Reviews – New movies opening March 29th

We review this week’s cinema releases, including Good Vibrations, Trance and G.I. Joe Retaliation

GOOD VIBRATIONS (UK/Ireland/15A/103mins)
Directed by Lisa Barros D’Sa, Glen Leyburn. Starring Richard Dormer, Jodie Whittaker, Mark Ryder, Dylan Moran, Adrian Dunbar, Kerr Logan.
THE PLOT: It’s Belfast, the early 1970s, and music-loving DJ Terri Hooley (Dormer) realises that the Troubles have separated all his friends along sectarian lines. He can tell because no one is coming to his reggae nights down the local pub anymore. Still, at least that sparse dancefloor means Terri has no trouble spotting his future wife, Ruth (Whitaker), the latter forever encouraging her husband in his pursuit to bring one divided nation under a groove. Even if it means opening up a record shop, Good Vibrations, on Great Victoria Street – better known in the city as Bomb Alley. And when punk hits this hairy hippy like a welcome spit in the face, the wide-eyed boy from Garnerville saw only one way around the reluctance of record labels to sign Northern Ireland bands; start up his own label. Amongst those first Good Vibrations releases was The Undertones’ Teenage Kicks. The rest is hysteria. And bankruptcy. And a broken marriage. And one heck of a good time.
THE VERDICT: Okay, so it’s not quite a five-star film, but it’s close enough. And Good Vibrations is certainly special enough to deserve that little extra star, that little extra push, given just how reluctant Irish people are when it comes to checking out Irish films. There’s more energy, heart and wit in this one little film than all of the other week’s big releases put together. Seriously, who needs G.I. Joe: Retaliation in their life? Isn’t that purely meant for 4am after-party viewing, by loners who weren’t actually invited to the party?
This is a manic pop thrill of a movie, with an intoxicating central performance from Richard Dormer (clearly Armagh’s answer to Michael Fassbender), and a glorious two minutes and 25 seconds of palpable euphoria as we hear John Peel play Teenage Kicks in its entirety. For a second time, having simply lifted the needle back to the start.
This is the sort of film that makes you want to lift the needle back to the opening credits and let the whole thing roll again. So, you know, go see it. Now.
Review by Paul Byrne

Directed by John M. Chu. Starring Dwayne Johnson, Channing Tatum, RZA, Bruce Willis, D.J. Catrona, Byung-hun Lee, Adrianne Palicki, Jonathan Pryce, Ray Stevenson, Walton Goggins.
THE PLOT: They may have just rescued a defector from the evil clutches of North Korea, but there’s no rest for the wickedly strong and agile elite soldiers Roadblock (Johnson) and Duke (Tatum) – the President of the United States has been replaced by a lookalike, and, backed by the sinister Cobra, he’s soon sending some of America’s finest G.I.s on an unwitting kamikaze mission in Pakistan. Only a handful survive, including, of course, Duke, Roadblock, Flint (Cotrona) and Lady Jaye (Palicki). Meanwhile, in another part of the globe, some crazy ninja shit is about to go down, thanks to a twisted guru (the twisted RZA from Wu-Tang Clan). Oh, and Willis plays a gun nut with a treasure trove of beautifully lit armour hidden in just about every inch of his home…
THE VERDICT: If you’ve ever wondered what a Charlton Heston dream after an overdose of Viagra might look like, you’re in luck. Having bounced around the schedules for close to a year now, this bullet-laden body of a sequel might not be quite D.O.A., but it does have a certain zombie zing to it. The main official reason was a late decision to go 3D here, but the more likely reason for that 9-month delay is the gun show on offer here, and how that might not have played so well if released in the aftermath of the Dark Knight Rises cinema shootings. Of course, for those of you into your gun shows, there’s plenty to get excited about here, with director Chu clearly conscious of giving people exactly what they expect. His last outing, after all, was Justin Bieber’s Never Say Never. 
Review by Paul Byrne 

WEST OF MEMPHIS (New Zealand/USA/Light House/147mins)
Directed by Amy Berg. Starring Damien Echols, Jason Baldwin, Jessie Misskelley, Lori Davis, Julie Ann Doan, Henry Rollins, Patti Smith.
THE PLOT: Tried and convicted as teenagers in 1994 for the 1993 murders of three young boys in West Memphis, Damien Echols, Jessie Misskelley, Jr. and Jason Baldwin spent the next 17 years fighting those convictions. And garnering huge public support for their claims of innocence. It would lead to what is noted here as “the first crowd-sourced investigation in history”, as the West Memphis 3 became the Birmingham 6 of America. Here, Berg takes a fine-tooth comb approach to the many investigations into the original arrests, the suspect confession of the slow-witted Jessie Misskelley, and the now-debunked claims of Satanic sex. Berg also spends quite a lot of time with Pam Hobbs, mother to one of the victims, and ex-wife of Terry Hobbs, the man many now see as the main suspect…
THE VERDICT: Given that Joe Berlinger has followed the case of the West Memphis Three almost from the start, with his Paradise Lost trilogy of documentaries debuting in 1996, and continuing in 2000, with Revelations, and 2011, with Purgatory, it seemed mildly perverse that a second documentary filmmaker would set out to tell this remarkable true-life travesty and tragedy. But then, Berg is no Janey-come-lately, having done such a fine job tackling the disturbing case of child rapist Father Oliver O’Grady, in 2006’s Deliver Us From Evil. Here, she’s aided and abetted in her latest investigation by Tolkien heads Peter Jackson and Fran Walsh, and it doesn’t take long to see why such heavyweights would add their muscle here. A compelling film, even for those who have seen the Paradise Lost trilogy…
Review by Paul Byrne

TRANCE (UK/16/101mins)
Directed by Danny Boyle. Starring James McAvoy, Rosario Dawson, Vincent Cassel, Danny Sapani, Tuppence Middleton, Matt Cross, Wahab Sheikh.
THE PLOT:In order to recover a stolen, then lost, painting, art auctioneer Simon teams up with a hypnotherapist. The boundaries between desire, reality and hypnotic suggestion soon begin to blur, and the stakes rise dangerously fast.
THE VERDICT: Danny Boyle appears to have been lying low since 127 Hours in 2010, but when you think about it, the director has been as busy as ever, just not on the big screen. In between 127 Hours andTrance, Boyle brought Frankenstein to the stage and produced one of the most lavish opening ceremonies ever seen, for the London Olympics. All the while, he was working on Trance. No, I have no idea when his last day off was.
The story is nicely twisty, but not so complicated that the audience cannot follow it. As Simon, played by James McAvoy, delves further into his mind to find a lost memory, he becomes both victim and aggressor and as he learns more about the incident that left him an amnesiac, the audience learns more about Simon and the nature of revenge and memory. James McAvoy carries the film ably, and creates a character that is relatable and kind, but McAvoy makes sure that there is plenty going on underneath the surface.
Rosario Dawson, as Elizabeth the hypnotherapist, and Vincent Cassel, as Franck the thief, make up the rest of the central cast. Both allow Simon’s fear and confusion to feed their convictions and, as Simon loses himself, they become clearer.
Screenwriter John Hodge – who has given us some fantastic movies in the past, let’s try and forget about The Sweeney – has created a world that is recognisable but unfamiliar. The audience is never quite aware of what is real and what is not and, as Simon grapples with reality, so does the viewer. Danny Boyle balances the film out so that character and plot get equal time on screen, but this may be where the film loses some of its intrigue.
Plot twists are obvious, if you are paying attention, and a little more mystery would certainly have helped the film. Trance plays a little like a small-scale version of Inception – the comparison was bound to happen – but it is not quite as detailed, ambitious or intricate as Nolan’s film. However,Trance is still dark, violent and incredibly entertaining, and Danny Boyle allows the film to jump genre – from noir to thriller to psychological cat and mouse games – with ease. Cinematographer Anthony Dod Mantle’s work adds to the feeling of disorientation and mystery as familiar surroundings distort and change. As well as this, Mantle’s use of colour throughout the film is rich and slightly otherworldly.
Trance is a wonderfully acted, twisty thriller that is not quite as clever as it ought to be. However, the incredible performances, soundtrack and gorgeous cinematography go some way to making up for the guessable plot and even though it falls shy of greatness, Trance is a genuinely entertaining and thrilling thriller.
Review by Brogen Hayes 

Directed by Andrew Stanton. Starring the voices of Albert Brooks, Ellen DeGeneres, Willem Dafoe, Barry Humphries, Geoffrey Rush, Alexander Gould.
THE PLOT: Come on, you know the story already. Little fish (Gould) ends up in a Sydney dentist’s aquarium whilst his single dad (Brooks) frantically searches the ocean for his only surviving son – his mission not quite helped by the highly forgetful Dory (DeGeneres)…
THE VERDICT: Disney and Pixar might just be regretting the re-releases of some of their classic movies in 3D, given that, hey, 3D is generally a turn-off for audiences (and the poor box-office performance of this particular re-release garnering just $16.7m in the US and $5.1m around the rest of the world bears that out). Their eyes were blinded by the dollar signs that greeted the 3D re-release of The Lion King, but that movie would have done well with or without 3D, given just how long Disney had kept that movie – the biggest-grossing animated feature until Nemo stole its crown – off the shelves and off the screens for so many years.
Still, Nemo is still a great movie. Even in sickly 3D.
Review by Paul Byrne

 IN THE HOUSE (France/TBC/105mins)
Directed by Francois Ozon. Starring Fabrice Luchini, Ernst Umhauer, Kristin Scott Thomas
A teenage boy, Claude (Ernst Umhauer), imagines what it would be like to see inside a perfect family’s home. When he finds a way into the house – by giving maths tuition to a fellow student, Rapha – he writes about his experiences in assignments for English class. It is not long before his teacher, Germain (Fabrice Luchini), becomes enthralled by the boy and his stories – even though he and his wife Jeanne (Kristen Scott-Tomas) question the morality of what he is doing, Germain eggs him on, under the pretence of improving the boy’s writing.
Loosely based on Juan Mayorga’s The Boy in the Last Row, In the House is an ambitious work that endeavours to mix fact and fiction, truth and lies, reality and literature. Ernst Umhauer is fantastic as Claude, the master manipulator and cuckoo in the nest who manages to get what he wants from everyone around him. There is mischief and vulnerability in his eyes that he uses to underline the fact that this teenager is someone who draws everyone to him. Fabrice Luchini is bewildered and curious throughout the film, but allows himself to be utterly influenced by his wife. The chemistry between Luchini and Umhauer is a joy; neither one realises he is being manipulated, but believes that he has strong control over the other, while finding in each other the parent/mentor and son that they never had. Kristin Scott-Thomas is the funniest she has been in years, Denis Ménochet and Emmanuelle Seigner are Claude’s playthings and, while the characters are slightly one dimensional, they are meant to be as such, when seen through the eyes of Claude as he develops his skill as a writer.
THE VERDICT: The story is fascinating. As Claude’s story unfolds, we jump between the reactions to the story and the boy’s version of his experiences in the house. The stories blend together in such a way that one begins to inform the other, and neither realises they are fodder for the other until it is too late. The lines of fiction and reality are charmingly and disarmingly blurred, as Claude manipulates all around him for the sake of finding a mother figure, a lover and a glimpse inside a normal and perfect family.
Ozon has created a funny, thoughtful and charming film about lifting the lid on a middle class family – which seems to be his favourite topic of late – but where he struggles is with the final 30 minutes of the film. The performances are still strong, the visual element has got stronger since the start of the film, but it seems that Ozon had no idea how to end the story. Fact and fiction blur throughout the film, but the final 15 minutes is confused and confusing as the lines are drawn and redrawn so often.
Francois Ozon’s film is ambitious and for the most part, it works. The story taps into our desire to see behind closed doors and characters emerge that are selfish, manipulative and voyeuristic but remain likeable. Claude’s story is easy to relate to once we learn the background of the character, but this is perhaps where the director struggled to find an ending that worked for the film.
In The House is a funny and sometimes tragic look inside the world of the ‘perfect’, ‘normal’ family. Framed by literature, the story is engaging and always surprising. It’s just a shame that the ending struggles.
Review by Brogen Hayes

THE HOST (USA/12A/124mins)
Directed by Andrew Niccol. Starring Saoirse Ronan, Max Irons, Jake Abel, Diane Kruger, William Hurt, Frances Fisher, Stephen Rider, Shyaam Karra, Brent Wendell Williams, Jhil McEntire, Jalen Coleman.
THE PLOT: On the run ever since a parasitic alien race called The Souls took over our little planet, 17-year old Melanie Stryder (Ronan) ends up mildly conflicted when she is finally captured and implanted with Wanderer. Rejecting the loss of her memories (bear with me here), Melanie is none too happy when Wanderer falls for her man, Jared (Irons).
THE VERDICT: It’s kinda okay because our Saoirse’s leading the pack, and kinda crappy for just about every other part of the movie.
Review by Paul Byrne