Donald Clarke and Joe Griffin review all current cinema releases
ALIENS IN THE ATTIC Directed by John Schultz.
Starring Kevin Nealon Aliens make life difficult for holidaying siblings in this lightweight family film. The young actors are pretty good, but the computer-generated aliens are unbelievably shoddy. Twitchy in movement, unimaginative in facial construction, they couldn’t look crummier if made of sticky-backed paper and lavatory rolls. PG cert, gen release, 86 min DC NEW RELEASE BRIGHT STAR PG cert, lim release, 119 min See review, page 11 NEW RELEASE A CHRISTMAS CAROL PG cert, gen release, 96 min See review, page 12
CIRQUE DU FREAK: THE VAMPIRE’S ASSISTANT Directed by Paul Weitz. Starring Josh Hutcherson, Chris Massoglia, John C Reilly, Ken Watanabe, Ray Stevenson, Patrick Fugit, Salma Hayek,
Willem Dafoe Largely useless attempt to develop a franchise from Limerickman Darren Shan’s novels about a war between nice vampires and not-so-nice vampires. The depiction of the freak show that lures the two young heroes away is reasonably engaging. But the historical basis behind the conflict is obscure, the special effects are far from special, and the main adult role appears to have been cast by a maniac. You, John C Reilly, are no Vincent Price. 12A cert, gen release, 108 min DC CLOUDY WITH A CHANCE OF MEATBALLS Directed by Phil Lord, Chris Miller. Voices of Bill Hader, Anna Farris, James Caan, Mr T, Bruce Campbell, Neil Patrick Harris, Benjamin Bratt Inspired by a popular book, this animated comedy follows an eccentric scientist who invents a machine that turns water into food. Slapstick culinary-themed hi-jinks follow. The second half is less appetising than the opening scenes, but it’s pleasingly animated and generally amusing. G cert, gen release, 90 min JG
COUPLES RETREAT Directed by Peter Billingsley. Starring Vince Vaughn, Jason Bateman, Jon Favreau, Malin Akerman, Kristin Davis, Kristen Bell, Faizon Love, Jean
Reno Unnecessarily appalling comedy in which the talent listed above retire to a tropical island for couples counselling and mildly risqué humour. The film-makers are too interested in teaching us lessons about why people drift apart and how they might get back together, so time that could have been spent pushing the heroes into tide pools or having them walk into palm trees is taken up with long, tedious conversations with nodding analysts. A disaster. 15A cert, gen release, 107 min DC THE COVE Directed by Louie Psihoyos Angry, surprisingly exciting documentary about a former marine animal trainer’s efforts to record the annual slaughter of dolphins near a Japanese fishing village. The coy manner in which footage of the butchery is held back till the final moment is both melodramatic and counterproductive (nothing can live up to that hype). But this remains a powerful piece of work with a lucid, important message. PG cert, Queen’s, Belfast, 92 min DC CREATION Directed by Jon Amiel. Starring Jennifer Connelly, Paul Bettany, Jeremy Northam, Toby Jones Decent if unspectacular attempt to engage with Darwin’s tortured prevarication before publishing
On the Origin of Species. Connelly is not quite believable as Emma Darwin, but Bettany’s turn helps humanise a figure, too often treated as a saint or a demonic God killer. Based on Randal Keynes’s moving book,
Annie’s Box, the film is touching about the death of Darwin’s daughter. PG cert, Listowel Classic, Kerry, 108 min DC AN EDUCATION Starring Carey Mulligan, Peter Sarsgaard, Alfred Molina,
Dominic Cooper, Rosamund Pike, Olivia Williams, Emma
Thompson Impressive adaptation of Lynn Barber’s memoir (adapted by Nick Hornby) telling how, while studying for her A-levels in the early 1960s, Barber carried on an affair with a considerably older businessman. The period detail is delicious and Mulligan is a revelation in the central role, though perhaps her age – she was actually 22 when the film was shot – makes the relationship seems less inappropriate than it was. But this is still a cracking drama. 15A cert, lim release, 95 min DC FANTASTIC MR FOX Directed by Wes Anderson.
Voices of George Clooney, Meryl Streep, Jason Schwartzman, Bill Murray,
Owen Wilson A fox goes to war with three fat farmers. You could, if you were being difficult, point out that Wes Anderson’s stop-motion adaptation of Roald Dahl’s classic doesn’t have much in it for kids. Sure, the twangy music is cool, the retro-animation is quirky and the voice work by the likes of Murray and Clooney is drily ironic. But do infants care about all that? Maybe not, but Anderson fans will have a ball. PG cert, gen release, 87 min DC
(500) DAYS OF SUMMER
Directed by Marc Webb. Starring Zooey Deschanel,
Joseph Gordon-Levitt Does the recent debasement of the romcom make this mope-rock cover version of Annie Hall seem somewhat better than it is? Perhaps. But it remains a delight. Jumbling up the time scheme – a counter appears showing us where we are in the 500-day duration of the story to good effect – Webb develops the relationship between uptight Gordon-Levitt and fey Deschanel to good effect. 15A cert, lim release, 95 min DC GOODBYE SOLO Directed by Ramin Bahrani. Starring Souléymane Sy
Savané, Red West One evening, Solo (Sy Savané), a jolly Senegalese taxi driver, picks up a taciturn old man named William (Red West). The passenger strikes an unusual deal: after paying a deposit and promising a significant fee, he suggests that Solo drive him to a remote mountain outcrop in a few days’ time. Bahrani’s highly praised film is well structured and undeniably sincere, but his central character is just a tad too annoying. 15A cert, Empire, Clare; Ormonde, Dublin, 91 min DC THE IMAGINARIUM OF DOCTOR PARNASSUS Directed by Terry Gilliam.
It’s showtime: Michael Jackson in This Is It, on natonal release