Reviews New Movies Opening April 23rd 2009

Paul Byrne drops in with his latest film reviews.

Comedy with Seth Rogen (Observe and Report) or sexy political thrillers with Ben Affleck (State of Play) – this week’s cinema releases has a little something for everyone but does our resident film guru have to say. Find out below!





Directed by Jody Hill. Starring Seth Rogen, Anna Faris, Ray Liotta.


THE PLOT: From the start, it’s obvious that Hill and Rogen are keen to push the boat out here, creating a sad sack, lives-at-home-with-his-alcoholic-mum in Ronnie Barnhardt who doesn’t seem to have any redeeming features whatsoever. Bar the fact that he’s played by Seth Rogen. When he eventually ends up date-raping Anna Faris’ ditzy, drunk-verging-on-comatose Brandi, it’s not exactly shocking.


The tone of this movie is so confused, you wouldn’t be surprised to see Gary Coleman trying to bring down Godzilla in the car park.


The plot has a flasher in the mall car park giving Ronnie his first taste of a real case – and a chance to impress Brandi. When Detective Harrison (Liotta) turns up, his presence only serves to spur the increasingly unstable Ronnie on to be the hero of the day. You just know it’s all going to end in tears though. And Ronnie getting the bejasus kicked out of him by a bunch of cops.

THE VERDICT: I truly expected to adore this movie, given that it’s the world’s greatest chuckler, Seth Rogen, playing a deluded mall cop, and it’s written and directed by Jody Hill, who previously gave us the 2006 cult fave The Fist Foot Way. Which I haven’t actually managed to see yet, but the word is real, real good. But this film is a mess. In just about every possible way.


Worst of all, it’s not funny. Not even in a so-bad-it’s-hilarious kind of way. It’s just bad. And not funny. Industry bible Varietydescribed Hill’s movie as Travis Bickle: Mall Cop – which only got me more excited. Only trouble is, Observe And Report has all the wit and warmth of Taxi Driver, and all the insight and long-day’s-journey-into-night soul mining of Paul Blart: Mall Cop. Hill and Rogen no doubt had much more fun making this sick little puppy of a film than the audience does watching it.RATING: *




Directed by Kevin Macdonald. Starring Russell Crowe, Helen Mirren, Rachel McAdams, Ben Affleck.


THE PLOT: Based on the award-winning 2003 BBC TV series, Cal McAffrey (Crowe) is one of the old-school journalists at the Washington Globe, none too impressed by the quick-fix world of blogging. Which is where bright young thing Della Frye (McAdams) comes in. The two make for a reluctant team when Cal’s old friend, rising U.S. Congressman Stephen Collins (Affleck), finds his glittering career in jeopardy after his mistress turns up dead. Naturally, this supposed suicide is only the tip of the iceberg…


THE VERDICT: Does Russell Crowe now have it written into his contract that his character must not only be the smartest man in the room at all times, but he must also be slovenly, slobbish and generally repugnant to any man, woman and child who’s not being paid to act like they find him strangely alluring?


I’m being unfair on the arrogant Aussie Oscar winner, with the general public none too enamoured with Crowe’s phone-throwing ways, the man with the once-glittering career now verges on being box-office poison. He was certainly an obstacle in my enjoyment of State Of Play, taking on a role left vacant by the 11th hour departure of Brad Pitt. If the latter had stayed, I’m guessing this smart political thriller would have been far more enjoyable. And successful. RATING: ***




Directed by Eran Creevy. Starring Daniel Mays, Riz Ahmed, Jason Flemyng, Jay Simpson.


THE PLOT: Centred on the strained friendship between prodigal best mate, Chris (Mays), and the eponymous buddy (Ahmed) he left behind four years ago, Shifty deals with a highly eventful day as the former joins the latter for his regular round of drug deliveries. Old animosities rear their ugly heads though as this sunny reunion is derailed by, amongst others, a sleazy supplier (Flemyng) and a free-falling addict (Simpson). By the end of the day, Shifty and Chris are lucky to be alive.


THE VERDICT: Most young working-class filmmakers given a £100,000 grant to shoot a film based on the druggy underworld of their crumbling Essex hometown would have handed over a grim, grimy film populated by hoodies, whores and Harry Potheads. When it came to making Shifty (UK/16/85mins) though, young Eran Creevy had bigger plans.


Inspired more by Michael Mann than Mike Leigh, Creevy nonetheless knew the somewhat autobiographical tale he was telling needed to be told simply. Shot over 18 days, and based on a visit back by the young writer/director to his hometown of Harlow, in deepest, darkest Essex, Shifty is being treated in the UK as the next little film that might just break through. And rightly so. RATING: ***





Directed by Mark Neveldine, Brian Taylor. Starring Jason Statham, Amy Smart, Bai Ling.


THE PLOT: Picking up pretty much where 2006’s Crank left off – with Jason Statham’s psycho assassin Chev Celios free-falling from a helicopter onto Wilshire Boulevard – our hero is literally shoveled off the road and plonked straight onto a makeshift operating table. Where his body is scoured over like an Argos catalogue. His heart is the first thing to go, replaced by a battery-operated plastic ticker. Meaning that, once he escapes, Chev has to find his ESB kickstarts wherever he can find them. From there, it’s a case of, kill me once, shame on me; kill me twice, shame on Woo, as our boy goes on a spectacularly OTT roaring rampage of revenge. Having a very loose canon on the streets who actually wants to be tazered means there’s nothing but mayhem ahead for FrankenChuck.


THE VERDICT: Slipped into cinemas last week without a press screening, Crank: High Voltage is basically Jackass with the emphasis on the ass. Or Itchy & Scratchy meets Point Blank, crossed with Old Boy. Or maybe it’s Sergio Leone’s Die Hard With A Vena Cava. Either way, it’s one of the guiltiest pleasures I’ve had at the cinema in a long while.


Along the way, our boy unwittingly becomes a Kevin Costner for the ever-grateful Ria (Bai Ling, who proves far from bilingual, hence the subtitles); destroys assorted brothels, strip clubs and lampposts; and has X-rated sex with his girlfriend (Amy Smart) on a racetrack as the horses glide overhead. Classy.


It’s all done in the worst possible taste and the latest styles by music vid honchos Neveldine and Taylor, the duo retaining the original’s heightened self-awareness, and its grindhouse sensibilities. Beautifully bonkers. RATING: ***






Directed by Charles and Thomas Guard. Starring Emily Browning, Elizabeth Banks, Arielle Kebbel.


THE PLOT: A tale of two sisters, Anna (Emily Browning, from Lemony Snicket) and Alex (Arielle Kebbel), we meet the former as she’s released from the nuthouse after a suicide attempt following the death of her mother in a fire. Good sis to Alex’s bad sis, Anna nonetheless finds it hard to be sweetness and light, given that their late mother’s nurse, Rachel (Banks), has now become their father’s live-in lover. Hmm, I wonder if she might have had something to do with mummy’s death?


THE VERDICT: Yet another Asian horror gets the Hollywood makeover in The Uninvited, a movie that really should have been called The Uninspired. The 2003 South Korean original, A Tale Of Two Sisters (see what I did there?) did a fine job in making your screen crawl – here, you’ll just feel a headache coming on. As you wonder why the hell someone as smart as Elizabeth Banks would sign up for such muck.


It’s all very join-the-dots, with directing brothers Charles and Thomas Guard bringing anything even approaching originality to the process. By the time the closing rug-puller is unleashed, you’re ready for the nanny to take everyone down. RATING: *






Directed by Howard McCain. Starring Jim Caviezel, Sophia Myles, Jack Huston, John Hurt.


THE PLOT: It’s 709 A.D., and, after his spaceship lands in a fjord in Norway, Kainan (Caviezel), switches his controls to Norse and heads out to the nearest village. Which has just been burnt to a crisp. After the natives capture him, Kainan is dubbed Outlander, and has soon got an enemy in the hotheaded warrior Wulfric (Huston) after the king’s daughter, Freya (Myles), nurses his wounds. But then, a marauding little monster called a Moorwen gives them something to bond over…


THE VERDICT: It’s been a long time coming, with co-writers McCain and Dirk Blackman having set out to make their “sci-mythic” take on Beowulf over a decade ago. In the end, they managed to get 14 producers involved. And it shows. This plays like a ragbag collection of a dozen other movies. RATING: *





Directed by Sam Dunn, Scot McFadyen. Starring Bruce Dickinson, Steve Harris, Dave Murray.


THE PLOT: Following the cartoon heavy metal band on the first leg of their Somewhere Back In Time tour in February and March of 2008, we get to see tricky Dickinson and co. as they embark on, eh, ‘the most ambitious and adventurous tour in rock history’. Flying in a specially customised Boeing 757 airliner with 12 tons of equipment on board, the band played 23 sold-out stadium and arena shows in 13 countries in just 45 days, taking in 70,000km and half a million fans in the process.


THE VERDICT: The rockumentary has come along way since This Is Spinal Tap showed us all how it should be done 25 years ago. Recent outings such as Anvil (basically Spinal Tap with a heart), Dig! and Some Kind Of Monster took us backstage and beyond with would-be and struggling rock gods. And they were each, in their own way, compelling, heartbreaking and hilarious. Iron Maiden, on the other hand, seemed to be simply shooting a diary video here. One for the fans only. RATING: **






Directed by Werner Herzog. Starring Werner Herzog, and various Antarctica oddballs and angels.


THE PLOT: Up for a little southern exposure, the wry, crisp and dry German filmmaker plods his way through the stunning landscapes and the intriguing loners of the Antarctica. With his distinctive, guttural German accent, Herzog comes across as a Borat you can trust. Not that he isn’t adverse to dismissing an on-screen interviewee’s point of view, or have a little mischievous fun with his own opinions. That this ice-covered wasteland should boast some wonderful eccentrics is unsurprising – these are people, after all, “who want to jump off the margin of the map” – but Herzog reiterates the clash of the mundane and the magical here by giving his subjects on-screen titles such as ‘Filmmaker, Cook’ and ‘Philosopher, Forklift Operator’.


THE VERDICT: Herzog promises early on that he didn’t head south to “make another film about penguins”, and so it proves, as he concentrates on the scientists, researchers and oddballs who go to make up this hearty, hardy community at the very bottom of the Earth. Herzog’s disdain for the various pissing contests that have passed themselves off as flag-jabbing expeditions gives him the air of a curmudgeonly David Attenborough, but you know his heart – and his camera – is always in the right place. RATING: ***


Words: Paul Byrne