SHADOW DANCER (Ireland/UK/15A/101mins)
Directed by James Marsh. Starring Clive Owen, Andrea Riseborough, Gillian Anderson, Aidan Gillen, Domhnall Gleeson, Brid Brennan, Dave Wilmot.
THE PLOT: Belfast, 1973, and young Collette (Maria Laird) passes on the job of getting her dad's cigarettes to her little brother, Sean - who promptly returns home in the arms of a stranger, dead, having been caught in the crossfire. Twenty years later, and Collette (Riseborough) is fighting the good fight, alongside her brothers, Gerry (Gillen) and Connor (Gleeson) - in the name of the brother, pretty much. When she's caught during an attempted London train bombing, Collette is presented with two simple options by MI5 officer Mac (Owen, who still looks like a leading man's brother) - either become an informer or go to jail, 400 miles away from her young son (Cathal Maguire). Collette chooses the former...
THE VERDICT: Based on one-time ITN Belfast correspondent Tom Bradby's 1998 novel, Shadow Dancer offers up plenty of intrigue and espionage without ever necessarily transcending the Northern Ireland thriller sub-genre that we've all grown to know and mistrust. There's nothing inherently wrong here - James Marsh is a fine director (having previously given us the likes of Man On Wire, The King and Project Nim), whilst Riseborough is particularly striking in a strong cast. Marsh captures this grey time in this grey city, and Bradby's potboiler has its thrills and spills - it's just that we've been here before. Many times. RATING: 3/5
MOVIES.IE'S ONE TO WATCH!
THE IMPOSTER (UK/IFI/99mins)
Directed by Bart Layton. Starring Frederic Bourdin, Carey Gibson, Adam O'Brian, Charlie Parker, Nancy Fisher, Beverly Dollarhide.
THE PLOT: It's October 1997, and we hear a call to a Spanish police station, a tourist claiming to have found a teenage boy traumatised and unwilling to speak. Cut to just a few days later, and 23-year old French-Algerian Frederic Bourdin knows he has to come up with a good story to stay in care. And so he claims to be an American kid, abducted and sexually abused. Demanding to be left alone in the care centre's office for the night so he can phone his family and thus finally reveal his identity to authorities, Bourdin searches through the missing persons files, phoning various American police stations posing as a Spanish social worker until he finds someone he believes might be a perfect fit - on June 13th, 1994, 13-year old Nicholas Barclay went missing on his way home in San Antonio, Texas. Soon, his sister is on a flight over to Spain. And Bourdin is becoming increasingly worried, especially when he finally sees a clear picture of Nicholas - blond-haired and blue-eyed. Bourdin gets a fellow inmate to match the young boy's three simple tattoos. He dies his black hair blond. He keeps his cap down below his eyes and decides to say close to nothing. Much to his surprise, Casey Gibson welcomes back her long-lost brother with open arms and photos of the family. And that's when this true story starts getting truly weird...
THE VERDICT: Notorious French-Algerian conman Frederic Bourdin is, as director Bart Layton has stated, a man who clearly sees attention as affection. Unwanted as a child, Bourdin spent his life pretending to be a little boy lost in various countries around Europe (including Ireland), happy to be taken into whatever childcare system would have him. And then he would move on, adapting a new identity at each new destination. Currently living in France with a wife and three kids, Bourdin is still plainly delusional, as his YouTube page so painfully proves. And he's angry with Layton, despite not having actually seen the film.
As with Marsh's admittedly superior Man On Wire, Layton uses interviews with the main protagonists along with actors recreating key moments in the story to create what is, at heart, a classic thriller. It's an approach that comes across as unnecessarily flashy at times, but the story is so utterly remarkable and so increasingly ridiculous that your head is spinning too fast by the third act to notice any filmmaking flaws. Bourdin's story was made into a mediocre feature last year, The Chameleon (co-starring Ellen Barkin, no less), but there's nothing quite like the real thing. RATING: 4/5
THE THREE STOOGES (USA/PG/92mins)
Directed by Bobby Farrelly, Peter Farrelly. Starring Sean Hayes, Chris Diamantopoulos, Will Sasso, Sofia Vergara, Jane Lynch, Jennifer Hudson, Craig Bierko, Larry David, Brian Doyle-Murray, The Situation.
THE PLOT: Divided into three distinct adventures (the Stooges having been very much a shorts sensation), we first meet Larry (Hayes), Curly (Sasso) and Moe (Diamantopoulos) as young boys at the Sisters Of Mercy Orphanage (run by Lynch’s Mother Superior and a dragged-up Larry David’s Sister Mary-Mengele), with little or no hope of adoption. In the second episode, our boys are dispatched to the big city in the hope of raising the $830,000 necessary to save the orphanage, and are soon wrapped up in a lovers’ (Vergara and Bierko) evil plan to knock off the woman’s rich husband (Kirby Heyborne). Oh, and then Moe ends up on Jersey Shore. Which is just weird.
THE VERDICT: With everyone from Russell Crowe to Sean Penn, Jim Carrey and Paul Giamatti having been in the running for the Farrelly brothers’ long-gestating big-screen update of the 1930s and ‘40s comedy giants, that the final film should settle on three relative unknowns (Hayes is hardly box-office) is admirable. The leading trio are well cast, leaving the Farrellys and regular co-writer Mike Cerrone to get on with the task of making the damn thing funny. Which they almost do, the Farrellys a long, long way from their triple-whammy arrival of Dumb & Dumber, Kingpin and There’s Something About Mary. That they’re currently working on a sequel to Dumb & Dumber with original leads Carrey and Jeff Daniels is a sure sign of desperation, but it may also prove the saving of the brothers. And of Carrey. In the meantime, The Three Stooges won’t quite reach the parts, but there’s a few latenight chuckles to be found here. RATING: 2/5
THE WATCH (USA/15A/102mins)
Directed by Akiva Schaffer. Starring Ben Stiller, Vince Vaughn, Jonah Hill, Richard Ayoade, Rosemarie DeWitt, Will Forte, Mel Rodriguez, Doug Jones.
THE PLOT: We’re in the generic – and fictional – suburban town of Glenview, Ohio, and the neighbourhood is about to witness the first real excitement of its existence; an alien invasion. As luck would have it for Evan Troutwig (Stiller), he’s the manager of the local Costco, which the aliens have made their base – given that it pretty much stocks anything they might need. But Evan isn’t going down without a fight, especially after his new night watchman (Joseph A. Nunez) ends up brutally murdered. And so Evan heads up a neighbourhood watch, joined by would-be cop Franklin (Hill), philandering party animal Bob (Vaughn) and freshly divorced Brit Jamarcus (Ayoade).
THE VERDICT: What the hell has happened to Ben Stiller? The one-time box-office champ who smartly repackaged Woody Allen for the MTV generation, for a long, long time, Ben Stiller could do no wrong. And then the sequels took a hold.
Just about everyone involved in Little Fockers deserves grief, but even when Stiller steps into something half decent these days - such as 2011’s fine ‘80s tribute Tower Heist - cinema-goers stay away in their millions. Not that The Watch deserves any better, being a lame, lazy-ass, by-the-numbers comedy that, despite the genre mashup, gives off the distinct smell of being well past its sell-by date. RATING: 2/5
IFI - TWENTIETH BIRTHDAY NEWS
Celebrating two decades of forcing subtitles upon the fine citizens of Dublin, next month the IFI have plenty of goodies in store.
As well as screening a season of films that shaped Dublin's favourite art house cinema (for now), there's also an IFI Open Weekend of free screenings, a nostalgic day of all things 1992, a pop-up museum in the IFI Irish Film Archive, along with talks, interactive tours, an Oscar and, yowsa, a party!
But first, a few fun facts about the current residents of that lovely old Quaker Meeting House building at 6 Eustace Street - over the last two decades, over 3.1m people have plonked their asses down for some celluloid culture, with over 63,000 screenings and over 5,900 films. The most popular offerings being The Diving Bell And The Buterfly, which scored 11,000 attendees in 2008, narrowly edging out the previous record holder, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. The IFI Café Bar has served over 1.78m cups of tea and coffee, most of them hot, whilst the archive currently preserves 611 different collections with over 26,000 cans of films - the oldest being a Lumiere brothers film of Dublin and Belfast from 1897.
Amongst the special guests joining in on the 20th anniversary celebrations are Jeremy Irons and Sinead Cusack, who will be present for the 1992 revisited screening of Waterland, on September 1st. The day will also be marked by 1992 prices on tea and coffee, a free table quiz celebrating all things films and nineties, whilst the first 20 people through the IFI doors that day who were born in 1992 will be given free IFI membership. Later in the month, there will be another free screening, this time of the Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman travesty/classic Far And Away, which will be, due to health and safety issues, screened outdoors.
For a full list of the fab'n'groovy happenings throughout the month of September at the IFI, visit their website, www.ifi.ie, or just hang about in the lobby every day.
Highlights of this year's Darklight Festival include a Terence Davies Retrospective and public interview; the rather talented Irish cinematographer Seamus McGarvey In Conversation; a Masterclass with the Avengers Assemble Team (a team which includes McGarvey, of course); Grabbers VFX Workshop and screening; Indie Game premier, a games panel and exhibition and, just to ensure all our futures, a kids workshops and screenings.
As well as Indie Game: The Movie, other premieres at the festival include Grandma LoFi (charting a Scandanavian 70-year old sudden turn to recording and releasing music straight from her living room, releasing 59 albums in seven years), Michael Grigsby's We Went To War, Meet The Fokkens (charting 69-year old twins Louise and Martin Fokkens, who have worked as prostitutes in Amsterdam's red-light district for over 40 years) and the Irish sci-fi thriller The End Of The Earth Is My Home (which screens with Conor Finnegan's short, Fear Of Flying).
For full details, hit www.darklight.ie.