What's On in Glasgow: Cinema


Christina's film crits archive 2003 and archived crits 2003

Film Reviews - Christina's Crits:

Photo: Grosvenor cinema screen.Christina Byrne (Jim's mother) - published poet, writer and film critique, puts her observational and writing talents to use reviewing films for the website. Looks like we are a dynasty!

Latest Crits

June, 2012

How I Spent my Summer Vacation (15)

Mel Gibson stars as a criminal who has stolen millions of dollars and is being pursued to the Mexican border. The car crashes through a border fence, Gibson is arrested by Mexican police and thrown into prison without trial. The prison where he is held is meant to be the notorious El Pueblito, a disastrous experiment carried out in Mexico several years ago where basically the inmates ran the jail. Staff members are corrupt, drugs are freely available and violence is rife.

Gibson's main aims are to stay alive and to recover the money he has stolen. He befriends a young Mexican boy and his mother who are also prisoners and eventually helps them escape.

The film is certainly fast-paced with plenty of action but not all of it appears to make sense. The body count mounts up by the minute and it is difficult to tell the goodies from the baddies until you realize that they are all baddies.

The director is Adrian Grunberg and Mel Gibson is the co-writer and co-producer. I must say I did like most of it but there was an awful lot of blood about. If you have a strong stomach and enough concentration to follow the plot you will probably enjoy it.

The Angel's Share (15)

Robbie (Paul Brannigan) escapes a prison sentence for a violent attack and is sentenced to Community Service. He works with a group of offenders cleaning up a cemetery and painting a Community Centre under the supervision of Harry (John Henshaw.) Harry is a kindly soul who does his best to help his young charges and takes Robbie to the maternity hospital to see his new-born son. He also takes the group on an outing to a whisky distillery where Robbie finds he has a 'nose' for distinguishing different brands of whisky.

Robbie later hears that a very rare whisky is due to come up for auction and it is expected to sell for up to a million pounds. Although Robbie has promised his girlfriend his life of crime is behind him, the group of youngsters decides they will steal some of it and they set off for the Highland distillery where the auction is to be held. Robbie's ingenious plan ensures that what he removes from the cask will not be missed and he fills four bottles with the whisky. Back home disaster strikes when two of the bottles are smashed but as in all good fairy stories everything comes right in the end.

The movie is set in Glasgow using mainly local talent. Some of the players including Paul Brannigan have never acted before but turned in professional performances.

Director Ken Loach has achieved another success with this film. It is a good story, well acted and full of fun. You will enjoy it.

May, 2012

The Lucky One (12a)


The opening scenes show American marines fighting in Iraq but this is no war epic. Marine Logan survives three tours of duty but returns home traumatized by all he has seen and done and so stressed he is unable to cope with civilian life. Convinced his survival is due to a lucky charm (a photograph of a young woman he picked up with the words ?keep safe? written on the back) he sets out to find her.

He locates her in a small town in Louisiana, running a dog training business. Beth (Taylor Schilling) takes him on to help with the dogs but he does not tell her the real reason he is there. The couple fall in love but her jealous ex-husband causes problems.

Zac Efron is Logan, the clean cut hero in direct contrast to baddie sheriff Keith (Jay R. Ferguson,) the mean and moody ex-hubbie and father of Beth?s son. Fans of Zac Efron will swoon at his good looks and overlook his acting ability but he does seem quite convincing in the role. Taylor Schilling has ?girl next door? appeal. Don?t expect too much high drama in director Scott Hicks? film but it passes a pleasant evening although some parts of this movie are just too sweet to be wholesome and it does drag in places.


Salmon Fishing in the Yemen (12a)


The title sounds like a documentary but this is a comedy starring Ewan McGregor as Fred Jones a civil servant working for the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries. Patricia Maxwell (Kristin Scott Thomas) is also a civil servant but she works as Press Secretary to the Prime Minister. Tasked with finding a ?feel-good? project to distract the public from bad news in the Middle East, she seizes on a madcap scheme to bring salmon fishing to the Yemen. Finance is to come from a super wealthy sheik reeled in by Harriet Chetwood-Talbot played by Emily Blunt.

Fred dismisses the idea as unworkable but his boss forces him to collaborate with Harriet to set the project in motion. Although Fred is married and Harriet is in a relationship, the inevitable happens and they fall for one another.

Ewan McGregor is perfect in the role of the tongue-tied inhibited civil servant and Harriet shines as the upper class investment adviser with the double-barreled name but to my mind the actress who excels is Kristin Scott Thomas as the bullying, bitchy press officer, stopping at nothing to get what she wants. Grown men shrivel when she explodes into a room.

The film is a gentle comedy and if you are into non-stop action movies give it a miss, otherwise sit back and enjoy it as an old-fashioned romance with a bit of gorgeous scenery thrown in. The director is Lasse Halstrom.


April, 2012

We bought a Zoo (PG)


Benjamin Mee has recently lost his wife and is struggling to cope with his children, son Dylan and seven-year-old Rosie. Dylan is in trouble at school and threatened with expulsion. When he steals money it is the final straw and he is expelled. Benjamin decides the family needs a complete change away from their old neighbourhood and sets out to buy a new place in a different area. He finds a run-down house with large grounds that seems ideal but the snag is that the grounds are part of a wildlife park. He has spent his life as a journalist and knows nothing about keeping wild animals but Rosie is ecstatic at the idea of living there. Dylan is unenthusiastic.

The film charts the various problems he overcomes, including a hostile animal welfare inspector, mounting costs that see him almost bankrupt and a six-month deadline to open by the beginning of the tourist season. He continues to have problems with Dylan. Neither Ben nor Dylan is able to come to terms with the mother?s death.

As in all feel-good scenarios there are no surprises, everything comes together in the end and the movie is a real family story.

Based on the memoir of Benjamin, this true story is not all sweetness and light but attempts to explore the pain of bereavement and the difficulty of carrying on after losing someone close.

Matt Damon conveys the problems Ben has in reaching out to his son and is excellent throughout. Colin Ford as Dylan is the typical resentful teenager convinced no one understands him and Maggie Elizabeth Jones is sweet as Rosie. Scarlett Johansson is Kelly Foster, good with the animals and a stalwart on Ben?s side. There is a hint of romance to come.

Director Cameron Crowe succeeds with this film based on a true story. Unless you have a heart of stone you will enjoy it.

Contraband (15)

?Mark Wahlberg is Chris Farraday, ex drug smuggler but now going straight. His brother-in-law dumps a cargo of drugs because the Customs are about to board his boat and he finds himself in big trouble with the owner of the drugs. Chris tries to raise money to pay off the debt and decides the only way is to go back to smuggling. He refuses to bring in drugs but sails to Panama to source a cargo of counterfeit American dollars. He leaves his wife and children in the care of his friend Sebastian.

There are many twists and turns before our hero is home and dry including betrayal, murder, some humour and the obligatory breakneck car/van chase. The action in this movie is fast and furious and sometimes difficult to catch up with.

Mark Walberg is believable as the tough all-action lead and Ben Foster is convincing as his friend Sebastian who is struggling with alcoholism and drug addiction. Kate Beckinsale plays wife Kate whose younger brother is the cause of all the trouble. The plot is complicated and perhaps there is too much of it but this is an exciting film and well worth seeing.

The director is Baltasar Kormakur

The Hunger Games (12a)

Set in an era where war is a thing of the past there is an annual spectacle where two young people are selected from each district and the members of the chosen group fight it out on live television. The Hunger Games is reality TV at its worst where the world is divided into the very poor and the very rich. The violent scenes show contestants cut down one by one and the winner is the person left alive at the end of the games.

Jennifer Lawrence stars as Katniss Everdeen from a poor mining area whose 12 year old sister is selected at random to fight for her district. Katniss volunteers to take her place. The other person representing the district is Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) who has a crush on Katniss. The contestants? mentor is played by Woody Harrelson, a former winner of The Hunger Games who spends most of his time drunk.

Since the goodies always win there is no doubt who is eventually going to come out on top but how they get there is thrilling to watch. Weapons are basic but hazards can be introduced from out-with the Games so this is not a fair contest. Also the rules can be changed at will.

Director Gary Ross?s movie is billed as teenage Sci-fi but if you are over twenty-one don?t let that put you off. I wasn?t sure if I would enjoy it but I did and urge you not to miss it.

February 2012

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (18)


Daniel Craig plays Mikael Blomkvist in this thriller set in Sweden and based on the best-selling book by Stieg Larsson.

It tells the story of a journalist hired to find out what happened to a young girl who disappeared forty years before but what he uncovers is linked to a series of murders of Jewish women.

Blomkvist enlists the help of Lisbeth Salander, (Rooney Mara) in his search. Lisbeth, a computer hacker, is a dysfunctional young woman who has been made a ward of the state and is under the control of a ?guardian? who abuses her. There are scenes of torture that are upsetting to view so the film is not for the squeamish.

The plot is intricate and confusing in places and I feel that if you hadn?t read the book it would be difficult to understand.

Daniel Craig is perfect for the role of the investigative journalist and Rooney Mara excels as Lisbeth.

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo? is directed by David Fincher.

? ?

The Descendants (15)

? Blue skies, sun and surf, an island paradise. It all sounds too good to be true and it is. Matt King is sitting by the hospital bed of his beautiful wife who is in a coma after a water-skiing accident. He is trying to cope with his two daughters who are traumatized by their mother?s accident. King promises everything if only his wife will recover but the older daughter, Alexandra, tells him his wife has been having an affair and had been planning to leave him. The film is set in Hawaii where King and his family own a massive amount of land that is shortly to be sold and the money distributed between the family, some of whom have fallen on hard times. The land is held in trust and although each of the family members have a vote King can veto any decision made. As the drama is played out he discovers the name of his wife?s lover and this complicates the decision to sell the land.

George Clooney is Matt King, the father at a loss as to how he should deal with two troublesome daughters. He is the star but the young people steal the show with Shailene Woodley as teenage Alexandra, Amara Miller as young Scottie and Nick Krause as Alexandra?s boyfriend who has troubles of his own.

Director Alexander Payne has given us beautiful scenery and an insight into the island life but I didn't find the story exactly gripping.


December, 2011

My week with Marilyn (15)

When young Colin Clark gets a job at Pinewood Studios he little knows he will get to meet one of the icons of the movie world. Marilyn Munroe comes to Britain to make 'The Prince and the Showgirl' with Sir Lawrence Olivier. Marilyn takes a shine to Colin and requests his company on and off set. The story is based on a diary he kept during the time she was in Britain. A host of stars are rounded up to play various characters. They include names such as Judi Dench, Dougray Scott, Derek Jacobi and Zoe Wannamaker to mention a few. Sounds good? It could have been but the resulting film is tedious.

Michelle Williams as the Marilyn Munroe look-alike is almost convincing and Eddie Redmayne as Colin, the star-struck '3rd director' is believable. Kenneth Branagh is wonderful as Olivier and the host of big names should ensure success but doesn't.

Marilyn is portrayed as the sexy screen goddess who is unsure of her talent and extremely vulnerable. Newly married to playwright Arthur Miller (Dougray Scott) she is drinking and popping pills and rarely turns up on time, leaving the rest of the cast to wait around for her. Olivier is frustrated by her lack of professionalism and annoyed that she does not succumb to his charms. I found the film boring and for me, the only thing that redeemed it was the 1950's fashions.

New Year's Eve (12a)

It is Times Square in New York and revellers are waiting for midnight when the huge ball is due to fall to signal the beginning of 2012. Around the city people are thinking of the New Year to come, some of them looking back with regret, others eager to step into the future.

Two women are about to give birth, each hoping that their baby will win them the prize of 25,000 dollars for the first baby born after midnight. In another ward a man is dying, holding on so that he can see the New Year and hoping that he will be allowed up to the roof to view the spectacle in Times Square. A secretary walks out on her boss, hooks up with a young motor cycle courier and presents him with a wish list of what she wants to do before the year ends. She promises him tickets for a glitzy New Year party if he helps her achieve her wishes.

In other parts of the city a couple are trapped in a lift, a mother and daughter are in disagreement, a rock star and a female chef are trying to solve their problems. As the saying goes 'there are millions of stories' - but not all of them are interesting.

Director Garry Marshall's film could be gripping but is not. It is pleasant, sentimental and sweet in places. The cast list is impressive with Roberts De Niro, Michelle Pfeiffer, Halle Barry and loads more but don't worry if you don't manage to see it, you will not be missing much.

Justice (15)

Will Gerard (Nicholas Cage) is a High School teacher, happily married to wife Laura (January Jones.) Laura is attacked and raped. In the hospital, Will is approached by a man, a member of a vigilante organization, who offers to 'deal with' the rapist, avoiding the distress Laura will have to endure when the attacker is caught and goes to trial. In return for this, Will is asked to pay back the favour some time in the future. The rapist is then found dead apparently having committed suicide and a few months later Will is told of a journalist who is a child molester. Will is ordered to kill the man but cannot bring himself to do so.

He then finds that the organization is widespread, even involving people who are close to him. There is a myriad of twists and turns to the plot and he finds himself on the run with both his own and his wife's lives in danger. The film has been panned by critics but I found it enjoyable and living up to its 'thriller' label. Cage makes a convincing honest, non-violent schoolteacher always trying to do the right thing and January Jones is the wife, willing to back up her husband no matter what. Guy Pearce as the leader of the vigilantes was sinister and really did give me the creeps.
Full marks to Director Roger Donaldson

November, 2011

The Help (12a)


For some cinema goers this will be a look at history since young folk today will probably have no idea how life was for black people in America less than fifty years ago. Based on a best-selling novel by Kathryn Stockett THE HELP tells the story of young journalist Skeeter (Emma Stone) who decides to write a book detailing the experiences of the maids who worked for her family and the other affluent families in the deep South, where slavery was abolished generations back. The movie is set against the struggle for civil rights with reports of the murder of black activist Medger Evers.

In the early 60?s there was still separation of the races, with black people forced to sit at the back of buses and use different entrances to buildings. Skeeter starts by interviewing Aibileen then several other maids agree to tell of how they are being exploited, mistreated and generally deprived of their dignity. With few rights they are only steps away from the slavery endured by their ancestors - good enough to bring up their employers? children but not to use the toilets in their houses.

When Aibileen?s friend Minny loses her job she goes to work for Celia who is almost in the same position as the maids. Married to a rich and successful man, she is regarded as ?white trash? and is not accepted in the circle of wives whose families have lived in Jackson for generations. THE HELP points up serious issues but at the same time there is a lighter and humorous touch to the film. Perhaps it will not appeal to everyone but I guarantee the women in the audience will love it, even if only for the fashions of the age. Although Emma Stone is billed as the lead, Minny (Octavia Spencer) and Aibileen (Viola Davis) steal the show.

The film was directed and co-written by Tate Taylor.

The Rum Diary (15)


Journalist Paul Kemp arrives in Puerto Rica to work on the local newspaper and is caught up in a corrupt scheme to despoil the beauty of the place by building hotels that will attract massive tourism. His task (apart from his day job with the paper) is to write a brochure to accompany the application for planning permission.

Already his drinking habits are causing problems but in the laid back lifestyles of his fellow journalists he slots in perfectly. He falls for Chenault, the glamorous girlfriend of the dishonest property dealer Sanderson (Aaron Eckhart.) I found the first hour mildly intriguing but halfway through, the plot seemed to lose its way, becoming a series of loosely connected incidents and by the end I hadn?t a clue what had happened. Paul?s boss Lotterman leaves the paper in the lurch and the printing machinery is removed foiling Paul?s attempt to publish the hotel scandal. So Paul flies home. End of story.

As usual Johnny Depp is faultless and the other actors perform well. Amber Hood as Chenault could have been dispensed with since she doesn?t seem to do anything.

Apparently the movie is a tribute to Hunter S Thompson who wrote a novel based on his own early life as a newspaper man and Paul Kemp is supposedly the young Thompson.

The Rum Diary is written and directed by Bruce Robinson

October, 2011

The Debt

Three Israeli agents set off on a mission to capture a Nazi war criminal and bring him to justice but it all goes wrong and their cover-up goes on for thirty years.

Helen Mirren is Rachel whose daughter has published a book telling the flawed story of three brave people who risked their lives for their country.

Rachel and agent David want to reveal the true story but Rachel's ex-husband, Stephan, who had also been one of the agents, is unwilling to let the truth come out. At the book launch Rachel reads from the book that tells of how the Nazi is kept prisoner in a run-down Berlin flat, and is shot and killed whilst trying to escape. The film then goes into flashback and a completely different story emerges.

The young Rachel is brilliantly acted by Jessica Chastain; Sam Worthington is David and Marton Csokas plays Stephan. However the performance that stays in the mind is that of Jesper Christensen as the evil Dieter Vogel, the Beast of Birkenhau who had carried out horrendous experiments on Jewish adults and children but is now living and working as a successful gynecologist. Posing as a woman having difficulty conceiving, Rachel is the bait to trap and capture him. The shift between the present and the past is sometimes confusing but the tension continues throughout. Director John Madden manages to grip the audience right to the last scene.

Johnny English Reborn (PG)

A spoof James Bond movie with Rowan Atkinson in the role of the top British agent is surely guaranteed laughs even if you are not a fan of slapstick. Johnny English is brought back into favour from a retreat in Tibet where he has been training his mind and body to be strong and resist anything his enemies may throw at him.

There is a threat to kill the Chinese Prime Minister and Johnny is called back to M I 7 to make contact with a man in Hong Kong who is apparently only prepared to deal with him. A trainee agent is assigned to work with him. As expected the affair is bungled but our man does capture one of three keys that are clues in identifying the would-be assassins. In true Johnny English style he loses the key.

The trailer points up several hilarious scenes making it seem as if the film is laugh a minute. Unfortunately it is not. Some of it is amusing, other sections are dull and predictable. Rowan Atkinson fans might enjoy it but don't expect too much. There is an unlikely 'romance' between English and Kate (Rosamund Pike), a psychologist assigned to work with him but director Oliver Parker's movie is not for me.

September, 2011

Jane Eyre (PG)

The scene opens with Jane stumbling across wild moorland and finding shelter with clergyman St. John Rivers (Jamie Bell) and his two sisters. When she recovers from her exhaustion she becomes a teacher in a school for poor children. The story continues in flashback, taking us to the home of her aunt where Jane is tormented and bullied by her cousin. She retaliates and is punished by being sent to a 'school' for young ladies which is nothing more than the workhouse. From there she goes as governess to the ward of Mr Rochester, a cynical and embittered man who has a dark secret.

Mia Wasikowska plays Jane as a restrained but assertive character, a young woman who initially resists Rochester, falls for him then runs away when she discovers he already has a wife. Michael Fassbender portrays Rochester to perfection, the strong but tormented man who lives to regret the mistakes of his youth. The familiar face of Judy Dench is his housekeeper, a distant relation of his family who doesn't quite consider herself a servant. Janey Eyre has been made and re-made so the story is familiar and it is tempting to compare other versions but director Cary Fukanaga steers away from the idea of a glamorous heroine and makes the main character a real plain Jane with dowdy dresses and a true schoolmarm hairdo.

I did enjoy the film with its intense dramatic moments and the background of the bleak scenery of the Yorkshire moors. One complaint could be that it is a little slow in places but it was never billed as an all-action movie.

I don't know how she does it (PG)

Every working mother will identify with Kate as she struggles to fit the role of super efficient finance consultant and a mom who can rustle up a batch of cookies for the school sale event with one hand whilst washing/cooking/cleaning/ shopping with the other. The house must be clinically clean, the kids happy, the career path soaring to the top. As every woman knows the task is impossible.

Kate finds this when her two-year-old son lands in hospital and she cannot be contacted because she is in another city and has forgotten to charge her mobile phone. Cue massive guilt complex.

Eventually she realizes that something has to go and it cannot be her family. Sarah Jessica Parker plays Kate, not too far from her Sex in the City character but without the glam designer clothes and smooth coiffure.

Greg Kinnear is Richard, her long-suffering husband - a saint by any standards, and Pierce Brosnan is the boss of Kate's firm, the shrewd businessman who recognizes her talent.

There is nothing that makes the story outstanding and the technique of having the characters speak directly to the audience is peculiar although it helps to fill in the gaps.

I would say if you are looking for an amusing way of filling an hour or two, go see the film. Far from making any dramatic statements or finding answers, it is totally predictable and run of the mill. Men may find it dull but most women will probably enjoy it. Douglas McGrath is the director.

One Day (12a)

Two students graduate from Edinburgh University and spend the day together. Emma, a working class girl from Yorkshire has a crush on Dexter who is out and out upper class, and apparently way out of her league. They remain friends for the next two decades and the story traces the development of their relationship. Emma is an aspiring novelist but settles for a mundane job in a restaurant before deciding to go into teaching. Dexter works as a television presenter but his lifestyle and innate weaknesses take him down the road of drink and drug addiction. Over the years the couple contact each other on the anniversary of their first meeting, the 'one day' of the title.

Emma is portrayed as decent and likeable, Dexter as shallow and weak so it is difficult to imagine what she sees in him. However the film is based on a recent best-selling novel so no doubt its fans will flock to see it.

Jim Sturgess is believable as Dexter, as is Rafe Spall the would-be comedian Ian who lives with Emma for a time but American Anne Hathaway is cast as Emma who is supposed to be plain, dowdy and spotty so Director Lone Scherfig got it wrong there.

I have heard some people say that Anne Hathaway's attempt at a Yorkshire accent is pathetic but I couldn't tell a Yorkshire accent from an alien's.

Despite its faults though, ONE DAY keeps you hooked as you wonder when and where the two will finally get together so don't let the critics put you off. I recommend you go and see it for yourself.

A lonely place to die (15)

A party of climbers comes upon a young girl (apparently a kidnap victim) in a remote part of the Scottish Highlands. She speaks no English. The group then finds itself targeted by stalkers and two of them set off on a quick route to the nearest village to get help. This involves abseiling down a steep rock face where the rope breaks and one of them falls to his death. Suspicious or not? The stalkers are also killed by another two gunmen - yes the story is complicated. Meanwhile three men in a car are making their way to the village with a suitcase full of money.

The film is a quick-fire game of cat and mouse with the emphasis on quick fire and brings in the stereotypical Highland policeman in a place where nothing ever happens. 'Sit down and I'll make you a cup of tea,' he says whilst mayhem is erupting all around with gunmen running amok and some kind of street party going on featuring naked folk dancing and setting off fireworks, not exactly like any Highland village I've ever visited.

It is difficult to comment on the characters since few of them are around long enough for us to get to know them but they are all credible including Melissa George, a convincing action girl.

Filmed in Scotland, it was written by brothers Julian and William Gilbey and Julian was the director. Full marks for a movie full of fast-paced exciting drama with lots of plot twists and the bonus of fantastic scenery. I really enjoyed it.

August, 2011

Beginners (15)

Ewan McGregor plays Oliver whose father, Hal, had recently passed away. Oliver's parents had been married for over forty years but his mother had died several years back. After his wife's death Hal had told Oliver he is gay and threw himself into a relationship with a younger man.

Whilst Oliver had no problem accepting his dad's homosexuality he was upset at the idea that his parents' marriage was unhappy. This seems to have given him a commitment phobia so that at thirty-eight he is still single with no prospect of settling down.

Then he falls for Anna (Melanie Laurent) and for a time they are happy together but his insecurities surface and Anna leaves. Sometimes it is difficult to understand exactly what is happening on screen because of the numerous flashbacks and I found it all a bit confusing. Apparently the story is based on the director's own experience with his father who 'came out' in his seventies.

BEGINNERS is billed as a romantic comedy but perhaps Director Mike Mills ideas of romance and humour are different from mine.

Ewan McGregor gives his usual excellent performance as the son but he is outshone by 82 year old Christopher Plummer as Hal. Melanie Laurent does nothing except look pretty.

If you are prepared to concentrate really hard to follow the plot, go see this film. I can only say I endured a slow, slow non-action movie that left me bored.

Cowboys and Aliens (12a)

There are all the ingredients of the traditional western: dusty main street; grizzled cattle baron; his wayward son shooting up the town; stranger with a mean look and a gun on his hip. The stranger is Jake (Daniel Craig) who has wakened in the desert to find an odd metal contraption secured on his wrist and no memory of who he is or how he got there. Jake rides into town, tames the wayward son but is arrested as a wanted man who has robbed the cattle baron (Harrison Ford) of a quantity of gold.

Suddenly mayhem erupts as flying machines dive-bomb the town with all guns blazing, snatch bodies and whisk them away. Jake joins a posse of townsfolk led by the sheriff and sets out to find where they have been taken. A mysterious woman rides out with them.

Apart from the bit about the flying machines it is the good old-fashioned cowboy film. We even have outlaws and Injuns to contend with. Then director Jon Favreau who has probably seen too many sci-fi and Indiana Jones movies throws in everything else he can think of including an alliance between the posse, the outlaws and the Injuns.

It all sounds rubbish and possibly it is but I really liked it, from the ham acting of the two big names to the comical aliens and their space craft. I am sure there will be no Oscar winners among the cast but for a good laugh and an enjoyable evening out, don't miss it.

April, 2011

True Grit

This remake is the classic Western story 'I'm searching for the man that shot my paw,' with a slightly different slant. The one seeking revenge is not a hard-bitten gun-slinging renegade but a fourteen-year-old girl.

Mattie Ross wants justice for her father, a cotton grower who comes to the town to sell his crop but is shot down by outlaw Tom Chaney (Josh Brolin.) Looking for help, she engages Rooster Cogburn (Jeff Bridges) previously a successful U S Marshall but now the town drunk. Texas Ranger, Laboeuf, who had been on the trail of the outlaw for several years, joins them hoping for a share of the bounty she is offering.

All the usual hazards of the Wild West crop up, including Mattie being trapped with a crumbling skeleton in a nest of rattlesnakes (one of the funniest scenes I've watched in a long time,) before their quest is ended.

I don't remember the 1969 film but, although Jeff Bridges' performance is excellent I'm told it doesn't compare with John Wayne's. Hailee Steinfeld plays Mattie with just the right amount of clever determination and childish vulnerability and Matt Damon is convincing as Laboeuf - smart but foolish at the same time.

Directed by the Coen brothers, TRUE GRIT is well worth your money.

West is West (15)

Sajid Khan (Aqib Khan) is growing up in Salford but is constantly being bullied in school because of his racial origins. Dad, George, tries to instill pride in his son's background but Sajid insists he is English, not Pakistani. To show his son the culture of his forefathers George takes him back to Pakistan where brother Maneer had been sent to find a wife.

George is then forced to confront his first wife whom he had left 30 years ago to make a new life in Britain. She is angry that he had abandoned her and her daughters and has now a new wife and family.

George is riddled with guilt at meeting them and tries to make up for his desertion by building them a new house. The arrival of Ella, his English wife does not improve the situation but strangely the two women form a bond. The movie is supposed to be a sequel to the highly successful EAST IS EAST and I had expected more humour but the story is more serious and quite emotional in parts. Perhaps director Andy de Emmony is aiming for something different.

There are great performances from Om Puri as George Khan and Linda Bassett as Ella and despite its drawbacks I did enjoy the film. Try not to miss it.

March, 2011

Just Go With It (12a)

Plastic surgeon Danny (Adam Sandler) develops a ruse to get women to go to bed with him. The old story goes that he is married but his wife doesn't understand him/is cheating on him/ is cruel to him. That way he gets to sleep with girlfriends but cannot commit because he is already married. All goes well until he meets Palmer (Brooklyn Decker) and falls in love. She finds his wedding ring, thinks he is married and refuses to go out with him so he tells her he is getting a divorce. She wants to meet his soon-to-be ex-wife and children so he persuades Katherine, his assistant, to pretend to be his wife. To get the obnoxious children to agree, he bribes them with a trip to Hawaii. If you are a fan of Sandler and are on director Dennis Dugan's particular wavelength you will love this film, otherwise you will find it rubbish. I'm afraid I'm in the second category but it all depends on your sense of humour. I found the 'jokes' and so-called funny situations tasteless and objectionable but perhaps I'm a bit old-fashioned.

Of the cast, Jennifer Aniston as Katherine seems to be the only 'normal' character, the rest (including Nicole Kidman as Katherine's old college buddy) appear to be nuts - intentional I suppose but not likeable. I like movies about nice people.

The Fighter (15)

Your brother had been a successful boxer and is training you to follow in his footsteps. Your mother is manager, looking after your interests and is 100% behind you. It is every young fighter's dream. But what if your brother is on crack cocaine and his only thought is his next fix?

Micky Ward's career is going nowhere. He consistently loses fights because he is being matched above his weight. Brother Dicky (Christian Bale) had offered to train him but spends his time in a crack house. Mother Alice is only interested in the money the fights can make. When Micky meets new girlfriend Amy, he manages to break away from his family and his career begins to take off. Based on the true story of ex World Champion Micky Ward, THE FIGHTER is one of this year's best movies.

Mark Warlberg is convincing as Micky but is sidelined by Christian Bale as the manic brother. Alice (Melissa Leo) steals every scene she is in and both she and Christian Bale deserve their Oscars for best supporting actors.

The film is directed by David Russell and is one not to be missed.

February, 2011

The Next Three Days (12a)

?Russell Crowe stars as John Brennan in this tale of a man whose wife is imprisoned for murder. Initially he tries to prove her innocence but when the final appeal fails, he decides to break her out of prison. He contacts a notorious jail-breaker who guides him step by step through the process. We follow him as he is forced to make contact with the underworld to obtain the fake passports that will allow the couple and their young son to escape the country.

Dealings with the city?s criminal element alter his behaviour. From a respectable college lecturer and family man he finds himself breaking in to cars, buying forged documents and being involved in a shoot-out with drug dealers.

The film has a slow start but soon picks up the pace to become a nail-biting race against time.

Russell Crowe is excellent in the main role but Elizabeth Banks as wife Lara, makes little impact. Although Liam Neeson only makes a short appearance on screen, he is convincing as the hardened jail-breaker.

Screenwriter and director, Paul Harris succeeds in giving us a dramatic story with enough tension to keep the interest through to the final reel. One worth watching.

Morning Glory (12a)

Becky Fuller is a TV producer, good at her job but facing redundancy. She is taken on for early morning programme Daybreak that is on a downward slope and losing viewers. Her job is to reverse the trend. At first she does bring new life to it but sacks the anchor man and urgently needs to replace him. Her choice is Mike Pomeroy (Harrison Ford) a semi-retired, hard news man who sees the programme as frivolous and beneath his dignity. His co-anchor is Colleen Peck, played by Diane Keaton.

A workaholic, Becky has no time for a love life but does get together with Adam (Patrick Wilson.) He had previously worked for Mike and thinks she has no chance of success in making the old-timer fit the mould in the light-weight breakfast show.

There is plenty of comedy in her efforts to re-vitalise the performances of her reporters, especially that of Ernie the weatherman who is forced out into the field instead of broadcasting from the studio. Even Colleen is ?encouraged? out from behind her desk but Mike still remains a problem.

Rachel McAdam shines as the hyper Becky, up at dawn and still sparking with energy at the end of the day. Harrison Ford is a delight as the straight-laced Mike, forced out of his grumpy O A P mode and Diane Keaton is the perfect contrast to him.

Morning Glory is directed by Roger Michell who brought enough laughs to the movie to make it well worth seeing.

January, 2011

The King's Speech (12a)

For someone constantly in the public eye a stammer is a dreadful burden. The late King George V1 had this impediment. The cutting edge technology of the day was radio and his life would have been a nightmare but for the help of unconventional speech therapist Lionel Logue. After exhausting one method after another, wife Elizabeth (Helena Bonham Carter) seeks out Logue and persuades her husband to try one more 'cure.'

THE KING'S SPEECH seems to have been advertised forever and finally we get the chance to see the film. It doesn't disappoint. Having been bullied by his father, his brother, even the children's nanny, Colin Firth plays the role of the monarch's repressed younger son to perfection, his lack of confidence manifesting itself in his disability.

Based on fact, the story of his brother's obsession with American divorcee Wallis Simpson and the eventual abdication that led to the Duke of York becoming king is well known. Less well known is the new king's battle to communicate with his subjects.

Although there are humorous episodes in the film, director Tom Hooper deals sensitively with the king's problem and never makes fun of the stammer. Geoffrey Rush portrays Australian Lionel Logue with just the right amount of disrespect for the monarchy. As the speech therapist, he persists in calling the king by his first name, a habit that horrifies everyone, even Bertie himself. I did enjoy the movie despite finding it a bit slow at times. It appears to be all set for awards for writing, acting and directing with Colin Firth already winning a Golden Globe for best actor.

Love and other drugs (15)

Jake Gyllenhaaal is Jamie Randall, a rep for one of America's largest drug companies. The film is set in the 90's when 'wonder drug' Viagra is coming on the market and Jamie's career takes off when his sales figures rocket. He meets Maggie Murdock (Anne Hathaway) and they embark on the kind of relationship that suits both of them i.e. one with no strings. Neither has any intention of becoming emotionally involved, Jamie because he still wants to play the field and Maggie because she has Parkinson's disease. Of course their plans go awry when they fall in love with each other.

Frankly, the first half of the movie gets boring since it consists of the couple relentlessly having sex at every opportunity and at every location. There is only so much on-screen nudity one can take. The story only becomes interesting and strangely familiar (think Love Story) when Jamie starts looking for a cure for the illness.

Director Edward Zwick based the film on a non-fiction book that exposes the hard sell methods used by America's largest drug companies and the inference is that the character of Jamie Randall is the author. Obviously the romance between Jamie and Maggie is thrown in to add interest.

LOVE AND OTHER DRUGS is not to my taste but the cinema was busy the night I went so lots of people must have liked it.

October, 27th

Wall Street Money: Never Sleeps (12a)

Michael Douglas returns as Gordon Gekko in what is meant to be the sequel to the 1987 film. Released from prison after serving an eight year sentence he finds himself alone, his daughter Winnie refusing to have anything to do with him. She is living with Jake Moore (Shia LaBoeuf) a young trader working for a Bank that crashes because of rumours put about by a rival company. Jake's friend and mentor had committed suicide after the crash.

Gordon Gekko is now a writer and has published a bestseller 'Greed is Good.' After a book-signing session, Jake approaches him to enlist his help in getting revenge on the trader who had started the rumours and in return agrees to try to get Winnie to reconcile her differences with her father. Of course Gordon has his own reasons for getting back in his daughter's good books.

Douglas is perfect for the role, he has the look of a 'double-crosser,' but Shia LaBoeuf is almost too clean cut to be a dealer. Winnie (Carey Mulligan) doesn't get much chance to shine.

The story is simple enough but the whole stock-market thing makes it complicated with its traders' jargon and insider know-how and it's tempting to give up on the whole thing.

One wonders what kind of audience director Oliver Stone had in mind when he was making the film. I wearied of it by the time it was halfway through.

Life as we know it (12a)

Holly (Katherine Heigl) and Eric (Josh Duhamel) are set up on a date by their two best friends, a happily married couple with a cute baby. The friends have the idea that Holly and Eric are made for each other but it is hate at first sight. Holly sees Eric as a rude, crude slob, he thinks she is dull, uptight and definitely not his type.

When both parents are killed in a road accident, their lawyer tells Holly and Eric that they have been nominated to look after baby Sophie and the two find themselves living with Sophie as a family.

The usual cliched domestic situations are played out with Holly trying to cope with motherhood and Eric grudgingly dealing with changing nappies etc. Anyone with a baby will recognize the scenario and laugh at their efforts. But this is a romantic comedy so where does the romance come in?

Well, it might be when a handsome doctor comes on the scene, but then again it might not.

Director Greg Berlanti's film is entertaining enough but you won't be rolling in the aisles.

The Social Network (12a)

Harvard in the late eighties and Mark Zuckerberg is bemoaning the fact that he has not been invited to join any of the exclusive student clubs. His girlfriend is bored and decides to finish with him. Drunk and angry, the computer nerd goes online and sets up 'FaceMash.com' a site where male students can award ratings to 'the female students. The site attracts over 20,000 hits in 2 hours, the Harvard network crashes and Zuckerberg is brought before the University court. However, his IT skills bring him to the attention of the upper crust Winklevoss twins who are trying to set up a Harvard dating site. He agrees to help them but instead works on his own idea. This is the beginning of 'Facebook,' which is hugely successful and spreads worldwide. His friend Eduardo Savarin (Andrew Garfield) puts up the money to develop the site and becomes a partner in the new company. Later, Sean Parker founder of Napster gets involved and Savarin is frozen out of the company.

The story is told entirely in flashback and traces how Savarin and the Winklevoss brothers sue Zuckerberg for millions of dollars.

Based on the book 'The Accidental Billionaires' the film doesn't exactly show Zuckerberg in a good light but I'm sure he doesn't give a toss when he is totting up his billions.

The director is David Fincher and his casting of Jesse Eisenberg as the computer genius is spot on, showing him as the self-obsessed nerd one imagines Zuckerberg to be. Andrew Garfield gives a good performance as the loyal friend left behind when the company hits the big time and Justin Timberlake is excellent as the slick go-getter Sean Parker.

October, 2010

Eat Pray Love (PG)

Elisabeth Gilbert is a writer dis-satisfied with her marriage and her life. On an assignment in Bali she visits a medicine man who tells her she will have two marriages, one short and one long. He cannot tell her which one she is in at present. She resorts to prayer to help her decide what to do and her prayer is apparently answered since she opts for divorce. On the rebound she falls for young actor David (James Franco) but he is not the man for her. She then decides to take a year to 'find herself' and sets off on a trip, first to Rome, then India and finally back to see the medicine man in Bali.

Her sojourn in Italy seems to restore her zest for life and she leaves there feeling upbeat but although the time spent in India is meant to be spent in restful meditation, she fails to find that inner peace, although she does make friends.

She returns to Bali for the advice of the medicine man and there meets Felipe (Javier Bardem,) who falls in love with her. Despite her feelings for him, but she is unable to commit. Even after spending a year away from her life in New York she cannot make up her mind on the path her life should take.

Does she find happiness? Well, wait and see -- and it is a long wait. I am a huge fan of Julie Roberts but even for me, director Ryan Murphy's film drags and sags in the middle.

Eat Pray Love is a best-selling memoir but if the book is as downbeat as the film I think I will pass on it.

Tamara Drewe (15)

Tamara Drewe (Gemma Arteron) a successful journalist goes back to the village where she grew up an ugly duckling. The difference is she has had a nose job and has turned into a gorgeous swan.

She attracts three lovers: former boyfriend Andy (Luke Evans,) rock drummer Ben (Dominic Cooper) and older man Nicholas (Roger Allan.) As a girl she had had a crush on Nicholas, a crime novelist. Nicholas is married to Beth and between them they run a 'Writers' Retreat' for aspiring novelists but he is a philanderer, betraying his wife on numerous occasions.

If it is a typical picture of village life, I'm glad I live in a town.

I think TAMARA DREWE is meant to be a comedy and there are a few funny scenes, particularly the tragic climax involving cows but I found it the worst movie I've seen in a long time. Save us from any more of Director Stephen Frear's offerings.

However, apparently the film is based on a cartoon strip and the story is a loose (very) adaptation of the Thomas Hardy book 'Far from the Madding Crowd' so there. What do I know about classic literature? And I thought I was educated.

September, 2010

The Expendables (15)

In the old days it used to be 'send in the cavalry' and the rescuers would gallop on screen heralded by suitable music. Now, when all else fails, who steps in? Yes, the Expendables, but not on white horses. This team of tough thugs are more likely to arrive by boat or seaplane accompanied by ear-splitting explosions, yells and screams.

When the latest job is to sort out a dictator in the little South American island of Vilena, Barney Ross (Sylvester Stallone) and Lee Christmas (Jason Statham) arrive to case the joint but it is not clear if the 'dictator' really is the bad guy. An ex CIA agent seems to be running the show and the naughty General is merely a puppet. The duo's contact is Sandra but she is captured by the nasty agent and left behind when they escape from the island so they return with their fellow mercenaries.

The whole film is one long 2 hour fight and the body count increases by the minute. Not my cup of tea although sometimes it is so ridiculous it is really funny. One tiny subplot (involving Christmas and his girlfriend) is thrown in to prove that the macho men are humans and not muscle bound robots and there is a hint that Barney has a yen for Sandra but it doesn't make the movie any more interesting.

If you like Sly Stallone you might enjoy this, otherwise steer clear.

The Expendables is directed by Stallone himself.

Salt (12a)

Russian secret agents infiltrate the CIA but not in the way you would expect. As children in Russia they are trained in spy school then brought up as U S citizens. Angelina Jolie as Evelyn Salt is the government agent chosen to interrogate a Russian defector but after accusing her of being a double agent he kills his guards and escapes. The CIA hunts her down with the usual high speed car chases and accompanying mayhem but she eludes a few hundred pursuers and gains the safety of a Russian ship. From then on it is a case of is she or isn't she.

It certainly looks as if she is on the 'wrong' side when she takes part in a plot against the American President.

It is revealed that there is another 'sleeper' but it doesn't take much to work out who he is.

Billed as an action thriller, the movie certainly lives up to its name with Jolie performing some death-defying stunts (apparently she did them all herself) and there are certainly some scenes where the audience collectively holds its breath.

Her CI A boss is Ted Winter (Liev Schreiber), backing her up all the way when everyone else is against her but it looks as if even he eventually begins to suspect her.

The much publicised gender change of the hero/heroine of Salt probably increased the audience turning out to see the film since Tom Cruise was intended to be the original lead. I think a female lead made it much more interesting so congrats to director Phillip Noyce.

August, 2010

Rebound (15)

Catherine Zeta-Jones is Sandy a newly divorced mother of two. She has been out of the job market for years but finds herself a job in a TV Sports Channel Company. In need of a babysitter she takes on 25 year old Aram who is separated from his French wife but so soft-hearted he will not divorce her because she will lose her green card. Aram eventually takes on the role of full-time nanny to Sandy's children. The 'humour' is milked to excess, with every likely and unlikely scenario imaginable.

Romance blossoms between him and 40 year-old Sandy but she ends the affair because of the age difference. Aram goes off on a trip around the world and returns several years later all grown up.

What happens then? Well, like the rest of the film the story is predictable.

Zeta-Jones is plausible as the divorcee, newly freed from the restrictions of her domineering philandering husband, yet not quite into the dating scene. She obviously has nothing in common with Aram's goofy friends and he is subjected to ribbing and ridicule from her work colleagues so the romance seems doomed from the outset. One big advantage is that her two obnoxious brats actually like him because he acts like a child himself.

Director Bart Freundlich is also the writer of the film so blame him for the juvenile jokes and situations.

Knight and Day (12A)

Having seen the trailer for this film, I was looking forward to it and am glad to say I was not disappointed.

Roy Miller (Tom Cruise) is entrusted with a valuable new invention and the safety of the inventor. In the airport he 'accidentally' bumps into June Haver (Cameron Diaz) on her way to be bridesmaid at her sister's wedding. Initially June is told that the plane is full and she will need to catch a later flight but then a seat becomes available. By the time the plane makes a crash landing Roy has dispatched the pilot and all the passengers. He tells her he is an F B I agent who has been betrayed by his partner and is now being hunted down. For her own safety she is forced to stay with him

High speed car chases, daredevil stunts, good fun and edge of seat drama keep you hooked as the daring duo seek to elude government bad guys, with the action moving to a remote island, to Austria and to Spain where Knight and Day are caught up in a motor bike in the middle of the bull-run.

The plot takes a twist and for a while it is unclear who the goodies are but it is all finally ironed out.

June, 2010

Robin Hood (12a)

Robin Longstride (Russell Crowe) has spent 10 years fighting in the Crusades with King Richard, and the army is now on its way home. In a final battle to capture a French castle the king is killed. His friend, Robert Loxley, is taking the royal crown to England where the king's brother John is now the ruler. Loxley is ambushed by traitor Sir Godfrey but Robin arrives to save the day -- and the crown. He promises the dying Loxley that he will return the man's sword to his father and when he gets to Nottingham, Loxley senior persuades him to take the place of his son, with the son's wife Lady Marion (Cate Blanchette) thrown in as a bonus. Robin is no longer a lowly archer but a knight of the realm.

Meanwhile back in London the new king is imposing crippling taxes on his subjects with Sir Godfrey, his long time friend put in charge of collecting them. This brings the country to the brink of civil war and it is only united by the threat of an invasion by the King of France. During the fighting in shallow water near what looks like the white cliffs of Dover, Robin has his final battle with Godfrey and manages to save Marion from drowning. (Why was she there? I don't know.)

Instead of being grateful, King John outlaws Robin so no doubt director Ridley Scott's next movie will be full of the exploits of Robin Hood and his merry men, outwitting the law in Sherwood Forest.

Having been brought up on the light-hearted legends of the folk hero who robbed the rich to help the poor, ROBIN HOOD is not what I expected. It's not exactly history and all the battle scenes make it a bit grim -- tedious as well as they seem to go on and on -- and on. It is also hard to keep track of who is who.

However Russell Crowe is convincing in his role and Cate Blanchette makes a spirited Maid Marion. Oscar Isaacs plays King John with just the right amount of arrogance and Mark Strong is superb as his pal, the evil Sir Godfrey, his performance reminding me of childhood pantomimes. I could hardly keep myself from hissing every time he appeared on screen. So I did enjoy the film even if not for the right reasons.

Cop Out (15


Jimmy is a cop in NYPD. He needs money to pay for his daughter's wedding but his interference in an undercover operation sees him suspended from duty without pay. However, he owns a rare baseball card that is worth thousands of dollars. Trouble starts when he is selling the card and the shop is robbed, the robbers taking the precious card. It goes from the original thief to a ruthless Mexican gangster and drug dealer.

The rest of the film deals with Jimmy's efforts to retrieve the card, helped by his sidekick Paul who has his own problems. He thinks his wife is cheating on him.

Bruce Willis plays Jimmy, playing Bruce Willis. Paul is played by Tracy Morgan, supposedly a funny guy whose jokes you can see coming a mile away.

The film is a send-up of all the other cop movies and is nowhere near as funny as it is billed but you might enjoy it.

The director is Kevin Smith.

Sex and the City 2 (15)

Time has moved on and Carrie and her friends are beginning to feel their ages especially Samantha (Kim Cattrall) who is going through the menopause and is like a walking chemist shop with her cache of vitamin pills and hormone creams.

Carrie and Mr. Big have settled into a routine of nights in front of the box, Charlotte (Kristin Davis) is overwhelmed with domesticity and the tantrums of her two little girls and Miranda (Cynthia Nixon) is frustrated by the attitude of her boss.

When Samantha meets a Middle Eastern millionaire who invites the four girls to spend a few days at one of his hotels in Abu Dhabi, they jump at the chance. Whilst there Carrie meets an old flame and temptation beckons.

First class travel, luxurious living, designer fashions, what else is there to life? Nothing much and that is the plot of the movie. It runs for 2 1/2 hours and it is 2 hours too long.

There is the odd humorous one liner that evokes a snigger, (after all the title does tell us the emphasis is obviously on sex) but in the main, the mood of the filmgoers at the showing I attended appeared to be boredom.

Sorry, Mr. Director Michael Patrick King, I did not like your film.

Review: Crazy Heart Pat Byrne, February, 2010

3rd June, 2009

Angels and Demons (12a)

Tom Hanks returns as Robert Langdon in this thriller, based in Dan Brown's successful novel. Whilst not exactly a prequel, Angels and Demons was written before the Da Vinci Code and the story follows a similar theme - the Catholic Church's struggle with forces out to destroy it.

A secret sect known as the Illuminati, dating back four centuries, returns to threaten the Church. The Illuminati had first made its appearance when men of science began to question traditional beliefs.

A pope has died and the cardinals gather in Rome to elect his successor. At the same time a powerful, highly explosive substance called 'antimatter' has been harvested from the Large Hadron Collider in Switzerland. This time bomb is stolen and used to threaten the cardinals and the Vatican itself.

The film follows Langdon and scientist Vittoria Vetra in their search for this substance before it detonates and destroys the Vatican.

Fast-paced action, and breathtaking hot wheels car dashes take the audience around Vatican City as Langdon deciphers the clues that will lead him to the bomb, with hordes of dead bodies left in his wake at every church and crypt he locates.

If you have read the book you might be disappointed in director Ron Howard's film. Although there appears to be a lot happening I found it 'thin' in places.

12 Rounds (12a)

Detective Danny Fisher (John Cena) arrests dangerous criminal Miles Jackson (Aidan Gillen.) but during the arrest his girlfriend is accidentally killed. A year later Jackson breaks out of prison vowing revenge on the cop he sees as responsible for her death. He kidnaps Fisher's girlfriend, Molly. Fisher has then to complete 12 tasks or she will be killed.

We tag along with the detective as he deciphers the clues but he is always one step behind the criminal, although he survives each 'round.'

A runaway tram scenario has echoes of the film 'Speed' - in fact the whole movie is a mishmash of everything that has been done before in every cop show and thriller that has come out of Hollywood. There is action aplenty but most of it is predictable and the ending is just too convenient. Amongst his girlfriend's many talents is the ability to pilot the helicopter in which the villain attempts to make his escape. Well, it is only a story.

The film is directed by Renny Harlin and also stars Ashley Scott as Molly. If you are at a loose end it might be worth seeing but don't worry if you miss it.

18th May, 2009

State of Play (12a)

A young female researcher apparently commits suicide in a subway station.