Tuesday 12 December 2017

Genre-hopping thriller offers no shelter


Aine O'Connor and Padraic McKiernan


Cert 16

Julianne Moore is a funny one, a good actress who doesn't always make good film choices. So while some actors offer reasonable odds that the films they're in will be good, and other actors offer reasonable odds that the films they're in will be bad, Julianne can go either way. To wit, her last film, A Single Man, was great. Shelter, is pretty bad.

Moore plays Cara, a forensic psychiatrist who is called in by her also psychiatrist father (Jeffrey DeMunn) to examine an unusual case, David/Adam (Jonathan Rhys Meyers). Convinced there is a perfectly sound medical reason for his odd behaviour, Cara, widowed mother of a small daughter, sets out to seek proof. Instead she finds a series of spooky people, places and events that make her question everything she believes in, morally and scientifically.

Not a bad idea but in execution it becomes too busy and borderline bonkers, all too often steering perilously close to parody. It crosses genres, between psychological thriller and horror in a way that does it no good because it achieves neither. Rhys Meyers gets ample opportunity to display his acting wares given that he's playing several roles and Moore gives her all until three-quarters of the way through where she seems to have some doubts. But neither of them can save it.

That said, the 16-year-olds in my company, devotees of 'freaky films' thought it was rather good.


Shelter opens on April 9

Remember Me

Cert 15A

Robert Pattinson hasn't quite shaken off his connection with the unliving, for in Remember Me he is still talking to his dead brother. His character Tyler Hawkins is 21, loathes his rich father (Pierce Brosnan), loves his little sister Caroline and woos endless women, bringing them back to the slacker's paradise he shares with his wise-cracking chum Aidan (Tate Ellington). When their civil rights are infringed by a cop (Chris Cooper) they hatch a plan to add his daughter Ally (Emilie de Ravin from Lost) to the list of Tyler's loved and left. It's meant -- weirdly -- as a way of getting revenge on her father.

Ally doesn't fall as predictably as others and love blooms. The chemistry between them and their story is the best part of a film so often let down by plot. As a portrayal of youth and the self-obsessed tendency towards feeling wronged it is good.

The ending has incensed some critics in the US who accuse it of being manipulative, and even exploitative. It's certainly overblown, stealing from and overshadowing the rest of the emotions that the film attempts to delve into. However, without meaning to condescend, many of these perceptions come with experience and Remember Me is aimed at a younger fan base, the Twilight crew who just love Robert Pattinson. And they won't be disappointed. He looks great, his performance isn't bad even if he is channelling some Dean/Brando thing. Bring the tissues.


Remember Me is in cinemas now

Double Take

Cert 18

One of the many entertaining insights delivered concerning Alfred Hitchcock during Double Take is that he toyed with adding an extra word to the title of his suspense classic The Birds. The word was "for". Hitchcock was joking of course but ironically enough 'For the Birds' is a title that wouldn't be inappropriate for this obscure feature. That last line shouldn't necessarily be read as a criticism.

With this expertly crafted homage to Hitchcock, Belgian filmmaker and media artist, Johan Grimonprez has created a challenging piece that's decidedly left of left-field but never less than absorbing. Set in 1962, and told in docu-drama style, what passes for a narrative revolves around a sinister interaction that occurs between Hitchcock and a mysterious doppelganger at Universal Studios during the making of The Birds. In keeping with the Hitchcockian tone very little is as it seems but Hitchcock Mark 2 claims to come from 1980, the year of Hitchcock's death.

Embellished by a convincing voiceover from Hitchcock soundalike Mark Perry, the chilling, The Seventh Seal-style conversation that ensues is interspersed with fascinating footage from the era charting the various seismic events that came to pass.

Fittingly, for a director who famously enjoyed making cameo appearances in his movies, Hitchcock plays a prominent part in proceedings. Documentary footage and laconic soundbites provide compelling psychological snapshots of a cinema great who, on this evidence, had a stand-up's facility for comic timing.

As bewildering as it is bizarre, Double Take is at the same time a highly interesting and entertaining piece. Its cryptic nature militates against any major mass appeal but art-house regulars will find much to savour.


Double Take is now showing in the IFI

How to Train your Dragon

Cert PG

When faced with an enemy comprised of battalions of genocidal dragons you could be forgiven for believing a defence based on the concept of er... fighting fire with fire is the only way to go. However, DreamWorks' latest animation offering, How to Train Your Dragon, encourages a less destructive approach to conflict resolution.

Going by the opening scenes, it's a message that's lost on the Viking inhabitants of the mythical Norse island that provides the backdrop for this engaging 3D feature. They've got their reasons. For centuries these dragons have had them under siege and they don't take prisoners.

As Hiccup (voiced by Jay Baruchel), the teenage son of bellicose tribal chief Stoick (Gerard Butler) informs us, "fighting dragons is everything around here". Which is a problem for Hiccup as he's trapped in a body more suited to a wimp than a warrior. His father is embarrassed by his son's machismo deficit and Hiccup is also a figure of fun among his peers.

Just when you think life couldn't get any more hopeless for Hiccup he gets lucky when a random pot-shot into the night sky nets him a fabled Night Fury dragon. Legend status awaits if he can provide any evidence of his endeavours, but when he stumbles upon the disabled dragon, unsurprisingly he doesn't have sufficient killer instinct. All is not lost, however, courtesy of Hiccup adopting an enchanting Dragon whisperer-style approach to his new discovery.

Kids will be captivated by the thrilling special effects and the endearing nature of the fire-breathers. Accompanying adults will appreciate an accomplished end-product and a running time that avoids the onset of dragon fatigue.


How to Train your Dragon is now showing in cinemas

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