Alistair Harkness takes a look at some of this week’s new releases...
Like Crazy (15) **
Directed by: Drake Doremus
Starring: Felicity Jones, Anton Yelchin, Jennifer Lawrence
IF DRAMA is life with the dull bits cut out, this erroneously titled transatlantic indie romance seems intent on reinstating them in a misplaced bid for authenticity. It revolves around a British foreign exchange student called Anna (Felicity Jones) who falls in love with an aspiring chair designer called Jacob (Anton Yelchin) while attending college in California. Blithely assuming she can extend her student visa without the authorities’ permission, she opts to spend the summer with Jacob before returning home, only to discover she’s not allowed back into the US when she attempts to visit him again a few months later. With Jacob reluctant to up sticks and move to the UK, the film catches up with each of them at various stages in their lives as the months turn into years and time, distance and their own diverging lives strain their initial bond. It’s here that the film runs into trouble. With the concept playing out like a particularly wan, semi-improvised spin on One Day – despite its obvious desperation to evoke Before Sunset – it really needs actors who can generate genuine chemistry. Sadly, even the normally brilliant Felicity Jones can’t seem to feign the requisite interest in the uncharacteristically dull Anton Yelchin.
A Monster in Paris (PG) **
Directed by: Bibo Bergeron
Voices: Vanessa Paradis, Adam Goldberg, Jay Harrington, Sean Lennon, Danny Huston
ANOTHER week, another film celebrating the magic of movies. Like Hugo and The Artist, this French-made CG-animation effort is set during the pioneering days of cinema and comes replete with not only retro visual nods to the period, but also what is fast becoming a ubiquitous shout-out to the wonders of silent film (cue George Méliès mention). Unfortunately its Phantom of the Opera-meets-Them!-meets-Frankenstein plot feels rather like a lab experiment gone wrong, as director Bibo Bergeron (who co-directed the lamentable Shark Tale) wrecks a charming central idea involving a giant mutated flea becoming a sweet-voiced cabaret star in Paris, circa 1910, by infusing it with tiresome and anachronistic buddy comedy shenanigans. These involve shy projectionist Emile (Jay Harrington) and his zany delivery driver-cum-inventor best friend Raoul (Adam Goldberg). Neither proves in any way funny as they try to contain a situation of their own making by first trying to apprehend the monster flea they’ve accidentally unleashed on a flood-stricken Paris, then helping protect said flea after a nightclub chanteuse called Lucille (Vanessa Paradis) befriends it and transforms it into a fedora-sporting white-masked singing sensation, Francoeur (Sean Lennon). Alas, with songs as forgettable as the characters, the film’s production design remains its biggest triumph.
A Useful Life (12A) **
Directed by: Federico Veiroj
Starring: Jorge Jellinek, Manuel Martinez Carril, Paola Venditto
THE second film this week celebrating the love of cinema approaches the subject from the arthouse side of things. It’s set in and around a cash-strapped picturehouse serving the Uruguayan capital of Montevideo with classic auteurist cinema, and its protagonist is Jorge (played Jorge Jellinek), a projectionist whose cinephilia is so intense that the music from the films he loves soundtracks his daily life. Lost in film – he’s never done anything else with his life – he’s so dedicated to his job that he provides running commentaries for unsubtitled features, writes the cinema’s newsletter and presents a radio show educating people in how to watch films properly. Shot in a loose black-and-white docudrama style reminiscent of the films Jorge programmes, A Useful Life presents all this in an affectionate manner that’s overly reliant on finding didactic lectures on world cinema charming, let alone interesting. Nevertheless, it’s redeemed slightly by its efforts to provide a romantic element to proceedings. When the frequent visits of a film-loving lawyer to the cinema pique Jorge’s interest enough to consider life away from the silver screen, things perk up briefly as he attempts to woo her by applying what he’s seen in movies to real life. Sadly, even at less than 70 minutes, the end result feels stretched.
Underworld: Awakening (18) *
Directed by: Måns Mårlind, Björn Stein
Starring: Kate Beckinsale, Michael Ealy, India Eisley, Stephen Rea
LIKE the zombie-trashing Resident Evil franchise, the werewolves-vs-vampires Underworld saga seems curiously resilient. There it is, shuffling along, serving up a new instalment every couple of years, the interest in which seems to be fuelled by the we’ll-watch-anything apathy of the modern fanboy rather than any genuine cult appeal. The big news about this fourth part is that it sees the return of original star Kate Beckinsale, whose shiny PVC-clad rear sat out the previous film (in which her ex-beau Michael Sheen took top billing), but whose shampoo advert-style head-flicks were – be honest – barely missed. In any case, she slots seamlessly back into this blue-tinged CG-heavy world as Selena, a vampire who at one point in an earlier film (it’s hard to remember which one) upset the delicate truce between vampires and lycanthropes by falling for a wolf and challenging the natural order of things. A whole heap of myth-recapping exposition is dispensed with in the opening ten minutes of Awakening before a dubious, sequel-facilitating plot kicks in involving a civilisation-threatening war with the humans, a covert plan to breed a race of super werewolves, and a mysterious hybrid vampire child that some nefarious government spooks (led by Stephen Rea) want to keep under wraps. It’s woeful, boring stuff.
The Sitter (15) *
Directed by: David Gordon Green
Starring: Jonah Hill, Max Records, Sam Rockwell, Ari Graynor
NOW that Jonah Hill has made a bit of a breakthrough into more grown-up fare with Moneyball, he’ll hopefully start calling time on regurgitated slop like The Sitter. This crass, unofficial update of 1980s comedy Adventures in Babysitting may be his first starring vehicle, but it isn’t the best showcase for either his social reject charm (brilliantly exploited in break-out hit Superbad) or the darker comic sensibilities he explored in Cyrus. Instead it finds him playing irresponsible adult to a bunch of bratty kids after his desperate-for-a-night-out mother talks him into looking after her friend’s children so they can go out together. As a big guy with low self-esteem issues, though, Noah (Hill) is also at the beck and call of his sort-of-girlfriend (Ari Graynor) and when she demands he secure her some cocaine and deliver it to the party she’s attending, he’s powerless to resist. Packing the kids into their mum’s minivan, he proceeds to expose these horrible children to all sorts of inappropriate activities, the incongruity of which is supposed to be the source of endless gags but more frequently results in eye-rolls and groans, especially as the inevitable life lessons start being learned.
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Thursday 23 May 2013
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