More Film Crits from Christina Byrne

Pirates of the Caribbean 2: Dead Man's Chest (12a)

The second in the series, this part comedy, part horror movie sees weird dead sailors dragged up from Davy Jones? locker aboard the ghost ship, The Flying Dutchman. Even Davy Jones himself makes an appearance as an odd creature whose face is covered with tentacles yet somehow looks like Bill Nighy who plays the character. Again Johnny Depp excels as the flamboyant Jack Sparrow with sparring partners Elizabeth (Keira Knightley) and handsome Will (Orlando Bloom.) Both Elizabeth and Will are condemned to die as punishment for helping Jack escape justice in the first film. Jack Sparrow is also condemned to lose his soul to Davy Jones and serve on the Flying Dutchman for ever. The story follows the trio as they hunt for the Dead Man's Chest, which contains something other than Spanish gold. During their search Jack and Will meet up with and island full of cannibals and these scenes are the funniest in the movie. The film is an extravaganza of furious extended sword fights (they go on forever), fantastic special effects and acres of blood and thunder. You might lose the story half way through but I guarantee you will enjoy the spectacle.
The director is Gore Verbinski.

Christina's Latest Crits - June, 2006.

Mission Impossible 111 (12a)

The movie opens with Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) and his fiance Julie (Michelle Monaghan) tied up and being threatened by evil arms dealer Owen Davian (Philip Seymour Hoffmann.) Unless Hunt reveals the location of a device known as the 'rabbit's foot' Davian will kill Julie.

The story is then told in flashback where Ethan Hunt is in the middle of a party to celebrate his engagement to Julie. He gets a phone call and leaving his bride- to-be he shoots off to rescue another IMF agent but as usual something goes wrong.

Later he is 'persuaded' to do another job for the department and the action moves to the Vatican then Shanghai where he carries out impossible stunts amongst the skyscrapers.

Like the other Mission Impossible movies it is full of action and suspense but it is not exactly in the unmissable category. The director is J.J. Abrams.

The Omen (15)

An American diplomat (Liev Schreiber) is stationed in the Embassy in Rome. His wife (Julie Stiles) is about to have their first child. He is told that the child did not survive the birth but there is another baby whose mother died giving birth to him. The motherless child replaces his own son but his wife is not told about the deception. When the ambassador is killed in an 'accident' he becomes the new ambassador and moves to London.

When the child's nanny commits suicide a new nanny (played by Mia Farrow) arrives and there is a strange bond between her and the child, Damien. The film is full of tense moments heightened by the dramatic music and will keep you on the edge of your seat right to the last gripping scene. Even for a remake where the audience knows the story the action is riveting.

The director is John Moore and the child Damien who does nothing more than stare menacingly, is played by Seamus Daney-Fitzpatrick.

Poseidon (12a)

Another remake, full of spectacle and drama, the story of the doomed liner Poseidon is brought up-to-date by director Wolfgang Peterson.

Thought to be unsinkable, the ship is caught by a giant wave that causes her to capsize leaving only the revellers in the ballroom alive. The captain tells them help is on its way and they should remain where they are but a handful of passengers and a female stowaway decide to find their own way out.
Like every other disaster movie a few are lost along the way and for every success there is a setback but the little band battle doggedly towards their goal, escape through the propeller shaft.

Kurt Russell plays Robert Ramsey an ex-firemaster and Emmy Rossum is his daughter Jennifer. Others in the group include Richard Nelson (Richard Dreyfuss) and gambler Josh Lucas (Dylan Johns).

Since the emphasis is mainly on action there is little empathy with the characters although the scenes where they swim under water for minutes at a time will have you holding your breath and willing them to succeed. However I must confess I think the original film was much better.

Christina's Latest Crits - 31st May, 2006

Prime (12a)

When they start going out together Rafi is thirty-seven, an 'older woman' compared to twenty-thee year old David. She has recently been divorced and is attending therapy. The romance is complicated by the fact that the therapist is her boyfriend's mother Lisa (Meryl Streep). Of course Lisa doesn't know Rafi is her son's girlfriend and encourages her patient in the relationship. When she finds out she is horrified, not just because of the difference in their ages but because the family is Jewish and her religion means a lot to her. She thinks David should find a nice Jewish girl.

Romantic comedy? Well sort of, but often the comedy is missing and the romance wears thin after a while. Uma Thurman plays Rafi and Bryan Greenberg is David. The movie's writer/director is Ben Younger.

The Da Vinci Code (12a)

The long awaited film of the year has arrived. There's hardly an empty seat in the cinema and the audience is prepared to be enthralled, but were they? Well at the end there was spontaneous applause from ONE solitary fan.

There has been so much hype heralding this movie that frankly it was a bit of a let down. OK, with its cryptic clues, the search for the Holy Grail made a good story but maybe there was just too much plot. It lasted two and a half hours and felt like it.

Obviously the director felt it would be more authentic if the characters spoke in their own language but the subtitles proved a big distraction as were the historical flashbacks thrown in to fill in the background. It felt a bit like a lecture.

Tom Hanks as Professor Robert Langdon lacked his usual spark, the killer monk Silas (Paul Bettany) wasn't quite threatening enough and Sophie Neveu as Audrey Tautou didn't do much. However Ian McKellen excelled as Leigh Teabing and Jean Reno made a convincing police captain.
Director Ron Howard tried too hard.

Christina's Latests Crits - May 2006

American Dreamz (12a)

Hugh Grant stars as Martin Tweed in this story of a 'pop idol' type TV show. Martin Tweed (Tweedie) is the host of the show, cynical, shallow and sleazy - a distinctly unsavoury character. He sends his researchers out to select the contestants instructing them to find a bunch of oddballs, the more freaky the better.

Talent doesn't matter. What does matter is if the public is taken in by the fairytale behind the singer. Contestant Sally's boyfriend is a returning 'war hero' who had been wounded by a stray bullet after only five minutes in the army. Her story tugs at the American heartstrings and she's in. Her main rival is Omer (Sam Golzari) a clumsy ineffective Al Quaeda terrorist who manages to cause havoc even within his own ranks. He is sent to America to keep him out of the way.

Newly elected President Staton (Dennis Quaid) is played as a buffoon (wonder why?) who relies on happy pills to get him out of bed in the morning. When Omer's fellow terrorists find that the president is to judge the final of 'American Dreamz' Omer is issued with a bomb and told to blow himself and the president to eternity.

To be honest the film is a bit rubbishy with most of the cast overacting although Mandy Moore is convincing as Sally who appears na?ve but has a heart of steel. Willem Dafoe shines as the president's advisor. The director is Paul Weitz.

16 Blocks (12a)

Jack Mosley (Bruce Willis) is an ageing alcoholic cop. As his shift is about to end he is ordered to take prisoner Eddie (Mos Def) to court to give evidence. The court is 16 blocks away. On the way there he stops to buy more booze, leaving his charge in the car. A gunman tries to kill the prisoner and Jack shoots the attacker. His ex-partner Frank (David Morse) arrives and tells him he will take over the escort duty but Jack suspects he intends to kill the witness. Eddie's testimony will prove that Frank and several of Jack's colleagues are involved in corruption.

An exciting chase follows leading to a situation where a busload of passengers is held hostage. Jack and Eddie escape and the chase continues. The film is the usual goodies versus baddies and the ending seems predictable. However events throw up an unexpected twist in the tale. Bruce Willis departs from his usual tough guy role, in fact his character is somewhat pathetic. Overall though the film draws you in and is gripping in parts.

16 Blocks is directed by Richard Donner

Christina's Latest Crits - April 2006

Firewall (12a)

Jack Stanfield (Harrison Ford) works as a security consultant in a bank. A debt collector arrives at his work place and says he owes $95,000 to an online betting company. He is not a gambler but someone has hacked into his private account and placed the bets. It is the first step of a plan which will see him transferring large sums of money from the accounts of some of the bank's biggest customers.

The criminals then break into his house and take his family as hostages He is forced to co-operate. If he doesn't, his wife and children will be killed. This is not quite an all-action movie but has its moments and the tension never wanes for one second. Several plot twists add interest and the finale is exciting and satisfying although a bit bloody.

Harrison Ford, as always turns in an excellent performance. Virginia Madsen plays his wife and Paul Bettany as the baddie is chillingly evil.
Full marks to director Richard Longcraine.

Capote (15)

Truman Capote (Phillip Seymour Hoffman) is a best-selling author and journalist in the 50's. Probably his most successful book was based on the true story of a Kansas family that had been murdered by two drifters ? fiction based on fact. The men are caught and convicted of the murder.

'Capote' is not a biography but deals with one specific time in the author's life. Capote (Philip Seymour Hoffman) befriends Perry Smith (Clifton Collins,) one of the criminals and writes the book based on the event and the information the killer gives him. The man is hoping that Capote will help him avoid the death penalty. Since the book cannot be finished until the outcome is known Capote makes no effort to help.

He is shown as self-centred, manipulative and dishonest, using people for his own ends. When his friend Harper Lee (Catherine Keener) publishes her best-seller 'To Kill a Mocking Bird' and everyone is congratulating her, he is not even interested.

Filmgoers are used to feeling some empathy with the main character even if he has faults but there is nothing likeable in the portrayal of Truman Capote.
The film is directed by Bennet Miller. I can't say I enjoyed it.

Two for the money (15)

Matthew McConnaughey plays Brandon Lang a high-flying football player whose career is finished when he suffers an injury on the pitch. He takes a job in a call centre, giving tips and forecasting the results of football matches. Walter Abrams (Al Pacino) recruits him for his betting business, flies him to New York and sets him up in a luxury apartment. He also gives him a new name and makes him the star of his TV tipster programme.

Everything is going well until Lang hits a bad spot and his predictions are inaccurate, losing the firm and its customers millions of dollars. He also gets involved with his boss's wife Toni (Rene Russo.)

The film starts well but really nothing much happens and eventually it gets boring. Don't expect to be entertained.
The director is D J Caruso.

Inside Man (15)

A gang set out to rob a Manhattan bank, taking hostages and making demands for buses and a plane. The gang is led by Dalton Russell played by Clive Owen who is shown in the first scenes as being in some kind of prison cell or enclosed space.

Denzel Washington is the detective in charge of the case and is apparently also a trained negotiator

The film is difficult to follow because it jumps back and forward in time. As it progresses it appears that the robbers are making no attempt to steal any money. The chairman of the bank calls in Jodie Foster who seems to be some kind of a ?fixer' but it isn't clear exactly what she is fixing. There is reference to thefts from Jewish families during the Second World War so maybe that is what the film is about. Who knows? Who cares?

Director Spike Lee's movie failed to capture my interest.

Failure to Launch (12a)

Matthew McConnauchey plays Tripp, 35 years old and still living with his Mom and Dad. He hangs out with two buddies who act as juvenile as he does. If a relationship shows signs of getting serious Tripp invites the girlfriend to his home. When the girl finds he still lives with his parents she backs off.

Desperate to get him to move out, Mom (Kathy Bates) engages a consultant whose specialty is helping offspring to fly the nest. Initially Paula (Sarah Jessica Parker) sees her programme as going well. Her technique is to make the ?client' fall in love with her and want to move into a place of his own. The problem arises when she finds herself falling for Tripp. It doesn't help when his pals reveal she is being paid to go out with him.

The subplot involving Paula's flatmate and one of Tripp's pals provides most of the comic scenes.
Failure to Launch is directed by Tom Dey.

Christina's Latest Crits - March, 2006.

Goodnight and Good Luck (PG)

In early fifties America, Senator Joe McCarthy led a witchhunt when he set up hearings where people were accused of 'Un-American Activities.' Some of these people had no evidence against them other than the fact that a distant relative had once bought a Communist newspaper. It was the period of 'reds under the bed.'

The movie tells the story of television journalist Ed Murrow who stood up against McCarthy and exposed his methods. Although McCarthy was discredited, apparently Murrow never worked in mainstream television again. The filming is in black and white creating the period atmosphere, and archive film of some of the hearings and interviews is slotted in, adding to the sense of realism.

David Strathairn is excellent in the role of Ed Murrow, portraying him as a powerful television personality, hard-hitting and tenacious. One expects George Clooney to have a starring role but he mainly provides backup as colleague Fred Friendly.

Although it was gripping in parts there was the feeling that more explanation and depth was needed especially for a British audience who perhaps would not have known the historical background.
George Clooney was co-writer and director.

The Weather Man (15)

Nicholas Cage is David Spritz, appearing every day on TV as a weather forecaster. The trailer for the film showed it as a comedy. Although there are lots of funny scenes the story is far from comic being centred round the break up of David's marriage and his relationship with his son and daughter, also the lack of communication between him and his father.

David's father Robert (Michael Caine) is a successful and prize-winning author who is suffering from cancer. David tries to follow in his footsteps as a novelist but does not have the talent. Robert even sees his son's lucrative TV career as 'not much of a job' and he doesn't think much of his parenting skills either. Whilst his son is being counselled for drug addiction, his daughter is being made fun of in school.

As always Nicholas Cage and Michael Caine turn in faultless performances but 'The Weather Man' is not the greatest movie ever made.
The director is Gore Verbinski.

Christina's Latest Crits - February 2006

Munich (15)

Munich in 1972 saw Palestinian terrorists murder eleven Israeli athletes in the Olympic village. The film is based on the reprisals in the years following the killings when nine of the assassins are themselves killed. It gives the impression that all the events portrayed are true.
Eric Bana plays Avner, recruited into the hit squad and forced to live undercover for several years. His fellow killers include an antique dealer, a toy maker, an accountant and a driver, all using their skills for different purposes e.g. the toymaker constructs bombs.
Director Steven Spielberg has filmed a gripping thriller but the topic is obviously politically dangerous since his emphasis shows the Israeli nation as being on the side of right. Prime Minister Golda Meir (played by Lynn Cohen) is seen as a strong woman willing to show the enemy that Israel will not be intimidated.
A lot of the action is brutal and bloody, especially the flashbacks where the athletes are kidnapped then murdered. Despite the director?s assertion that film is not biased it will be seen as taking sides in the conflict, even though most of the events are fiction.

Walk The Line (12a)

Based on an autobiography of Johnny Cash the movie deals with the first thirty odd years of his life starting with his upbringing on a farm in Arkansas. Jack his clever and bookish older brother is killed in a horror accident. The father appears to blame young Johnny, saying that God took the wrong son. Johnny grows up feeling insecure and inadequate.
When he gains success as a singer and guitarist, the pressures drive him to drugs and he gets hooked on amphetamines, relying on the pills to get him through his performances. His wife divorces him and he marries country singer June Carter, played by Reece Witherspoon.
Joaquin Pheonix is excellent in the role, seeming to get more like the singer as the movie progresses. Obviously his singing voice can never be the same as the master's
but his actions and mannerisms on stage are pure Johnny Cash. Although I enjoyed the film I can't help feeling it was a trifle sanitized. Was June Carter really as sweet and wholesome as she is portrayed? Was Johnny's tortured victim role totally due to his early life? Was there something missing from this movie?
The answer lies with director James Mangold, although he must have done something right since his leading lady got best actress award at the Baftas

Rumor has it (12a)

How many films begin with the girl taking her fianc? home to meet the parents? Too many. In this case it is Sarah (Jennifer Aniston) travelling with Jeff (Mark Ruffalo) to her younger sister's wedding and there is only one parent, her dad. Throughout her life, Sarah had never felt that she was really part of the family and when grandmother Katherine (Shirley MacLaine) tells her of her mother's affair with Beau Burroughs (Kevin Costner) she becomes convinced that he is her real father. Katherine also tells her that she slept with him and the affair was the basis for the best-selling novel and hit film, the Graduate.
When Sarah meets him he admits the affair but tells her he is cannot be her father since he is sterile. He charms her, she gets drunk and sleeps with him making her the third generation of her family to do so.
Billed as a romantic comedy there is not much romance. Shirley Maclaine got most of the comedy lines and gave a great performance. Jennifer Aniston and Kevin Costner are adequate in their roles but the movie almost sent me to sleep. The director is Bob Reiner.

Christina's Latest Crits

Brokeback Mountain(15)

The film is set in the early sixties and tells of a love affair between two young men that begins when they are sent to herd sheep on Brokeback Mountain.
Heath Ledger is Ennis, morose and inarticulate. He is the complete contrast to Jack (Jake Gyllenhaal) who has a lively outgoing personality.
Ennis denies he is gay, goes back home and marries his sweetheart. The couple have two children but the relationship is not happy. Jack also marries and has a son. Four years after they first met, Jack visits Ennis and the relationship resumes. They continue to meet but Ennis's wife suspects what is going on and asks for a divorce.
The affair runs for twenty years although Jack is still married.
Brokeback Moountain has been hailed as the first 'gay' cowboy movie, being described as a tender love story. It has already been nominated for eight Academy Awards.
Sorry, but I found it slow and tedious with the accents of the main characters being almost incomprehensible. Maybe I would have enjoyed it had I been able to figure out what they were saying to each other. I also couldn't help feeling sympathy for the betrayed wives of those two-timing shepherds.
The film is directed by Ang Lee.

Memoirs of a Geisha (12a)

Two sisters are sold into slavery in Japan. They are separated and sent to Kyoto to learn to be geisha, women whose sole purpose in life is to please men.
The film is the story of one of them. Sayuri (Ziyi Zhang) becomes nothing more than a servant, cleaning the house and looking after the other geisha. The head geisha takes a dislike to her and makes her life a misery.
Coming back to the house from an errand she meets a man who is kind to her and decides that he is the love of her life. He is called the Chairman (Ken Watanabe) Sayuri is then taken under the wing of the owner of a rival geisha house and is sent to the geisha school where she is taught music and dancing. She becomes one of the most sought after geisha.
The war intervenes and she escapes to a small village in the hills but comes back to help a friend of the Chairman set up a business deal with an American officer. Many of the scenes are shot in the rain and at night, giving the film a dark and dreary feel.