Tuesday, September 30, 2003

New UGC Cinema

New UGC Cinema

The UGC Cinema on Parnell Street has had a dramatic makeover. When UGC replaced the old Virgin Cinema, a renovation was not necessary as the building had only been open for a few years. But over time, demand has outgrown supply and it was not uncommon to see long queues stretching from the main entrance all the way to the back of the building. When the unsuccessful IMAX screen from next door was removed, it created the ideal location for a brand new, state of the art building. The first phase of UGCs €13M investment opened on Friday September 5th. Currently there are nine state of the art screens open, with a further eight to be unveiled by the end of November.

As I was unaware of the changes being made, suddenly finding a brand new cinema came as a pleasant surprise. Walking through the main doors, which are now forty five metres closer to the Capel Street end of Parnell Street, you will arrive the ticket office which now takes up an entire floor and should eliminate all the headaches caused by the old queues. There are ten box office points to buy your tickets, or if booking by credit card, there are five ticket collection points. Plasma screens display the list of films on show and the availability of places for each.

You then go upstairs to floor one, via an escalator, and you will find the new café/bar. Split into smoking and non-smoking, it is quite spacious and comfortable. Floor two is where the popcorn counter and other refreshments are located. Again quite spacious and effectively laid out, the second floor also offers a kids party room. All auditoria are black with stadium seating offering the ultimate in comfort and lots of legroom.

With UGC promising to “show the most diverse range of films under one roof” it looks like this investment has been money well spent. This is the best option for cinema goers in town with the IFI and Savoy screen one (on a good night) not far behind. All in all, it was like going to a completely different cinema and very enjoyable. I’m not sure how long it will stay in its current pristine condition but so far, it’s looking good.

Movie Review(The Italian Job)...

The Italian Job

Directed by F. Gary Gray, The Italian Job ‘2003’, is not a remake of the 1969 original. They may share the same title and have a car chase with minis but that’s as far as the connection goes. The motivation of the thieves is different, the comedy has been updated and the tone set a little more serious with the death of a team member setting the plot rolling.

The movie opens in Venice, where a group of six crooks are about to pull off the heist of a lifetime: $35 million in gold, and they plan to do it without holding a gun. The rogues' gallery is comprised of Charlie (Mark Wahlberg), the young leader running his first big job; John (Donald Sutherland), the veteran safecracker who is Charlie's mentor; Lyle (Seth Green), the computer whiz who was "the real inventor of Napster;" Handsome Rob (Jason Statham), who once drove across the United States just so he could set the record for the longest freeway chase; Half Ear (Mos Def) an explosives expert; and Steve (Edward Norton), who is about to betray the other five.

The main problem with the movie is its ‘star’. Wahlberg must have been absent the day screen presence was being handed out. One of his simian co-stars from ‘Planet of the Apes’ would perhaps have been a better choice, if only to deliver a somewhat charismatic performance. The director makes the wise decision to have Wahlberg surrounded by a great supporting cast who save this movie from utter blandness. Seth Greene (Austin Powers) provides the laughs alongside rapper-turned-actor Mos Def with the stunning Charlize Theron brightening up proceedings when on screen. Edward Norton apparently wanted nothing to do with the movie but was contractually obliged to appear. His performance is therefore expectedly average.

At times reminiscent of the far superior ’Oceans Eleven’, The Italian Job has occasional bursts of smart dialogue and will hold interest long enough to satisfy those looking for some big-budget blockbuster fun.

2.5 out of 5

Movie Review(Matchstick Men)...

Matchstick Men

Roy Waller (Nicolas Cage) is an obsessive-compulsive con artist who has hit a career low. Along with his apprentice Frank (Sam Rockwell) he has resorted to conning lonely old women and housewives through a telesales competition scam. Bored of small time schemes, Frank persuades Roy to help him hit the jackpot, with a more lucrative job involving a rich businessman named Chuck Frechette (Bruce McGill). Exchanging U.S. Dollars for higher value British notes, the idea is relatively simple but profitable enough for Roy to declare it his final job.

With show-stopping performances in last years ‘Adaptation’, and now Matchstick Men, Nicolas Cage seems to be back on the right track. After dabbling with unlikely action hero roles (The Rock, Con Air), the Oscar winner has thankfully returned to the kind of challenging acting roles that earned him recognition and respect in the first place. Sam Rockwell is going to be a huge star. He has been around for years with small roles in ‘The Green Mile’ and ‘Galaxy Quest’ to his credit, but finally landed a breakthrough leading role in the excellent ‘Confessions of a Dangerous Mind’, the directorial debut of George Clooney. Pairing Cage and Rockwell was a stroke of casting genius as the two play off one another like comic veterans.

Alison Lohman plays Angela, Roy’s estranged daughter, whom he meets for the first time, just as his incessant twitching and agoraphobic tendencies are beginning to overwhelm him. The illegal supply of medication he is taking is suddenly cut off when his doctor leaves town and Roy becomes a chain-smoking tic machine, barely able to leave home or string a sentence together. The relationship between father and daughter develops naturally amid the progression of Roy and Frank's plans for the big job. Roy and Angela start off uncomfortably as he has no idea of where to begin relating to a child. Inevitably, Angela learns the truth about her father's profession and not surprisingly wants to learn some tricks of her own. This sets the stage for the development of the father-daughter relationship, a display of skill, and a precursor for the con games that follow.

Director Ridley Scott (Blade Runner, Gladiator) clearly relishes the opportunity to work with such a tight screenplay by Nicholas Griffin, on a smaller, more personal scale than his usual fare. Matchstick Men is one of this years best. Highly recommended viewing.

4.5 out of 5