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Don­ald Clarke and Joe Grif­fin re­view all cur­rent cin­ema re­leases

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - Filmlistings -

THE BOX Di­rected by Richard Kelly. Star­ring Cameron Diaz, James Mars­den, Frank Langella, James Reb­horn

A cou­ple (Diaz and Mars­den) is vis­ited by an in­di­vid­ual (Langella) who makes them an of­fer: if they push the but­ton on this box, then a stranger will die and they will re­ceive one mil­lion dol­lars. The three prin­ci­pals (Langella in par­tic­u­lar) are on de­cent form, and there are some good dark twists. But, af­ter the first hour, the plot be­comes so te­diously en­tan­gled that no sane per­son could be both­ered try­ing to make sense of it. 15A cert, gen release, 115 min DC

BRIGHT STAR Di­rected by Jane Cam­pion. Star­ring Ben Whishaw, Ab­bie Cor­nish

Cam­pion brings a del­i­cate touch to the story of the ro­mance be­tween doomed poet John Keats (frail Whishaw) and seam­stress Fanny Brawne (vi­brant Cor­nish). What we end up with is a pretty, well-acted film con­cern­ing two or­di­nary folk, one of whom hap­pens to be a lit­er­ary icon. It’s got John Keats in it, but is not re­ally about John Keats – even if we do get to hear ev­ery word of Ode to

a Nightin­gale. PG cert, Movieland, Down; Light House, Dublin, 119 min DC

A CHRIST­MAS CAROL Di­rected by Robert Zemeckis. Star­ring Jim Car­rey, Robin Wright Penn, Gary Old­man Bob Hoskins, Colin Firth, Cary El­wes

A Christ­mas Carol may be im­per­ish­able, but, with all those adap­ta­tions out there, you have to do some­thing very in­no­va­tive to stand out from the pack. Zemeckis has achieved just that. Stick­ing stub­bornly with his hor­ri­ble amal­gam of 3-D mo­tion-cap­ture and com­puter an­i­ma­tion, the di­rec­tor has de­liv­ered a ver­sion per­formed by am­bu­la­tory show­room dum­mies sport­ing the glassy eyes of re­cently em­balmed corpses. Faith­ful, but hor­ri­ble. PG cert, gen release, 96 min DC

CLOUDY WITH A CHANCE OF MEAT­BALLS Di­rected by Phil Lord, Chris Miller. Voices of Bill Hader,

Anna Far­ris, James Caan

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

CRACKS Di­rected by Jor­dan Scott. Star­ring: Eva Green, Juno Tem­ple, Maria Valverde, Imo­gen Poots, Sinead Cu­sack

At­mo­spheric, well-acted if slightly lan­guid thriller, set in a girls’ Catholic board­ing school circa 1934. The del­i­cate equi­lib­rium is shaken by the ar­rival of an ex­otic new pupil. Green (as an in­flu­en­tial teacher), Tem­ple (as a schem­ing teenager) and Valverde (as the new queen bee stu­dent) all give strong per­for­mances. Di­rec­tor Jor­don Scott’s dad is Ri­d­ley and, de­spite its pac­ing is­sues, Cracks is more likely to be com­pared to Sophia Cop­pola’s The Vir­gin Sui­cides than Jen­nifer Lynch’s

Box­ing He­lena. 15A cert, Cineworld/IMC Dún Laoghaire/ Movies@Dun­drum, Dublin, 104 min JG

THE DE­SCENT PART 2 Di­rected by Jon Har­ris. Star­ring Shauna Macdon­ald, Natalie Jack­son Men­doza, Krys­ten Cum­ming, Ga­van O’Her­lihy

Dis­ap­point­ing se­quel to Neil Mar­shall’s clas­sic cavers-in-peril hor­ror film. Re­view­ing the flick is akin to re­view­ing a coma. You be­gin in day­light. Some sort of trauma at­tacks the sys­tem and you find your­self sus­pended in un­event­ful dark­ness for an un­cer­tain length of time, be­fore be­ing dragged back into warm, wel­com­ing day­light. Only God (and, here, the di­rec­tor) knows what hap­pens in the in­terim. The in­evitable Part 3 can only be an im­prove­ment. 18 cert, gen release, 94 min DC

AN ED­U­CA­TION Star­ring Carey Mul­li­gan, Peter Sars­gaard, Al­fred Molina

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, Odeon Cin­ema, Belfast; Light House, Dublin, 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

THE FIRST DAY OF THE REST OF YOUR LIFE/LE PREMIER JOUR DU RESTE DE TA VIE Di­rected by Remi Bezan­con. Star­ring Jac­ques Gam­blin, Zabou Bre­it­manA

French fam­ily deals with var­i­ous crises in the 1980s and 1990s. Is there a name for that genre of film (or play or book or se­ries) that vis­its sev­eral dis­crete in­ci­dents evenly scat­tered through a lengthy pe­riod in the life of a group of char­ac­ters? There should be. It’s an ir­re­sistible form that is ex­ploited to agree­able ef­fect in this nice-looking soap opera. Not as clever as it thinks it­self to be, but fun. 16 cert, Light House/ Screen, Dublin, 114 min DC

THE GIRL­FRIEND EX­PE­RI­ENCE Di­rected by Steven Soderbergh. Star­ring Sasha Grey

Soderbergh di­rects Grey, hith­erto a porn ac­tor, in a grim tale of a high-class pros­ti­tute’s soul­less ad­ven­tures. The

Girl­friend Ex­pe­ri­ence is not much fun – cer­tainly not as much fun as the di­rec­tor’s re­cent, un­der­rated The

In­for­mant! None­the­less, un­like other Soderbergh ex­per­i­ments such as Bub­ble and Full Frontal, it does feel like a real film with some­thing akin to a for­mal struc­ture. Any­way, even if you hate the thing, it’s over in less than 80 min­utes. 16 cert, IFI/ Light House, Dublin, 77 min DC HARRY BROWN Di­rected by Daniel Bar­ber. Star­ring Michael Caine, Emily Mor­timer, Liam Cun­ning­ham Morally du­bi­ous but stylish and fran­ti­cally ex­cit­ing re­venge thriller, fol­low­ing Caine’s ex-Royal Marine as his seeks to clean up his drug-rid­den neigh­bour­hood with a hand­gun. The de­pic­tion of the es­tate is some­times a lit­tle too height­ened (one drugs den looks like some­thing from Alien) but the film is so tense, and Caine’s per­for­mance so se­cure, that it’s easy to dis­miss any faults. A fine suc­ces­sor to such ques­tion­able clas­sics as Dead Man’s Shoes and

The Last House on the Left. 18

cert, gen release, 103 min DC

THE IN­FOR­MANT! Di­rected by Steven Soderbergh. Star­ring Matt Da­mon, Scott Bakula

The 1990s ly­sine price­fix­ing con­spir­acy doesn’t sound like the stuff of en­ter­tain­ing cin­ema. How­ever, util­is­ing a groovy ti­tle font and jaunty in­ci­den­tal mu­sic by the vet­eran Marvin Ham­lisch, Soderbergh has at­tempted to turn the story into a hip, hap­pen­ing 1960s farce. It’s a gam­ble, but, buoyed by Da­mon’s crazy, hi­lar­i­ous turn, it pays off. If noth­ing else,

The In­for­mant! the most en­ter­tain­ing film ever made about agribusi­ness fraud. 15A cert, lim release, 108 min DC

JOHNNY MAD DOG Di­rected by Jean-Stephane Sau­vaire. Star­ring Christo­pher Minie

It hardly needs to be said that the prac­tice of us­ing chil­dren as sol­diers is a con­tin­u­ing ob­scen­ity. That aware­ness may not, how­ever, pre­pare you for the bril­liantly fab­ri­cated hor­ror of Sau­vaire’s dra­matic treat­ment of this un­com­fort­able sub­ject. Maybe the film’s glossy pro­duc­tion val­ues im­bue the at­troc­i­ties with a du­bi­ous charge. But this re­mains a pow­er­fully re­alised, sur­pris­ingly main­stream pic­ture that sneaks its po­lit­i­cal mes­sages past the viewer with some guile. 16 cert, Light House, Dublin, 98 min DC

LAW ABID­ING CI­TI­ZEN Di­rected by F Gary Gray. Star­ring Ger­ard But­ler, Jamie Foxx, Colm Meaney

Lawabid­ing Clyde Shel­ton (But­ler) be­comes an aveng­ing an­gel af­ter his wife and child are killed. Even keep­ing him in a prison cell doesn’t stem his gory re­venge spree. Am­bi­tious, savvy DA Nick Rice (Jamie Foxx) has to race against the clock to stop him. The court­room scenes have more in com­mon with Duck Soup than To

Kill a Mock­ing­bird, but de­spite its ab­sur­dity, Law Abid­ing Ci­ti­zen is an en­ter­tain­ing and fast-paced ur­ban thriller. 16 cert, gen­eral release, 108 min JG

THE LIM­ITS OF CON­TROL Club cert, Queen’s, Belfast; IFI, Dublin, 115 min

ME AND OR­SON WELLES Di­rected by Richard Lin­klater. Star­ring Zac Efron, Claire Danes, Chris­tian McKay, Ben Chap­lin, Ed­die Marsan En­joy­able drama deal­ing with Or­son Welles’s stag­ing of his Mer­cury The­atre pro­duc­tion of

Julius Cae­sar dur­ing the 1930s. Ful­fill­ing the po­ten­tial of High

School Mu­si­cal, Efron is charm­ing and charis­matic as a young gun who finds him­self pro­pelled into the role of Lu­cius. The pic­ture, though a tad talky, does a good job of recre­at­ing back­stage in­trigue. McKay is, how­ever, the star of the show as an un­can­nily con­vinc­ing Welles. 12A cert, lim release, 109 min DC

THE MEN WHO STARE AT GOATS Di­rected by Grant Heslov. Star­ring Ge­orge Clooney, Jeff Bridges, Ewan McGre­gor, Kevin Spacey

How far can you get with lit­tle else but good­will in your back­pack? On the ev­i­dence of this en­joy­ably barmy adap­ta­tion of a non-fic­tion book by Jon Ron­son, half way round the world. Fo­cus­ing on a jour­nal­ist’s en­counter with ag­ing mem­bers of the US Army’s para­nor­mal divi­sion, the pic­ture is fun, de­spite hav­ing no real story and in­dulging in an ab­surd de­noue­ment. Without Clooney’s charm it might have been un­bear­able. 15A cert, gen release, 93 min DC

THE MERRY GEN­TLE­MAN Di­rected by Michael Keaton. Star­ring Michael Keaton, Kelly Macdon­ald

Lonely hit­man Keaton strikes up a friend­ship with for­mer abused spouse Macdon­ald. Mean­while, a de­tec­tive in­ves­ti­gates a se­ries of mys­te­ri­ous deaths. Not the jol­liest film of the Silly Sea­son, but that’s largely the point: Leon without the action, Grosse Pointe

Blank without the com­edy, Keaton’s di­rec­to­rial de­but will per­plex as many as it will cap­ti­vate. The pace is de­lib­er­ate and it’s not without its flaws, but with its calm at­mos­phere and its por­trait of an odd­ball friend­ship,

The Merry Gen­tle­man is a cu­ri­ously in­gra­ti­at­ing Christ­mas present. 15A cert, Cineworld, Dublin, 97 mins JG

NA­TIV­ITY! Di­rected by Debbie Is­sitt. Star­ring Martin Free­man, Ashley Jensen, Ja­son Watkins, Marc Woot­ton, Alan Carr

Truly aw­ful fol­low-up to Is­sitt’s per­fectly ac­cept­able Con­fetti, fea­tur­ing Free­man as a teacher try­ing to knock to­gether a Na­tiv­ity play at a Coven­try pri­mary school. The aw­ful one-lin­ers, con­trived mis­un­der­stand­ings and jar­ring re­ver­sals ap­pear bear­able when set be­side the end­less mu­si­cal per­for­mance that closes the project. If Coven­try can sur­vive the Luft­waffe, then it can, I sup­pose, sur­vive this, but you wouldn’t wish it on your worst en­emy. G cert, gen release, 100 min DC

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