Directed by Michael Winterbottom. Starring Casey Affleck, Jessica Alba, Kate Hudson, Ned Beatty, Elias Koteas.
THE PLOT: Affleck is 1950s West Texas deputy sheriff Lou Ford, whose bipolarism sees him play the sweet country bumpkin out on the beat and the sick sado-masochist killer in the safe loving arms of the two women who love him – respectable girlfriend Amy (Kate Hudson) and prostitute Joyce (Jessica Alba). Both pay a heavy price for loving a man who reveals his dark, troubled side to shocking, and crushingly fatal, effect. In the book, one such attack refers to beating a woman’s face to ‘stew meat’. You have been warned.
THE VERDICT: The prolific Winterbottom (Family, Jude, Welcome To Sarajevo, The Cock And Bull Story, A Mighty Heart, etc) bravely decided to change nothing about Jim Thompson’s 1952 noir classic – a novel Kubrick once described as “probably the most chilling and believable first-person story of a criminally warped mind I have ever encountered”. Hence the boos at early festival screenings. And the walkouts. And the glowing reviews. Dark, disturbing, and utterly compelling. RATING: ****
Directed by Jim Field Smith. Starring Jay Baruchel, Alice Eve, T.J. Miller, Mike Vogel, Nate Torrence.
THE PLOT: The plot has a “5” (out of 10) guy, Kirk (Baruchel, who recently voiced the lead in How To Train Your Dragon, having broken through as part of the Judd Apatow frat pack) suddenly finding the very beautiful Molly (Alice Eve, who popped up as an Irish girl in the bogawful Sex & The City 2) on his arm. Even though she’s a definite “10”. Naturally, being just your average Joe Sixpack, Kirk can’t quite believe his luck. And so, he begins to question it. Again and again. Until the wheels start coming loose.
THE VERDICT: A sweet-natured beauty-and-the-geek comedy, this amicable outing may score few points for originality, but its heart – and its humour – is definitely in the right place. It’s all good-natured, semen-splattered fun, never quite smart enough to appeal beyond its joyfully base instincts. Which means Joe Sixpack will love it. RATING: ***
Directed by Neil LaBute. Starring Chris Rock, Tracy Morgan, Zoe Saldana, Danny Glover, Martin Lawrence.
THE PLOT: Keeping close to the Frank Oz-directed 2007 original, and with the same writer, Dean Craig, on board, new director Neil LaBute (who understands comedy just about as much as a fly understands windows) has to do little here other than point his camera at whoever it is that’s supposed to pratfall next. And pratfall they do, as a sombre family funeral quickly turns to farce, one dark secret after another being revealed, making sure the day goes off with quite a few bangs and exaggerated whimpers.
THE VERDICT: A so-so American remake of a so-so eponymous British comedy, Death At A Funeral plays like an all-star sitcom pilot that you just know will never get picked up. Despite the likes of Morgan, Rock, Saldana, Lawrence and Glover all happily trying to out-slapstick one another. Imagine Festen done by the Carry On gang. Only not half as good as that might sound.
Directed by Rian Johnson. Starring Adrien Brody, Mark Ruffalo, Rachel Weisz.
THE PLOT: A title every bit as peculiar in its moniker as The Royal Tenebaums, there’s only one Bloom here (played by Brody), he and his brother Stephen (Ruffalo) having been raised in a series of foster homes. It’s perhaps that nomadic upbringing that leads the brothers to surviving and thriving by going from one hit and run to the next. When Bloom declares he’s had enough and wants a quiet life, Stephen convinces him to go after one last target – New Jersey heiress Penelope (Weisz). But there are a few unexpected twists in the trick for all three of them.
THE VERDICT: The wily world of the con artist is explored here, Brody and Ruffalo doing a fine job as the eponymous swindling siblings who – you won’t believe this – find their one last job doesn’t quite go to plan.
Having previously given us 2005’s hardboiled high school drama Brick, writer/director Rian Johnson never quite convinces here, his grifters too adrift in a sea of cleverness and forced eccentricity, the artifice more important than the art. Like one of those lesser Wes Anderson movies, in fact. RATING: **
Directed by Josh Appignanesi. Starring Omid Djalili, Matt Lucas, Archie Panjabi, Chris Wilson, James Floyd, Igal Naor.
THE PLOT: Largely a vehicle for Omid Djalili, the British funnyman plays Mahmud Nasir, your average London Muslim father and husband – and fan of New Romantic singer Gary Page (Floyd). Having just discovered that his son’s fiancee is the stepdaughter of a radical imam (Naor), Mahmud also finds amongst his recently deceased mother’s belongings his adoption certificate. His real name is Solly Shimshillewitz.
THE VERDICT: The culture clash comedy is taken one step further – if not one step beyond – in this David Baddiel-scripted tale all about a moderate Muslim who is suddenly tortured by the fact that he might actually be Jewish. Oy vey. Baby.
Much of the attempted comedy sees Mahmud trying desperately to receive cultural and religious instructions from a Jewish friend whilst also – to keep his son happy – attending pro-Palestinian rallies. It’s a clever idea, but no more politically provocative than My Big Fat Greek Wedding. And about as funny as a Visage video. RATING: **
Directed by Noel Clarke, Mark Davis. Starring Emma Roberts, Noel Clarke, Tamson Egerton, Ophelia Lovibond.
THE PLOT: Julie’s niece Emma Roberts plays a supermarket girl who suddenly finds her dull life thrown into disarray when she and her three buddies unwittingly get caught up in a diamond heist.
THE VERDICT: In a packed week, this Brit flick comes to sunny Ireland without a press screening. Nice one. It’s from Noel Clarke, the man responsible for Kidulthood and Adulthood, who co-directs here with Mark Davis. Sounds curious. Then again, no press screening is never a good sign. RATING: n/a
Directed by Andre Techine. Starring Emile Dequenne, Catherine Deneuve, Michel Blanc, Mathieu Demy.
THE PLOT: Inspired by a true story, and based on Jean-Marie Besset’s 2006 play, RER, Andre Techine’s latest centres on the recent French media blitz that greeted a young Parisian girl’s claim that she was attacked by youths on a RER suburban train simply because she was Jewish. When it’s discovered that the girl in question had fabricated the whole thing, the media exploded once again.
THE VERDICT: Catherine Deneuve plays the mother, Emile Dequenne the girl, and the whole thing is a fine exercise in subtlety. Something of a Techine trademark, of course, the 67-year old filmmaker having previously given us Wild Reeds (1994), My Favourite Season (1993) and The Innocents (1978). RATING: ***