eOne's June 28, 2011 Releases
Barney's Version (June 28/11)
A minor improvement over Mordecai Richler's nigh unreadable book, Barney's Version details the life and times of the incorrigible title character (Paul Giamatti) - with a particular emphasis on Barney's relationships with the various women in his life (ie his three wives). It's a premise that could've (and should've) been used as a springboard for a brisk character-based comedy, and it does seem, in the outset, that that's exactly what filmmaker Richard J. Lewis has accomplished. Giamatti delivers as engrossing and compelling performance as one might have expected, while the impressive supporting cast effectively injects bursts of color and energy into the proceedings. (Dustin Hoffman's scene-stealing turn as Barney's brutally frank father stands as an obvious highlight.) The movie's momentum takes a serious hit following the arrival of Minnie Driver's over-the-top character, however, as the actress, cast as Barney's caricature of a second wife, delivers a seriously grating performance that ultimately triggers the film's downfall - with the subsequent emphasis on sequences of a decidedly overlong and downright needless nature exacerbating the progressively less-than-engrossing atmosphere. Scripter Michael Konyves' reliance on laughably inauthentic chunks of dialogue certainly doesn't help matters (eg "you really do wear your heart on your sleeve; now put it away, it's disgusting to look at"), and there inevitably reaches a point at which the relentlessly lighthearted vibe becomes impossible to stomach (ie one can't help but crave some substance and depth). The pervasive lack of substance proves effective at diminishing the emotional impact of the film's final scenes, which ultimately cements Barney's Version's place as a fairly misbegotten adaptation of a thoroughly underwhelming novel.
Though it begins with a great deal of promise, Wake Wood, saddled with an overlong running time and a glacial sense of pacing, inevitably establishes itself as just another tedious straight-to-video horror effort - which is disappointing, certainly, given the strength of its setup. The movie follows married couple Patrick (Aidan Gillen) and Louise (Eva Birthistle) as they move to a small town after the shocking death of their young daughter (Ella Connolly's Alice), with the mysterious behavior of the burg's residents eventually culminating in Alice's unexpected return. It's ultimately clear that Wake Wood fares best in its disturbing and palpably atmospheric opening half hour, as filmmaker David Keating, working from a script co-written with Brendan McCarthy, does a nice job of infusing the movie's title locale with a decidedly sinister feel that's heightened by the oddball antics of the various townspeople. There's little doubt, then, that the film begins its downward spiral once Patrick and Louise figure out exactly what's going on, with the characters' unusually subdued reaction to Alice's resurrection merely the tip of the iceberg in terms of Wake Wood's subsequent problems. There's a lack of logic here that inevitably proves disastrous, as Keating and McCarthy slowly-but-surely transform Alice into a full-fledged villain that somehow knows the rules of her plight - which eventually begs the question, is she just evil or is she possessed? By the time the anticlimactic (and rather baffling) final twist rolls around, Wake Wood has thoroughly established itself as a pervasively lackluster effort that would've been better off as a short.