This weeks new movies reviewed by Paul Byrne including Contagion, Monte Carlo, We Need to talk about Kevin and Paranormal Activity 3
CONTAGION (USA/12A/106mins) Directed by Steven Soderbergh. Starring Matt Damon, Kate Winslet, Laurence Fishburne, Jude Law, John Hawkes, Gwyneth Paltrow. THE PLOT: Returning from a Hong Kong business trip abroad – via a stopover affair in Chicago – feeling a little under the weather, soon after Beth (Paltrow) collapses in convulsions at her Minnesota home, hubby Mitch (Damon) is screaming at the doctor, trying to figure out how she died so suddenly. Returning home, his young son – home early from school because he too didn’t feel well – has passed away. There’s a new virus in town, and before you can get a good sneeze out, it’s kicking in around the world. And there’s no cure… THE VERDICT: The difficulty of telling a now familiar doomsday tale is finding new ways of delivering a largely predictable plot arc, and Soderbergh has combatted that familiarity fatigue by sitting down with screenwriter Scott Burns (who also wrote The Informant!) and listing all the clichés that they had to avoid. And, for the most part, it’s worked, Soderbergh keeping the pressure on by hitting the ground running (oh, what a joy to have Paltrow dead at the outset), and letting the story leap ahead days ahead at a time. By gathering a large, luminous cast, Soderbergh can also jump between stories – following Kate Winslet’s epidemiologist as she battles red tape; Marion Cotillard’s virologist, as she battles being held ransom; Fishburne’s Department of Homeland Security bigwig trying to do the right thing; Damon’s concerned pop, protecting his teenage daughter. Soderbergh also manages to keep the whole thing somewhat real, only occasionally spilling over into unintended comedy (thanks largely to Jude Law’s snaggle-toothed Messianic blogger). RATING: 3/5
MOVIES.IE’S ONE TO WATCH! WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT KEVIN (UK/USA/16/112mins) Directed by Lynne Ramsey. Starring Tilda Swinton, John C. Reilly, Ezra Miller, Siobhan Fallon, Ursula Parker, Jasper Newell, Ashley Gerasimovich. THE PLOT: Leaving her small suburban home, Eva Khatchadourian (Swinton) notices red paint has been splashed all over the outside of her house, and on her car. Seemingly unfazed, Eva heads to a job interview at a travel agents. On her way back to her car, an elderly woman strikes her down, shouting “I hope you rot in hell, you fucking bitch!”. Eva refuses the help of a passerby, insisting it was nothing. In flashback, we see the once free-spirited Eva meeting Franklin (Reilly), the two setting up home and having a baby boy. A baby boy who likes to do nothing but scream, when he’s alone with his mother. Eva’s sure it’s the beginning of a horrible relationship. And Eva is right. THE VERDICT: A film bathed in red, We Need To Talk About Kevin offers up every mother-to-be’s worst nightmare – spawning a monster. Not being able to love your child, and having them hate you. To your core. Based on Lionel Shriver’s Orange Prize-winning novel, this is Rosemary’s Brat, a harrowing descent into madness where the teenage Kevin (Miller) continuously plays funny games with his mum and the good son whenever his father – benignly oblivious to the sinister dimension to this domestic standoff – is around. It’s arthouse Omen, it’s a Haneke family drama, and it just might be the closest thing cinema has ever come to creating a contraception. RATING: 4/5
PARANORMAL ACTIVITY 3 (USA/15A/84mins) Directed by Henry Joost, Ariel Schulman. Starring Kate Featherston, Sprague Grayden, Lauren Bittner, Christopher Nicholas Smith, Chloe Csengery, Mark Fredrichs, Brian Boland, Jessica Tyler Brown. THE PLOT: A prequel, it’s 1988, and we see how young Katie (Csengery) and Kristi Rey (Brown) first encountered those bumps in the night. Tired of those latenight rumblings, wedding videographer pop Dennis (Smith) sets up his gear in the hope of catching the pesky intruder. But he gets more than he bargained for – eventually – and discovers that imaginary friends aren’t always imaginary. THE VERDICT: With the two directors of possibly-mock-doc Catfish behind the camera, and a sense that a lucrative franchise is being carefully nurtured here, the latest Paranormal Activity outing is a decidedly slicker affair than its two predecessors. Ultimately though, it’s very much more of the same, the spooks deriding from the found footage and the chilling distance it provides from the big bad boogeyman who watched you whilst you slept. The fans should love it. RATING: 3/5
MONTE CARLO (USA/G/90mins) Directed by Thomas Bezucha. Starring Selena Gomez, Leighton Meester, Katie Cassidy, Andie MacDowell, Brett Cullen, Luke Bracey, Pierre Boulanger, Corey Monteith. THE PLOT: Having saved up for a trip to Paris – her high school graduation treat – Grace (Gomez) is none too impressed to discover that her stepsister Meg (Meester) and best friend Emma (Cassidy) will be coming along for the ride. On a package tour there, the trio take shelter in a swanky hotel only to find Grace being mistaken for ultra-rich socialite Cordelia Winthrop-Scott. When a charity event in Monte Carlo is mentioned, the girls see no reason not to play along with the ruse. And that’s where Grace falls for Australian hitchhiker Riley (Bracey), Meg for Theo (Boulanger), and Emma just misses her boyfriend, Owen (Monteith). Oh, the deception! THE VERDICT: It’s The Princess & The Spoilt Brat, as US teen sensation Selena Gomez – who might just be Mrs Justin Bieber one day, if all the tabloid wishes come true – hits a very traditional plot device, the doppelganger switch, in this polished nerd of a movie. This was originally going to be Jez Butterworth’s follow-up to 2001’s Birthday Girl, the script then concerning four New Jersey women pretending to be wealthy abroad so they could snag some men. This Disney-esque tween adventure though isn’t even The Sisterhood Of The Travelling Pants. This is just pants. RATING: 1/5
THE YELLOW SEA (Japan/18/140mins) Directed by Hong-jin Na. Starring Jung-woo Ha, Yun-seok Kim, Seong-Ha Cho, Chul-Min Lee. THE PLOT: Having to pay for the smuggling of his wife (Sung-eun) out of North Korea and into South Korea, Kim Gu-nam (Jung-woo) takes on a hit job in Seoul, commissioned by local Mafioso Myun (Yun-seok). Naturally, the hit goes horribly wrong, and Kim is soon running from the cops and the murdered man’s scary, angry friends whilst also trying to find his wife… THE VERDICT: Arriving here without a press screening, The Yellow Sea (aka The Murderer) is the second feature from Na Hong-jin, who broke through in a very big way in 2008 with The Chaser. The reception for this second offering hasn’t been quite so ecstatic, with a poor performance at the Korean box-office last December prompting a re-edit before it hit Japan, and Cannes. Still, have to admit, I’m curious. Then again, maybe I’ll just go watch Oldboy again. RATING: n/a
TURN ON YOUR DARKLIGHT The full line-up of screenings, sights and sounds for Darklight 2011 have been released, and, as usual, it’s enough to make a grown man weep. With joy. Far too much goodies to list here, in fact, but, hitting the shuffle button, you could always check out Sound It Out, Jeanie Finlay’s acclaimed documentary about the last vinyl record shop in Teeside, North England, screening on Thursday 20th Oct at 8pm, in The Factory, with the director in attendance. Or Blood In The Mobile (Fri 21st, 6pm), Danish filmmaker Piasecki Poulsen look at how your mobile phone contributes to violence in the Democratic Republic of Congo, as the military and warlords battle over Bisie, a militia-controlled mine that produces cassiterite, a tin oxide used in cell phones. Later that night, there’s Hollywood Babylon’s Everything Is Terrible (Studio 5, 10pm), or, on Saturday 22nd, from 10.30am to 7.30pm, there’s New Indie Voices Show & Tell in Studio 5, shining a light on filmmakers who collaborate at a grassroots level across the country. As I said, too much to list here, so, go log get all your info kicks on darklights.ie/festival-2011.
POLES DANCING Running over the weekend of November 4th to the 6th at the IFI, Kinopolis will gather together the best of current and classic Polish film and animation. Opening this now-annual event will be the prize-winning Little Rose/Rozczka, whilst two key strands this year will be Polish Animation and Masterpieces Of Polish Cinematography. On the animation front, creator of the Oscar-nominated The Cathedral (2002) and last year’s The Animated History Of Poland, Tomasz Baginski will be a festival guest, whilst the programme will also include two 2D animations, Scarecrow and Little Postman. The cinematographers being celebrated include Witold Sobocinski (The Hourglass Sanatorium, The Promised Land) and Slawomir Idziak (A Short Film About Killing). Full programme details are available on kinopolis.com.pl