A GRIPPING PORTRAYAL OF A CATACLYSMIC ASSASSINATION
parkland Drama: Starring Billy Bob Thornton, Paul Giamatti, Zac Efron, Marcia Gay Harden, Jacki Weaver, Jeremy Badge Dale, Jackie Earle Haley, Colin Hanks Director: Peter Landesman Cert: 15A
GIVEN that this week marks the 50th anniversary of arguably the most significant event in post-war American history, it's perhaps surprising that director Peter Landesman's debut is the only movie to mark the assassination of President John F Kennedy in Dallas.
In the past we've had such efforts as the marvellous 1973 conspiracy thriller Executive Action and, of course, Oliver Stone's catastrophic JFK, which took every conspiracy theory that ever surfaced on the subject, threw them into the air and apparently edited them into the plot wherever they happened to land. Mercifully, Landesman's film displays no such stylistic histrionics.
Closer in approach to Bobby, Emilio Estevez's 2006 film about the day of Robert F Kennedy's murder, Parkland doesn't throw out any new or grand theories about November 22 and the days that followed, but rather examines the effect such a cataclysmic event had on a particular group of people in Dallas.
Kicking off early in the day, we watch as young ER doctor Jim Carrico (Zac Efron) and senior nurse Doris Nelson (Marcia Gay Harden) set up for their shift at Parkland Memorial Hospital, while across town garment manufacturer Abraham Zapruder (Paul Giamatti) looks forward to the presidential motorcade and readies his 8mm camera to capture the event.
There's a great effect in the relative innocence of these scenes, knowing as we do that within the hour all will be changed forever.
Once the shooting takes place, the film shifts into a somewhat frantic gear as the fatally wounded JFK is taken to Parkland and a stunned medical team tries to save his life. Meanwhile, an office clerk, Robert Oswald (James Badge Dale), listens to the radio in horror, unaware of just how his own world will be turned upside down later that day.
Landesman is excellent in this section, bringing a genuine drive and tension to proceedings as Kennedy dies on the journey, and an undignified squabble breaks out between the Secret Service and the Dallas Police Department over who has jurisdiction over the body. As the film proceeds, we genuinely feel the shock of what's just happened, with an FBI agent (Billy Bob Thornton) rushing to have Zapruder's film developed while recriminations fly once Lee Harvey Oswald (Jeremy Strong) is arrested, subsequently shot and taken to the same ER unit in Parkland two days later.
An excellent cast helps to make Parkland a gripping movie, even if you know just how these events unfold.
Blue is the warmest colour Drama: Starring Lea Seydoux, Adele Exarchopoulos, Salim Kechiouche, Aurelien Recoing, Catherine Salee, Sandor Funtek Director: Abdellatif Kechiche Cert: 18
A controversial winner of the Palme d'Or earlier this year, Blue is the Warmest Colour garnered headlines for several graphic – and, indeed, sapphic – sex scenes between its two leads, a fire fuelled by recent comments made by the pair that they'd been exploited by director Abdellatif Kechiche and had a terrible time on set. Well, if they were uncomfortable making this film, they're even better actresses than they appear to be, because the movie is a remarkable account of a love affair that goes through all the highs and lows you'd expect.
Newcomer Adele Exar-chopoulos is outstanding in the more difficult of the two roles, playing a student and later kindergarten teacher who becomes smitten with Emma (Lea Seydoux), a slightly older, more worldly-wise artist who seems impossibly exotic. Kechiche takes his time bringing the pair together, but once he does it's difficult not to become enthralled as initial attraction gives way to a more settled time and then cracks appear as the relationship dynamic shifts.
Yes, there is one particularly extended sex scene, but at no stage does it feel gratuitous, merely the culmination of an attraction that we've been allowed to see build. Naturally, this being a French film, there will be some talk of Sartre and the importance of art, but don't let that put you off an engrossing story. HHHHH
The family Comedy/Action: Starring Robert De Niro, Michelle Pfeiffer, Tommy Lee Jones, Dianna Agron, John D'Leo Director: Luc Besson Cert: 15A
OH dear God, what have we done to deserve this? Silver Linings Playbook aside, Robert De Niro has been taking a flamethrower to his legacy as the greatest screen actor of his generation for the best part of two decades now, and it's possible that we've reached a low point.
Yes, The Family is arguably worse than Righteous Kill.
Horribly jaunty music sets us up for the sight of De Niro, Michelle Pfeiffer and two young actors as a Mafia family who are part of a witness protection programme and hiding out in Normandy. Well, hiding out is hardly the phrase, as Pfeiffer blows up a supermarket in her first scene and De Niro's character gives a lecture to the local film club after a showing of – wait for it – Goodfellas. Honestly, something inside me died watching this abomination. HIIII
ALSO RELEASED THIS WEEK: We would have loved to have presented a full review of The Hunger Games: Catching Fire (Cert 12A. HHHHI), but the movie's distributors failed to provide a screening for the Irish media, despite the positive response to the first film.
A pity, really, as a viewing too close to deadline revealed, if anything, an improvement on its predecessor, with Jennifer Lawrence again in excellent form as Katniss Everdeen.
Donald Sutherland is magnificently creepy as the scheming President Coriolanus Snow.
Send your complaints to Lionsgate with our compliments.