Reviews – New movies Opening Sept 23rd 2011

What a week for cinema, with four movies getting FOUR stars. Paul Byrne reviews the latest movies including Drive, Warrior and Crazy Stupid Love.


DRIVE (USA/18/100mins)

Directed by Nicolas Winding Refn. Starring Ryan Gosling, Carey Mulligan, Bryan Cranston, Albert Brooks, Ron Perlman, Christina Hendricks, Oscar Isaac, Kaden Leos.

THE PLOT: Los Angeles, present day, and an anonymous mechanic (Gosling) has two side jobs – a stunt driver for movies and a getaway man for heists. His loser-but-likeable boss, Shannon (Cranston), is determined to finally strike it rich, but borrowing from crime boss Bernie (Brooks) and his nasty partner (Perlman) bloodies the water somewhat when a heist goes very, very wrong. A heist our driver volunteered for to help out his neighbour, Irene (Mulligan), and her young son (Leos).

THE VERDICT: From the Tangerine Dream-esque electro-pop soundtrack to the pink neon spray can credits and its verging-on-fetish LA aesthetics, you know you’re stepping into some retro-cool here as Gosling and his hand-picked Danish director Refn (Pusher, Bleeder) celebrate the loner, big city criminal who finds himself within spitting distance of a normal life. Just this one last job should do it. This is Michael Mann’s Thief (1981) on wheels – and it’s incredible. In a violent, stony-silent guy on a Point Blank-esque roaring-rampage-of-revenge kind of way. And, be warned, at times, it is violent – somewhere between Old Boy and Irreversible. RATING: 4/5


WARRIOR (USA/12A/140mins)

Directed by Gavin O’Connor. Starring Tom Hardy, Nick Nolte, Joel Edgerton, Jennifer Morrison, Frank Grillo, Kevin Dunn.

THE PLOT: When the brooding, strong and silent Tommy Riordan (Hardy) finds out about the $5million prize for Sparta – billing itself as the Super Bowl of mixed martial arts – he reluctantly asks his prodigal father Paddy (Nolte) to be his trainer. On the strict understanding that there be no bonding, the son having never forgiven the father for driving him and his sick mother away 14 years ago. Paddy’s approaching 1,000 days sober, but Tommy isn’t ready to forgive. Neither is Paddy’s older son, Brendan (Edgerton), a physics teacher who finds himself being drawn back into the old family profession when it looks like his wife and two daughters might be out of house and home…

THE VERDICT: Yep, it’s the Rocky road to redemption once again, but director Gavin O’Connor (who didn’t quite hit the mark with the Colin Farrell-led Pride And Glory) makes a better job of portraying America’s fighting Irish with this largely stirring affair. It’s Cain and Abel, with gloves on, as the two estranged brothers bang heads from the outset, and if Tommy’s slowly revealed back story is a little too heroic and stoic, there’s a definite emotional punch here – thanks largely to some muted storytelling and three very fine lead performances. RATING: 4/5



Directed by Glenn Ficarra, John Requa. Starring Steve Carell, Ryan Gosling, Julianne Moore, Emma Stone, Kevin Bacon, Jonah Bobo, Analeigh Tipton, Marisa Tomei.

THE PLOT: Gosling plays the ladykiller who trains Carell’s recently dumped, easily pitiable father-of-two in the fine art of picking up beautiful girls for anonymous sex. In a busy ensemble piece, Moore plays Carell’s mid-life crisis wife, Bacon her office romance, Stone is the smart, loyal trainee lawyer who has no time for silly barroom chat-up lines (even when they’re undeniably charming), and Tomei does a fine job as a bunny-boiler one night stand. Oh, and then there’s the kids (Bobo and Tipton), and their first stirrings of lust…

THE VERDICT: I got to admit that I was a little shocked at how good this movie proved to be, Crazy Stupid Love proving to be far less the one-joke bromance I took from the early ads, and far more The Squid & The Whale when I finally saw it. The sterling cast should have tipped me off, of course. This is a movie so smart, inventive and warm that everyone gets to shine – including the self-effacing Josh Groban, as Stone’s anally-retentive boyfriend.

Behind the camera is Ficarra and Requa (who wrote and directed Bad Santa and I Love You Phillip Morris together), but the one delivering all the witty lines and the plotting worthy of a French farce is Dan Fogleman, who previously penned Bolt, Tangled and, eh, Fred Claus. The man knows his clichés. And how to up-end them. RATING: 4/5

SOUL SURFER (USA/12A/103mins)

Directed by Sean McNamara. Starring Sean AnnaSophia Robb, Dennis Quaid, Helen Hunt, Craig T. Nelson, Lorraine Nicholson, Kevin Sorbo, Carrie Underwood.

THE PLOT: Just like the rest of her bible-bashing family, Aussie teen Bethany Hamilton (Robb) lives for surfing. So much so, she and her best friend Alana (Nicholson) are about to become poster girls for a major surfing company, Rip Curl. And then tragedy strikes, when Beth is attacked by a shark, and loses an arm…

THE VERDICT: You know you’re in for a pretty mediocre, melodramatic, mid-budget life when Helen Hunt and Dennis Quaid are your parents, and so it proves here, as a remarkable story is turned into a very ordinary movie. This is Gnarly & Me. It’s Dogtown & Zzzzboys. It’s not very good. Halfway through, you begin to wish that this was actually Jaws 5, and that this entire cast would take a boat trip. In a leaky boat. The documentary footage over the closing credits only makes you wish that this was indeed a documentary, and not a True Life Tuesday Afternoon Special for the God Is Great Network. RATING: 2/5



Directed by Andrew Rossi. Starring David Carr, Tim Arango, Carl Bernstein, Bruce Headlam, Bill Keller.

THE PLOT: Shot over 2009/10, life inside the legendary New York Times is examined as director Rossi turns investigative reporter, sitting in on editorial meetings and tagging along with veteran Times journalist David Carr (the real star of the piece) as the paper struggles with falling ad revenue and the continued onslaught of the new online information age.

THE VERDICT: Just as the red-haired and passionate creative director Grace Coddington proved to be the real heart and soul of Vogue in the 2009 behind-the-scenes documentary The September Issue, so it is here with grizzled veteran journalist David Carr. A former crack addict and a single father who raised two girls on social welfare, Rich Hall-lookalike Carr likes to spit it like it is. And he’s none too impressed with the new information age, nor the daily deathknells for his paper. Carr himself may be a dying breed, but his sterling investigative work – such as, here, into the Tribune company, America’s second largest newspaper publisher, which filed for bankruptcy in 2008 – exemplifies the real need for quality journalism. RATING: 4/5


Hey, if George can keep re-releasing Star Wars every few years, it’s about time Stephen started dusting down a few of his box-office monsters too.

Spielberg walks the dinosaur on the big screen once again as Jurassic Park (USA/PG/127mins/*****) takes another bite out of our multiplexes this weekend.

The film that didn’t quite make stars out of Laura Dern, Sam Neill and Jeff Goldblum, Jurassic Park did prove to Hollywood that a film’s leading lights could be just a trick of the light. And now, thanks to CGI’s subsequent leaps and bounds, we don’t think twice about a monkey plotting to wreak revenge on a San Francisco animal sanctuary.

And let’s just be thankful that little Stevie didn’t get suckered into the 3D crap trap here. RATING: 5/5



Planned as part of a global film festival, on Sunday 2nd October at 7.30pm The Sugar Club will play host to the 13th Annual Manhattan Short Film Festival.

With past finalists going on to Oscar glory, the Manhattan Short is now seen as a potential launching pad. Which means the quality of entrants is high, with the 10 finalists – out of the 598 entries (from 48 countries around the world) – sometimes including those who have already scaled the Hollywood ladder. This year, the criminally-overrated miserablist Neil La Bute offers up the 8-minute sexting, with Julia Stiles amongst the cast.

Admission is a mere €5, and you can get all the info you need on