Monday 23 April 2018

Thriller to fast forward Irish film

Cert 15A

Aine O'Connor, Padraic McKiernan and HIlary A White

KAREN (Amy Huberman) is living a very comfortable existence just outside Dublin with her husband Brendan (Owen McDonnell) and small daughter.

They have love, money and a nice home, just a small discrepancy in accent and an addicts' meeting to indicate there might ever have been any other way. When Karen's ex-boyfriend Karl (Allen Leech) turns up, she does her best to keep it brief, but Karl says they have a joint problem coming at them from the past, one they need to address.

Director and co-writer (with Ronan Carr and Roger Karshan) PJ Dillon's award-winning cinematographc past is evident. Huberman looks great but the surroundings too look good, with some fabulous shots to highlight them, although the panning in and out for extreme close-ups gets a bit much after a while, there is a limit to how many pores we need to see. However, all of this comfort and prettiness sets a contrast to what Karl wants to bring Karen back to, and there is a growing sense of unease and claustrophobia as the story unfolds.

The lack of sub-plot adds intensity to the story, the characters, especially Karen and Karl, are well written and well played, Huberman was a deserving award-winner at the IFTAs, but Leech manages to act seriously creepy. Rewind keeps the audience guessing without any big, fat, red herrings, there's nothing too neat or tidy, and right up to the end there is nothing glaringly foregone about the conclusion. There's a lot of experience in cast and crew and it shows on several levels, Rewind is one of the best mainstream Irish films for a long time.


Opens on Friday

A Turtle's Tale: Sammy's Adventures

Cert G

HEROES in a half-shell may well be a term more associated with their mutant ninja predecessors, but the turtles that populate agreeable 3D animation offering A Turtle's Tale: Sammy's Adventures are no less lacking in chutzpah.

The story kicks off on a beach in California and charts the 50-year life-cycle of a cute little turtle called Sammy (voiced by Mama Mia's Dominic Cooper). Our first encounter with the newly born Sammy sees him struggling to make it down to the oceanfront so that his journey can begin when he's plucked into the air by a ravenous gull.

Fate intervenes and he eventually makes it to the water but not before setting his dewy eyes on Shelly (Gemma Arterton), the turtle that's destined to captivate his carapace, as it were. Cue an ocean-borne odyssey that can be synopsised into a scenario that sees turtle finding turtle, turtle losing turtle and turtle finding turtle again.

Accomplished 3D visuals throw up an array of trippy underwater delights. Stand-out moments include encounters with a savage shark and any number of psychedelic piranhas and eels. There's a touch of the gospel according to Al Gore about the eco-friendly storyline but it pulls back from polemic and the save-the-planet undertones are reined in by John Hurt's laconic narration, and there are enough feel-good songs and mesmeric visuals to ensure that the targeted tot and pre-tween demographic will be suitably enchanted.


Opens on Friday


Cert 15A

Glitzy new thriller Limitless is based on a novel by Alan Glynn, but the universal themes touched upon are evocative of a much older tome. The book of Genesis would have us believe that an apple from the Tree of Knowledge offered God-like powers to those tempted to consume. A similar set-up is delivered courtesy of this initially absorbing feature starring The Hangover's Bradley Cooper and Robert De Niro. Just think of the Tree of Knowledge in tablet form.

The story is told from the point of view of Eddie Morra (Cooper), a washed-up writer whose life is about to take a turn for the transformative. He's behind with his rent, his novel has yet to see a first line, while his long-term girlfriend, played by Abbie Cornish, is about to pull the plug on their flatlining relationship.

Everything changes when a chance meeting with a shady in-law offers Eddie access to a top-secret drug. Just one tablet has Eddie on a fastrack to fame and fortune. He has his novel finished in days while previously untapped potential as a mathematical whizz brings him to the attention of a corporate kingpin, played by De Niro. So the chemical Holy Grail? A drug without a downside? Well, not quite. Its side-effects include premature death by Russian mafia. Limitless has its moments but while Cooper exhibits plenty of A-list potential he doesn't fully convince that he's ready to graduate to the big leagues. There's also a jaded aspect to De Niro's character that sees him reduced to delivering a masterclass in going through the motions.


Opens Friday

You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger

Cert 12A

WE'RE used to sympathising with Woody Allen for reasons different to those provided by this latest dramedy-farce set in upper-middle-class London. Allen's neurotic New York shtick was a consistent source of laughter during his golden years as writer, director and bungling protagonist. With Europe now his shoot location of choice, he seems to have less to say, preferring to sit back and film a cherry-picked cast of pretty faces dilly-dallying in affluent surroundings. This is certainly how You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger feels.

Alfie (Anthony Hopkins) has left wife Helena (Gemma Jones) during a late-life crisis that sees him take up with airhead gold-digger Charmaine (Lucy Punch). Helena seeks the solace of Pauline Collins's clairvoyant, hence the awful title. Meanwhile, Alfie and Helena's daughter Sally (Naomi Watts) and her loutish novelist husband Roy (Josh Brolin) are also floundering in their relationship. Sally's suave boss Antonio Banderas and heavenly lady-in-red Freida Pinto provide ample distraction for the couple.

They all swan about Notting Hill doing little except being careless in what they wish for and getting it, until an hour into things when Roy's dealings with publishers injects some much-needed juice into the plot. But it's too little too late, before Allen leaves the loose ends loose in the dissatisfactory ending.

While none of the performances can be faulted -- Watts is as English as HP on chips, Jones also excels -- they aren't really given anything of interest to say or do. As a throwaway piece of light-hearted drama, ...Tall Dark Stranger is fine. Just don't expect any of Allen's comic brilliance.


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