Our reviewers chose the best of upcoming cinema, concerts, visual arts and stage events.
1 Some of my favourite action films have the self-confidence to take the rise out of themselves, and though directed by a Finn, Big Game channels the undercurrent of silliness in such cheesy Hollywood classics as Die Hard and Clear and Present Danger. Samuel L. Jackson enters into the spirit of things, playing a US President who's forced to parachute out of Air Force One during an apparent terrorist attack.
He lands in the middle of a wild Finnish forest, and finds out that one of his Secret Service minders has betrayed him and is now hunting him down. To his aid comes a spiriting young boy called Oskari, a would-be hunter who's determined to prove himself to his dad. Big Game is full of winning in-jokes and hilariously implausible action sequences, and is very careful not to spoil the fun by outstaying its welcome.
Not everything in Big Game makes sense, and a political sub-plot involving Jim Broadbent as a scheming Washington insider doesn't really go anywhere in the end. But Jalmari Helander's film really is refreshingly unpretentious, and an awful lot of fun.
2 I've always had a soft spot for Chris Rock, a brilliant stand-up comic and satirist who's struggled to find a home in Hollywood's homogenised landscape. In Top Five, which he wrote and directed, Rock comes of age, playing a comic actor in crisis. Andre Allen has become Hollywood's favourite funny man in a shockingly dumb action franchise in which he stars as a tough guy called Hammy who wears a bear suit.
The films are hugely popular, but Andre has become sick and tired of them, and now wishes to be taken seriously. To that end he's currently about to star in Uprize!, a po-faced historical drama about a Haitian slave revolutionary. His adoring public, and the critics, are dubious, and Rosario Dawson co-stars as a New York Times reporter who spends an afternoon interviewing him. As they wander through Manhattan together, Andre meditates on art, celebrity and the continuing stereotyping of even the biggest black stars. There are shades of Richard Linklater and vintage Woody Allen to Mr Rock's ambitious, intelligent and accomplished film, and praise doesn't come much higher than that.
3 Fans of American television will be very familiar with the career of Jon Stewart, comedian, critic and host of The Daily Show, Comedy Central's bracing satirical news show that pokes fun at everyone from Fox News to Barack Obama. Stewart is leaving the show this summer, and has already branched out into film-making with Rosewater, his debut feature, a gruelling drama based on the true story of Maziar Bahari. In 2009, the London-based, Iranian-Canadian journalist was arrested in Tehran after filing reports describing violence against protesters during the country's controversial presidential election. For 118 days thereafter, he endured a nightmare at the hands of a barbaric interrogator whom he nicknamed 'Rosewater'. His tormentor was a temperamental oaf who beat and slapped Maziar and subjected him to all sorts of psychological torture.
For months on end, Maziar endured solitary confinement interrupted only by brief periods of exercise and sudden visits from 'Rosewater', who told him that no one cared about him and listened into and mocked Maziar's phone calls to his pregnant wife. Stewart's film has been warmly received by American critics, but doesn't make for easy viewing.
Rosewater is playing at the IFI.
1 Britain's long-in-the tooth boyband Take That are seemingly unstoppable. The loss of Robbie Williams and the less essential Jason Orange has turned a quintet into a trio and hasn't dented their popularity one bit. Their third 'comeback' album, III, was a chart-topper and tickets for their four-date Irish tour - two in Belfast and a pair in Dublin - shifted quickly. With the 3Arena hosting their last show on Irish soil tonight, one can expect the ever-dependable Gary Barlow and his sidekicks, Mark Owen and Howard Donald, to deliver several pure-pop nuggets. All together now: "Never forget where you're coming from..."
Take That, 3Arena, Dublin, tonight.
2 Tipped as ones to look out for in 2015 by the BBC's increasingly influential Sound Of... poll, quartet Sunset Sons look like they fight over the hair straighteners. But there's more to the Anglo-Australian outfit led by Rory Williams than looking good and their brand of surfer rock has already attracted a lot of praise on the road.
They are signed to Polydor, who will no doubt be hoping that the band can deliver big sales, and their big-hearted, highly catchy, faintly Kings of Leon-like music to date suggests such an aspiration mightn't be too far off the mark. Of course, the Sound Of... poll has proved to be unreliable in the past - anyone know were The Bravery are now? No, thought not.
Sunset Sons, Whelan's, Dublin, tonight.
3 Paul Brady celebrates 50 - yes, 50 - years in the music business this year and the man from Strabane, Co Tyrone, continues to pull them in thanks to his well-honed mix of trad and radio-friendly crowd-pleasers. He went solo in 1978 and has proved to be a productive soul since, but much of his best music pre-dates that: think Planxty and his subsequent partnership with Andy Irvine.
Brady has just released a live album culled from a month of shows he performed at Vicar Street in 2001 and the quality of the guests - Elvis Costello, Van Morrison - attests to his long-acknowledged standing in the industry. It was the late promoter Peter Aiken who convinced him to play a residency at his then new venue and the Dublin 8 theatre has subsequently proved to be an inspiring room for Brady and his songs.
Paul Brady, Vicar Street, Dublin, Sunday.
4 Some excitable UK critics have drawn comparison between another BBC Sound Of.... nominee, Rae Morris (pictured above), and the concert-shy Enya and while there are hints of the Donegal lady's ethereal approach on her debut album, Unguarded, we think she sounds a lot more like Ellie Goulding. Released early in the year, the album somehow got lost in the cracks, but it boasts enough engaging material to suggest the fey Morris and her piano won't be just a passing fancy for 2015.
She has played Dublin before and, on that occasion, the environs of the Unitarian Church of St Stephen's Green, provided a perfect backdrop. She'll have to work harder to make her music translate in the less lovely venue she finds herself in this week.
Rae Morris, Academy Green Room, Dublin, Friday.
Irish artist Kathy Prendergast has long been a committed map-maker - albeit a highly eccentric one. She came to fame in the mid-1990s with her City Drawings: intricately detailed hand-made maps representing only roads, streets and other routes through urban landscapes. All other essential cartographic information - names of districts and landmarks, references to scale or orientation - was assiduously excluded.
What emerged were dense and delicate linear patterns: beautifully complex depictions of place that were, nevertheless, more poetic than practical.
For a later piece, Prendergast produced a map of the United States that listed only place-names containing the word 'Lost': Lost Creek, Lost Valley, Lost Lake - and so many more.
Wherever you found yourself on this map, you would be lost. In this representation of America, everyone, everywhere, was searching for somewhere they couldn't find.
Prendergast's current exhibition at Cork's Crawford Gallery (always a wonderful place to get lost in for a little while) includes one particular work that goes even further in stripping away any assured sense of place. This is a fascinating, forceful installation composed of more than 20 geographical globes - standard, familiar representations of the earth - but with each one painted deep black.
Though they are precisely the types of models we might find in a classroom or a scientist's study, these instructional tools now show us nothing - as if all knowledge of the earth's surface has been obliterated.
These latest 'maps' by Prendergast are solemnly disturbing - suggesting, perhaps, that we are now more lost than ever before.
Kathy Prendergast, 'OR', April 10 - June 13, Crawford Art Gallery, Cork.