’s much-loved 2006 memoir. Like a luxurious bath that goes on that little too long, this makes for one soothingly dull film. Like lukewarm water. With flat bubbles. Despite the fact that the man behind the camera, Ryan Murphy, is the brains behind TV’s initially gleeful Glee. A large part of the problem is Roberts, who’s begun to have that Kidman smell about her, that broad Texan smile no longer able to blind us to Julia’s forced down-home charms. RATING: **
Directed by Ben Affleck. Starring Ben Affleck, Rebecca Hall, Jon Hamm, Jeremy Renner, Blake Lively, Pete Postlethwaite, Chris Cooper.
THE PLOT: Buddies Doug MacRay (Affleck) and James Coughlin (Renner) pull off a daring and highly efficient bank job, the latter grabbing bank girl Claire (Hall) as a hostage during their getaway. It doesn’t take long for FBI agent Adam Frawley (Hamm) to work out the foursome responsible for the bank heist, but finding the evidence is another matter. Meanwhile, Doug is concerned that Claire may have seen more than she should, and so he sets about wooing her. And that’s when things turn a little Body Heat. With a touch of Heat.
THE VERDICT: Back behind the camera – after his solid 2007 debut Gone Baby Gone – Affleck’s adaptation of Chuck Hogan’s novel, Prince Of Thieves. The former box-office heavyweight is due a comeback, and this might just be it – like its predecessor, another Boston-set thriller, down amongst the Irish-American ‘Townies’ of Charlestown, a one square mile community that has nonetheless managed, we’re informed in the opening credits, to produce more bank robbers and armoured-car thieves than any other part of the US. For Affleck, the attraction was instant, given that he grew up just a few miles away, in Cambridge. And like Gone Baby Gone, he has produced another top-rate thriller. Clint Eastwood would be proud. RATING: ***
Directed by Joe Dante. Starring Chord Overstreet, Teri Polo, Bruce Dern, Haley Bennett, Chris Massoglia.
THE PLOT: According to imdb, ‘a pair of brothers stumble upon a mysterious hole in their basement that leads to the darkest corriders of their fears and nightmares.
THE VERDICT: I wasn’t invited to the press screening by the PR company, but I’m assured by my learned colleagues that it’s all good, clean Joe Dante-esque fun. Not quite Gremlins, you understand, but the man who should have been a king apparently has quite a lot of fun scaring the beejasus out of his audience through the fine B-movie tool that is 3D. Dante is one of the good guys, so, you know, go see it.. RATING: n/a
Directed by Bobcat Goldthwait. Starring Robin Williams, Alexie Gilmore, Daryl Sabara, Geoff Pierson, Henry Simmons.
THE PLOT: Life is not good for Lance Clayton (Williams). He’s got a moody, dumb teenage son (Sabara) who should be taken to a field and shot; a girlfriend (Gilmore) who, understandably, has started looking elsewhere; his attempts to get any of his writings (including five novels) have all met with rejection letters. A chance misunderstanding though leads Lance to realise that to be truly successful and loved as an artist, you can’t beat an early death. Even if it’s been greatly exaggerated.
THE VERDICT: Having long ago realised that trying to be the funniest man in the room is no longer enough to sustain a film career, Robin Williams continues his exploration of the darker side of life with another low-budget turn as a long-suffering loser. He turns in a touching performance, inspired, no doubt, by director Goldthwait (who previously gave us 2006’s shaggy-dog comedy Sleeping Dogs Lie) also turning it down from 11. Not so much a step forward as a step sideways for both. RATING: **
Directed by Gaspar Noe. Starring Paz de la Huerta, Nathaniel Brown, Cyril Roy, Olly Alexander, Masato Tanno, Ed Spear.
THE PLOT: It’s Tokyo, and drug dealer-about-town Oscar (Brown) hits a bar called The Void, having taking a pill, and is promptly shot dead. And that’s when his out-of-body experience kicks in – a la The Tibetan Book Of The Dead – Oscar starting with a revisit of his childhood separation from sister Linda (Huerta). One visceral and visually mindbending trip later, Oscar is reborn…
THE VERDICT: Turn off your mind, relax and float downstream. Only with Gaspar Noe – the man who gave usIrreversible and I Stand Alone, two brutally hard-hitting surrealist dramas-dressed-as-horror – you’re never going to get a chance to relax. Having received something of a kicking at Cannes, Noe – the drinking man’s Michael Haneke – has weeded out 27 minutes, bringing a little more sense and shape to this psychedelic, psychological headf**k. Once again, the Belgian filmmaker proves that anger is an energy. His, mainly. RATING: ***
GUESS WHO’S COMING TO DINNER
The great Sir Alan Parker and Michael Apted will be flying into Dublin on Wednesday Sept 22nd for the Screen Directors Guild 10th Anniversary Awards Dinner.
The visiting dignitaries will be presented with honorary membership of the SDGI, along with other selected helmers, whilst the Director’s Finders Series award will also be presented.
Parker, of course, shot The Commitments in sunny Dublin, and has given us such favourites as Midnight Express,Bugsy Malone, Fame and Mississippi Burning. For his part, Apted has been responsible not only for Gorillas In The Mist, Coal Miner’s Daughter and The World Is Not Enough but he was also the brains behind the long-running 7 UpTV series, which continues to follow the lives of a cross-section of English individuals who happened to be seven years of age back in 1964. You should put down that sandwich and go get the current box-set, 49Up, immediately. Or else.
Further info on the SDGI’s gala dinner are available on limelight.ie.
TURN ON YOUR DARKLIGHT
Those clever Darklight people have announced more details of their upcoming shenanigans. Given that their press release is a long and winding one, here are their bullet points. 1. Hero #4 Synth Eastwood Present Gruff Rhys 2. Tickets for the Darklight Halloween Party now on sale 3. Free Your Film Competition Winners & Blog 4. David O’Reilly Wins European Film Awards Nomination @ Venice 5. Pyjama Girls in cinemas Now! 6. Still Films’s Kickstarter Project – Just 9 days remaining! 7. Before the Revolution: Series of radical 60s movies in the IFI
Also, there are only a few early bird season passes still available, so, you know, get your early bird season asses over to irishfilm.ie for further details.