Reviews New Movies Opening May 6th 2011

This weeks new movies reviewed by Paul Byrne – Including Hanna, Water For Elephants, Jig, Priest and more…


HANNA (USA/UK/Germany/15A/111mins)

Directed by Joe Wright. Starring Saoirse Ronan, Cate Blanchett, Eric Bana, Tom Hollander, Olivia Williams, Jason Flemyng.

THE PLOT: Having been taught by her father out in the wilds of Finland to be the perfect killing machine, 16-year old Hanna Heller (Ronan) is finally ready to be captured by the CIA – so she can kill corrupt agent Marissa Wiegler (Blanchett). Which might just help him clear pop’s name, only Marissa guesses the plan, and with a dead body double in her wake, Hanna is on the loose…

THE VERDICT: The great Saoirse Ronan goes somewhat Kick-Ass in this taut chase thriller that boasts more twists and turns than a Fianna Fail TD doing the hucklebuck. Given that Ronan is often tipped as the new Cate Blanchett, their casting opposite one another is inspired. And even if director Wright (Atonement, The Soloist) does tend to go for the pretty more than the gritty in his pictures, Hanna is still a damn fine thrill ride. RATING: 4/5


Directed by Francis Lawrence. Starring Reese Witherspoon, Robert Pattinson, Christoph Waltz, Paul Schneider, Jim Norton, Hal Holbrook.

THE PLOT: Witherspoon plays Marlena, the star attraction at the Benzini Brothers’ Most Spectacular Show On Earth. She’s also the star attraction for new arrival Jacob (Pattinson), who, having suddenly lost both his parents, ran away from his veterinary college final exams and into the mad, bad, dangerous world of the travelling circus. And just about into the arms of Marlena. Unfortunately, Marlena’s married to the circus’ brutal, schizo trainer, August (Waltz).

THE VERDICT: For different reasons, Witherspoon (who has had nothing but duds of late) and Pattinson (worried, after Remember Me flopped, that he’s only ever going to be Edward Cullen) really need their new movie together to be a considerable hit. It’s not just the indigestible title though that’s hindering their cause – this plays like Mills & Boon Do Fossetts. Based on Sara Gruen’s eponymous novel, this lush production is a clear hark-back to the classic MGM school of filmmaking (think Moulin Rouge, without the singing), but director Lawrence delivers a movie that only Oprah could truly love. RATING: 2/5

PRIEST (USA/15A/87mins)

Directed by Scott Stewart. Starring Paul Bettany, Karl Urban, Maggie Q, Cam Gigandet, Lily Collins.

THE PLOT: Bettany plays the eponymous, anonymous bible-bashing vampire slayer, holed up in a fortressed city and largely retired. It’s an alternative universe, where vampires rule the roost, and when his niece (Collins) is kidnapped by rogue bloodsuckers, our boy sets out on a mission with a motley crew (including Maggie Q’s fighting machine) to rescue her…

THE VERDICT: Director Scott Stewart has been open about his plot’s heavy homage to John Ford’s seminal 1956 western The Searchers, but he’s hasn’t been so forthcoming about his blatant shortcomings as a filmmaker. As anyone who sat through last year’s hysterically bad Legion (also starring Bettany) will testify. This particular horror geek’s wet dream is only slightly better. RATING: 2/5

ONE HUNDRED MORNINGS (Ireland/15A/85mins)

Directed by Conor Horgan. Starring Ciaran McMenamin, Alex Reid, Rory Keenan, Kelly Campbell, Paul Ronan, Robert O’Mahony.

THE PLOT: After another fruitless search for a signal on the car radio, Jonathan (McMenamin) returns inside the lakeside log cabin he’s visiting with girlfriend Katie (Campbell), their stay starting to strain on Mark (Keenan) and Hannah (Reid). Then again, it doesn’t help when it might just be the end of the world as we know it, as vigilantes roam the hills, looking for food and ammunition, and the local village becomes a ghost town. The perfect time, of course, for Jonathan to have a sly affair with Hannah.

THE VERDICT: For all of Conor Horgan’s good and stylish intentions, this isn’t quite An Bothar. And, thanks to a complete lack of humour, it’s certainly not Mad Micks: Beyond Funderland. We’re never told exactly what the source of the horror is here, but, it doesn’t take long before you’re praying for zombies. Which means you’re ostensibly left with four young Irish actors in a remote cabin in the Wicklow Hills, acting themselves into a tizzy. RATING: 2/5

JIG (Ireland/PG/97mins)

Directed by Sue Bourne. Starring Brogan McCay, Julia O’Rourke, Joe Bitter, John Whitehurst, Claire Greaney, Simona Mauriello, Suzanne Coyle.

THE PLOT: Centred around the 40th Irish Dancing World Championship, held in Glasgow last year, we meet various contestants from around the world – from 10-year old Derry favourite Brogan to 10-year New York hopeful Julia, American 15-year old poster boy Joe Bitter, and Birmingham’s own little Billy Elliot, John Whitehurst, as well as a troupe from Moscow, and a Sri Lankan teenager living in Holland – as they prepare for the big day.

THE VERDICT: It would seem the first rule about Irish dancing is that you don’t tell your mates you do Irish dancing. Which may explain why the governing body of the world championships, An Comissiun, have struggled so long about letting a filmmaker inside their highly secretive world. Truth is, they have plenty to hide, given that the female contestant tend to be dressed up like Shirley Temple streetwalkers, sporting outfits and wigs that make My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding look like Downturn Abbey. Naturally, the results are comic, touching, and, at times, mildly frightening. Just not quite as thrilling or heartbreaking as expected. RATING: 3/5

OUTSIDE THE LAW (France/Algeria/Belgium/IFI/138mins)

Directed by Rachid Bouchareb. Starring Jamel Debbouze, Roschdy Zem, Sami Bouajila, Chafia Boudraa, Bernard Blancan.

THE PLOT: Following Algeria’s struggle for independence after the Second World War, we first meet three brothers in 1925, as their family is thrown off ancestral land by colonialists. Cut to twenty years later, and the brothers are present at the infamous massacre in the town of Setif, an independence march that left thousands dead. And so it is that Abdelkader (Bouajila) becomes a hardline militant, Messaoud (Zem) joins the French army to fight in Indochina, and Said (Debbouze) turns to crime. All three become connected in the armed struggle…

THE VERDICT: Akin to Loach’s The Wind That Shakes The Barley, by concentrating on three Algerian brothers and how they react to the liberation movement that began in the mid-1940s and led to that country’s independence in 1962, director/co-writer Rachid Bouchareb (Days Of Glory) humanises a difficult, controversial and complex slice of modern history. A film that explores fanaticism, as a cause blinds people to other parts of their life, Outside The Law may appear to be hard work on paper, but up on screen, its rewards are great. RATING: 4/5

DEEP END (West Germany/UK/IFI/90mins)

Directed by Jerzy Skolimowski. Starring Jane Asher, John Moulder-Brown, Karl Michael Vogler, Diana Dors, Christopher Sandford, Louise Martini.

THE PLOT: After he takes a job at the local baths, 15-year old Mike (Moulder-Brown) soon becomes obsessed with fellow worker Susan (Asher). To the point that he does his damndest to break up her current relationship. Which, naturally, means stalking the poor girl.

THE VERDICT: With Essential Killing having just been released, alongside a major retrospective of his work at the IFI, Polish giant Jerzy Skolimowski now has this 1970 offering re-released. It’s a slow burner, with one-time Macca moth Asher and the young Moulder-Brown turning in solid performances. It’s a movie that fits in perfectly with today’s lo-fi wave. RATING: 3/5