ALISTAIR Harkness reviews the week’s new cinema releases
Big Hero 6 (PG)
Directed by: Don Hall, Chris Williams
Voices: Ryan Potter, Scott Adsit, TJ Miller, Maya Rudolph
Star rating: ***
Given the current dominance of Marvel and the resurgence of Disney Animation, there’s a surprising lack of corporate synergy in this first big scale Disney animated adaptation of a Marvel property. An end-credit stinger is practically the only acknowledgement of the obscure Marvel Comics origins of this superhero adventure – well, that and tiresome trick of off-setting genuine emotion with glib gags, escalating action set-pieces with mindless destruction, and an unfocused plot that pretends to subvert superhero tropes but really doesn’t. In the first instance, though, Big Hero 6 is at least a triumph of production design and animation technique, especially the way it renders the hybrid Japanese-American setting of San Fransokyo as a kind of Apple Store-friendly riff on Blade Runner and turns the gentle hero at its centre, a big marshmallowy robotic health care companion by the name of Baymax, into a Miyazaki-inspired protector for the film’s young protagonist. Alas, that young protagonist is the problem. A teenage tech genius called Hiro (Ryan Potter) who must learn to work as part of a team to heal himself following the death of a loved one, he’s practically an assembly kit of clichés and this, combined with a sagging origins-story-style narrative, detracts from the more challenging emotional vibe Baymax brings to the film.
Son of a Gun (15)
Directed by: Julius Avery
Starring: Ewan McGregor, Alicia Vikander, Brenton Thwaites
Star rating: ***
You can count the number of decent Ewan McGregor performances since Trainspotting on the fingers of one hand, but as an ex-pat Scottish criminal serving time in an Australian prison in Son of a Gun, he’s surprisingly watchable. McGregor plays Brendan Lynch, a well-connected prison hard man who offers protection to new inmate JR (Brenton Thwaites). Brendan’s reasons for taking JR under his wing are hardly altruistic: he needs someone he can trust on the outside to help launch a prison break and JR fits the bill. That’s only the first act of the movie though. Debut director Julius Avery dispenses swiftly with the prison break to turn the film into a heist movie, replete with car chases, murder, betrayal and divided loyalties. Familiar stuff, in other words, something not helped by Thwaites’ lack of charisma (Alicia Vikander is also sorely underused as his love interest). But the action is decently staged and, save for the odd naff line, McGregor acquits himself well enough.
Directed by: Stephen Daldry
Starring: Martin Sheen, Rooney Mara, Rickson Teves, Eduardo Luis, Gabriel Weinstein
Star rating: **
Serving as its own one-word review, Trash finds those pungent purveyors of middlebrow mediocrity Richard Curtis (on scripting duties) and Stephen Daldry (directing) attempting a Danny Boyle-style movie and serving up instead a horribly self-satisfied slice of crowd-pleasing poverty porn. Though credit is due for retaining the Portuguese language of its Brazilian setting, the film’s cosy attempt to make an urban quest movie for teens in the favelas of Rio (it’s based on a novel by Andy Mulligan) can’t help but come across as naff, especially as Daldry cranks up the hip-hop to soundtrack his street-kid heroes repeatedly getting the better of the city’s corrupt cops and politicians.