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Perfume: The Story of a Murderer


Director: Tom Tykwer

Starring: Ben Wishaw, Dustin Hoffman, Rachel Hurd-Wood, John Hurt, Alan Rickman

If someone was to say that a movie about perfume could be one of the best and most unique movies you would probably say they are a little bit crazy. It might conjure up images of flowers and pink things and the napes of ladies necks. Essentially though, Perfume is a story about desire and murder, played out in the most unconventional way possible.

Jean-Baptiste Grenouille (Wishaw) was born in the gutters of Paris, cast aside by his mother and left to die. When he is found lying amongst the rotting offal of the streets he is taken to an orphanage where he begins a life of forced physical labour. But there is something unique about him. He has an overdeveloped sense of smell and likes nothing more than to savour the different scents of his surroundings.

 With an obsessive hunger to preserve human scent he befriends Baldini (Hoffman) in a bid to learn all that the perfume industry has to offer. When he has exhausted the knowledge he leaves for Grasse, the home of perfumers, to hone his skills. Here he engages in a practice that draws the movie towards its final conclusion.

Tykwer, director of the fantastic Run Lola Run, pulls off a semi-masterpiece with Perfume. His use of sets and scenery paint a beautifully realistic picture of the era. His sense of timing between narration and acting is perfect and his use of the camera to film the sense of smell is as descriptive as is humanly possible.

But the real star of the movie is Wishaw. His portrayal of innocence with a lingering sense wanton desire beyond control is so astute it may leave you breathless. During some scenes the film plays like a silent movie, with only the actor’s expressions holding the viewers attention. And that he does, with deftness other actors struggle to attain ever in their career.

Although it could have done with a bit of chopping around the midriff, Perfume is movie making at its best. If only more films would aspire to this level ingenuity.

*****

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Outlaw


Director: Nick Love

Starring: Sean Bean, Danny Dyer

Director Nick Love is a fan of the seedy side of British culture. He is a fan of violence and the British thirst for it. The Business (which was pretty awful) and Football Factory were ample on thuggery and filled with violent beatings and twangy London accents. So it’s nothing unusual that he would follow he’s passion with his latest release, Outlaw.

Bryant (Bean) has finished his tour of duty in Iraq. He arrives to a country that he sees as wildly different from the place he remembers. Louts have taken over the asylum. When he checks into a hotel he meets Sean Harris (Simon Hillier), an utterly mad security man with a penchant for violence. They make for a strange couple, but both feel that something needs to be done, and done so with violence.

Soon other men with the same feelings about society and their weak role in it, and gravitate toward Byrant. One is cheeky London chappie Gene Dekker (Dyer), who is sick of being bullied by work mates and thugs. With his cocked eye and over emphasised accent he joins the crusade, and soon the group are making headline news for their violent attacks on the scum of society.

Oddly, Love is quite restraint on the violence in Outlaw. Yes, there is some very violent acts taking place, but he did cut some major fight scenes. Although it will have an effect on the people that love Football Factory or Green Street scraps, it does allow for more of an exploration in the minds of people who feel helpless against the attacks against them by mindless hooligans.

While Bean’s role as Bryant is spot on the money, the main problem arises with Dyers character. He just doesn’t fit. His reasons for being there are weak, and his part in the proceedings seems be a device in which Danny Dyer can do his best London “innit geeza” impression. Though it doesn’t hamper the overall impact, it is extra weight that doesn’t need to be carried.

Love’s output is definitely improving, and even though Outlaw is messy in parts it its job quite well. The issues dealt with are topical and treated so. It begs the question what will love do next? I would say angry mobs at bingo.

 ***

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Once in a Lifetime


Director: Paul Crowder

Starring: Pele, Franz  Beckenbauer

A movie starring football players? No, this isn’t Escape to Victory. This is the story of the New York Cosmos, an American soccer team, founded in 1971. Starting out on Astroturf pitches, such disinterest led them to worse grounds, pitches strewn with glass. But in 1977 the signing of Pele, aged 34 and coming to the end of his career, bolstered the teams appeal leading to what we see here.

Pele originally refused to sign, but with the strange intervention of Henry Kissinger citing international relations issues, he agreed. Perhaps his undisclosed fee helped (rumoured to be somewhere between 2 and 7 million dollars), but what followed was the stuff of legend.

After Pele a league was started, with attendance figures growing from 400 to 70,000, but owner Steve Ross was still unhappy. Travelling to Italy he signed troubled Juventus star Giorgio Chinaglia. In Chinaglia Ross found a kindred spirit, someone who shared his vision of the team as a business venture.

The Cosmos stormed to the top of the league, with Chinaglia handpicking coaches and teams, but the growth of the spoiled Italians ego, cracks began to appear. Several bust ups (including on with Pele) led to the demise of the team.

After the great man retired, Ross signed Beckenbauer and Carlos Albero. But the team collapsed under the weight of Chinaglias inflated ego and the financial cost of keeping such a team together.

Narrated by Matt Dillon Once in a Lifetime is an unashamed celebration of the beautiful game.  With snippets of dream-like football and unabashed dressing room bust ups, this movie is one for any fans of soccer. Probably not the best one to bring home to your girlfriend though. 

****

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Oldboy


Director: Park Chan-Wook

Starring: Choi Min-Sik, Yoo Ji-Tae

Dae-su Oh has spent a heavy nights drinking after missing his daughters birthday. He is so drunk that when he wakes up he doesn’t know where he is. In fact he has been kidnapped and the room he is in is to be his home for the next 15 years. When he is finally let go he is given some cash and a phone, and seeking vengeance, he goes on the hunt for his captors. He finally meets his captor who offers a proposition. If he can find out why he was kidnapped the captor will kill himself, if not he will kill the girl Dae-su Oh has befriended.

What follows is a rollercoaster of events that lead to a gripping and climatic finale. With intriguing twists and turns we are lead further into the world of Dae-su Oh and those around him. We feel for him but can’t help but be absorbed by the events happening to him. Despite his violent outbursts we feel for his situation.

For any fans of movies with a twist, Oldboy lives up to expectation. It is laden with strong violent scenes, but it never feels over the top. For example, in one scene the main protagonist eats a live squid. While not for the squeamish it should put you off. It adds to the raw feel of emotion in the film, and is mostly necessary to the movie.

For anyone who has seen Oldboy, it is part of a trilogy so Sympathy for Mr Vengeance and Lady Vengeance are still there for the viewing. For anyone who hasn’t, see it now, before it’s destroyed by the inevitable American re-hash.

*****

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Norbit


Director: Brian Robbins

Starring: Eddie Murphy, Thandie Newton, Eddie Griffin, Cuba Gooding Jr

I suspect that the conversation in the offices of Dream Works went a little something like this: “How about a comedy about a fat woman who is very mean to her meek husband, but instead of having a woman play the part, we’ll get a man”. The reply would be thus: “But Big Momma’s House already has a sequel, and I’m not sure if people could stomach another one”. To which would be probably answered: “But this time we’ll use Eddie Murphy, no-one will realise they’re watching the same movie again”.

Norbit grew up in an orphanage, and was good friends with Kate before she was finally adopted. Slightly slow and naïve Norbit chances upon Rasputia, a nasty and overbearing girl who decides that Norbit is the prime material for courting. Soon they are married and Norbit becomes the punch bag for the vilest woman imaginable. Of course, as luck would have it, Kate returns. And ho-hum, some other stuff happens that I really couldn’t care less about, and finally the movie ends.

Murphy should ashamed of himself. Maybe the stress from realising he is father of Scary Spice’s offspring has clouded his judgement, because his output of late has been atrocious.I Spy, Pluto Nash and the Haunted Mansion are all part of a growing list.

He really can act, as was shown in Dream Girls, and is funny, as in Donkey, but this movie is a monumental mistake. Big Mamas House was incredibly unfunny, and Norbit is below that. A rubbish story with equally rubbish jokes makes a labouring mess of a film.

It’s hard to describe how bad Norbit really is. I didn’t laugh once. For example: Rasputia washing a car and getting wet while skimpily dressed to the song “Milkshake” from Kelis. A three year old would come up with better than that. And that is the limit of the jokes. It’s a sad and sorry state of affairs for Murphy, who during the 80’s really had a firm grasp on comedy. Now he could actually be called worse than Martin Lawrence, which really is an insult.

*

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Night at the Museum


Director: Shawn Levy

Starring: Ben Stiller, Owen Wilson, Steve Coogan, Robin Williams, Mickey Rooney, Dick Van Dyke, Rami Malek

To kids museums are not the most exciting of places. But a dad’s gotta do what a dad’s gotta do. When Larry’s son is too embarrassed to take him to career day, he realises that he needs a proper job and takes the position of night watchman. The old crew (and I mean old) of security is being downsized, leaving Larry the lonely job of minding the place on his own. After a quick crash course in how to run the nights proceedings Larry is given a book of instructions and left on his own.

The initial quiet is soon broken with the bounding of a hyperactive set of Tyrannosaurus bones, and soon Larry realises something very odd is happening. Soon he realises that everything in the museum comes to life after dark, and that the book is his manual in how to control all these crazy creatures. But something sinister is afoot, leaving Larry plenty of opportunity for a story to finish the movie.

Night at the Museum does exactly what it says on the tin, a Jumanji-esque caper, with plenty of decent special effects and comedy moments. Aimed squarely at kids, Stiller takes a more reserved approach form the likes of Dodgeball or Zoolander, content to let the more zany characters pick up the role of comic goon. And with Stiller, as usual, he handles it ably.

The really funny parts come courtesy of the miniature Roman (Steve Coogan) and his equally tiny cowboy buddy (Wilson). The constant bickering is pretty funny, nearly equalled by the attention needing Attila the Hun. Coogan in particular stands out for his maniacal dictator/chastised boy routine. As usual the weakest part is the love story, but I guess someone likes it so covering all angles they stick it in.

As a family movie you can’t go wrong, it has something for everybody. Funny and feel good, it may not be classic cinema, but it can’t be knocked. Kids will love it; I was instructed to give it five stars by Diarmuid, aged 12. Me being slightly older and more cynical, I’ll give it 3.

***

1

Nacho Libre


Director: Jared Hess

Starring: Jack Black, Peter Stormare

Jack Black is a man of many talents. He has been plying his pudgy faced comedy for years, with smaller parts in movies like High Fidelity before breaking into his own in movie like School of Rock. Even his band is enjoying great success, its beginning to seem like Black is the new black.

This time Black plays Nacho (apt because he looks like a man with a fondness for nachos), a cook that lives in a monastery and dreams of becoming a famous wrestler. He wants to impress pretty nun Sister Encarnacion and earn a bit to help out the poor kiddies that reside there. And so he dons some Lycra and a Burt Reynolds moustache and beats the hell out of some Mexicans.

Nacho Libre is a funny movie, playing slapstick to good effect, with Black in a trademark performance. But that’s the problem, it seems like he’s just playing himself with a Spanish accent. The jokes grow a little tired and clichéd, how many times can watching Black bashing into the canvas be funny?

Hess directed Napoleon Dynamite, a movie hurtling towards cult status, and infinitely funnier than Nacho Libre. It’s a bit of a loss that he wasn’t more adventurous here, settling for fart jokes rather than attempting to do something a little more unusual. Adding to the disappointment is the fact that the writer of this movie is Mike White, the man behind School of Rock. It would seem that adding these 3 forces together would create a chemical reaction that would turn lead into gold. But it’s more like crisp sandwiches, some people like them some don’t (like me).

This movie seems like a wasted opportunity, with such talent it should have been one of the comedy highlights of the year. Still though fans of the eyebrow contorting fatman should get a few kicks out of it, if only for seeing Black in super tight pants.

**

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Monster House


Director: Gil Kenan

Starring: Steve Buscemi, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Jason Lee, Nick Cannon, Kathleen Turner

There is a long list this year, not one that the jolly fat man is making. Not one that Sky News is currently compiling. Not one of the underachievement’s of the Irish football team. It’s a list of animated movies that is so long I’ve decided to write this waffle instead of it. Some were good, Cars for example, and some were lazy. But one stood out from the rest. One that has not been seen since the excellent Incredibles. That movie is Monster House.

Mr Nebbercracker owns a dirty stinky old gaff. He’s a miserable so-and-so and has a strong dislike for the kiddies of the neighbourhood. He steals toys and bikes and generally screams his Gollum like head off at anyone who dares to touch his lawn. But when he collapses from a heart attack DJ and his pal Chowder (what a great name) notice something weird about the house. It’s alive and trying to eat people.

After enlisting the help of a snooty girl they embark on a mission to kill the house by quenching its heart. This is when the movie kicks off into a frenzy of excitement and non-stop adventure. With the house looking pretty terrifying they brave the peril and uncover the secrets behind this awful abode.

Unlike a lot of grown-up movies Monster House is both engaging and funny in equal measure. While you won’t howl with laughter you will definitely snigger quite a bit. And when it comes to the climax you should be on the edge of your seat. Some minor problems would be the lack of development on certain characters, but this really is minor, and perhaps something to look forward to in a sequel.

There are some top-notch animated capers, and this is at the top of the league, holding position with the likes of Toy Story 2 or The Incredibles. With superb graphics, script, cast, jokes, scares and thrills (I could add more but see it for yourself) it really is unmissable.  Oh, and before you go there, it’s about a house gone wild and not a clothes shop on High St, Kilkenny.

****