Cusack is suitably woebegone as the poverty-stricken Poe, the expression in his melancholy eyes constantly vacillating from depression to rage and perhaps even madness, and he gets strong support from Luke Evans as the dogged Detective Emmet Fields and Brendan Gleeson as the scenery-chewing Colonel Hamilton, father of Poe’s love interest, Emily (Alice Eve).
Unfortunately, and ironically, given Poe’s mastery of the classic detective tropes, the story quickly becomes an increasingly lurid and preposterously convoluted tale, in which the serial killer is — as always — infinitely resourced, fiendishly clever and insane enough to butcher innocent victims, yet sane enough to carry it all off without leaving so much as a single clue. Fans of full-blown gothic horror may well spontaneously combust with sheer glee.
A rather more sober historical piece, Stella Days (15A) is set in rural Tipperary during the 1950s. Fr Daniel Barry (Martin Sheen) is a parish priest and cinephile who yearns for the Rome he loved as a young man, but finds himself caught up in a never-ending fund-raising exercise when Bishop Hegerty (Tom Hickey) decides to build a new church. Determined to make the best of a bad lot, Fr Barry proposes opening a new cinema to raise money, a notion that puts him at cross-purposes with some of the more conservative elements in his parish. Thaddeus O’Sullivan’s Stella Days (which is adapted from Tom Doorley’s novel) could very easily have become an excessively ‘Oirish’ tale of innate conservatism, as represented here by the craw-thumping politician played by a constantly glowering Stephen Rea. Happily, Rea’s character is the only one-dimensional character on show: Fr Barry is a likeable protagonist, while the characters who ebb and flow around him are given enough facets to make them worth watching. Gentle in tone and humour, unfolding at a sedate pace, the film rewards patience as a thoughtful, questioning treatise on the nature of faith and personal fulfilment.
Robert Pattinson plays the eponymous hero in Bel Ami (16s), although ‘hero’ might be too strong a word for the handsome, shallow and vain ‘Good Friend’, aka Georges Duroy, an ex-soldier and upwardly mobile gigolo who sleeps his way into a position of power and money in Belle Époque Paris. A fine cast — Uma Thurman, Kristin Scott Thomas, Colm Meaney and Christina Ricci — provide the obstacles necessary for Georges to come a cropper in his grasping bid for social respectability, all of them playing him like a pawn in their grand schemes until the disgraced and embittered Georges finally turns on his tormentors. Similar in tone and setting to the vastly superior Dangerous Liaisons, the movie compensates for some poor casting decisions with a deliciously amoral finale.
John Carter (12A) is something of an oddity, a sci-fi epic in which gold rush prospector and Civil War veteran Carter (Taylor Kitsch) is transported from 1890’s America to Mars, there to lead an uprising of the Helium people against the oppressive Zodanga. Pixar director Andrew Stanton takes Edgar Rice Burroughs’ original tale and infuses it with elements from Avatar, Dune, and even Star Wars, and while it’s all undeniably cheesy and absurdly bonkers, Taylor Kitsch makes for an unprepossessing hero, particularly when set against a fine supporting cast of Samantha Morton, Ciaran Hinds, Mark Strong and Willem Dafoe.
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