Film reviews: Sightseers | Great Expectations | Trouble with the Curve | Electric Man | Rise of the Guardians

Clint Eastwood as Gus in Trouble With The Curve
Clint Eastwood as Gus in Trouble With The Curve
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A round-up of the rest of this week’s film releases

Sightseers (15)

Directed by: Ben Wheatley

Starring: Steve Oram, Alice Lowe, Eileen Davis

Star rating; * * * *

FOLLOWING last year’s darkly disturbing Kill List, Brit director Ben Wheatley changes tack slightly with Sightseers, a darkly amusing road movie about a pair of oddball caravan enthusiasts who discover a shared love of serial killing while touring low-key British heritage sites such as Crich Tramway Village and the Keswick Pencil Museum.

The incongruity of the setting and the subject matter is just one of the things that makes co-writers and co-stars Steve Oram and Alice Lowe’s high-concept idea such a uniquely funny proposition, functioning as it does as a metaphor for the trials and tribulations of a new relationship. But the film is also blessed with Wheatley’s mastery of tone. Oram and Lowe’s wry, dry performances as the ginger-bearded Chris and the not-as-meek-as-she-seems Alice tease out the psychological nuances of two lonely people beaten down by life suddenly finding each other, and Wheatley uses this to offset the Grand Guignol horror of their outrageous responses to antisocial behaviour with an air of disquieting weirdness.

There’s fantastic support too from Eileen Davis as Tina’s overbearing mother, and Wheatley cannily wraps things up in an appropriately ghoulish but oddly poignant way before the film has a chance to outstay its welcome.

Great Expectations (12A)

Directed by: Mike Newell

Starring: Helena Bonham Carter, Ralph Fiennes, Jeremy Irvine, Holliday Grainger

Star rating: * *

THE BBC’s second major adaptation of Great Expectations in less than 12 months, Mike Newell’s cinematic version of the Charles Dickens favourite can’t help but seem like a redundant and fairly uninspired way to close out a year of celebrations marking the bicentenary of the author’s birth. Offering very little that’s new beyond the cast, it’s lushly produced but dramatically inert, with even the tantalising prospect of Helena Bonham Carter as the deranged Miss Havisham coming off like a live action version of The Corpse Bride. Her mannered, cartoonish performance certainly pales in comparison to Gillian Anderson’s Gothic-tinged, ghostly portrayal in the recent TV adaptation. Similarly, as escaped convict Magwitch, Ralph Fiennes is menacing, but only in a theatrical way; any genuine danger in his performance has been filtered out by the movie’s glossy sheen.

It’s thus left to Jeremy Irvine – the bland lead from War Horse – to carry the film. As the orphaned blacksmith whose life is transformed by an anonymous benefactor, he’s neither cruel enough nor charismatic enough to make the story of his rise and fall in any way compelling. In short: his Pip is a drip. As for the film, even with lowered expectations it’s far from great. What a shame.

Trouble with the Curve (12A)

Directed by: Robert Lorenz

Starring: Clint Eastwood, Amy Adams, Justin Timberlake, John Goodman

Star rating: * *

SORT of a reactionary, geriatric riposte to last year’s vibrant, forward-thinking Moneyball, baseball drama Trouble with the Curve scorns statistics, computers and algorithms in order to peddle the creaky belief that America’s myth-obsessed national sport can only be understood if you feel it in your bones. That, at least, is the kind of drivel spewed forth by Clint Eastwood’s ageing baseball scout Gus as he bemoans the way his beloved game is being ruined by sniveling fortysomethings who are only interested in what their spreadsheets are telling them.

That Gus is suffering from an unspecified but rapidly deteriorating eye condition is the film’s clunky way of reinforcing how vital gut instincts are in the game. Ditto the honking father-daughter story in which Amy Adams – playing Gus’s somewhat estranged, career-obsessed daughter – puts her high-powered job in jeopardy to go on the road with her dad and, aw shucks, find contentment in the simpler things. Too predictable and safe ever to be in any danger of swinging for the fences, the film might at least satisfy fans of Eastwood’s recent chair-berating performance at the Republican Convention: here he gets to dialogue with a gravestone, a can of Spam and his prostate.

Electric Man (12A)

Directed by: David Barras

Starring: Toby Manley, Mark McKirdy, Derek Dick, Emily Lockwood

Star rating: *

SHOT on a micro-budget in and around Edinburgh, this disappointingly feeble caper movie might have been better served by being turned into a web series for online broadcast instead of being released in cinemas. At least then its vacuum-like pacing and absence of any cinematic spark whatsoever wouldn’t have been quite so blindingly obvious. Revolving around a pair of comic shop workers (played by Toby Manley and Mark McKirdy) who become embroiled in a convoluted quest to secure a copy of an ultra-rare first issue of the titular comic book, Electric Man is embarrassingly acted, flatly directed and boasts a script full of naff jokes and dated pop culture gags – making it more of an East Coast Fast Romance than a Scottish Clerks. It might have been made with love, but whatever enthusiasm director David Barras and co-writer Scott MacKay have for the material doesn’t translate to the screen and, aside from the nifty opening credits sequence, it’s difficult to imagine that this will be of much interest to anyone, apart from the people who made it.

Rise of the Guardians (PG)

Directed by: Peter Ramsey

Voices: Chris Pine, Alec Baldwin, Jude Law, Isla Fisher, Hugh Jackman

Star rating; * *

WHAT a curious film Rise of the Guardians is. Though it’s being released as a Christmas movie (and to this end, it does feature Santa, albeit re-imagined as a sword-wielding Russian voiced by Alec Baldwin), it’s set almost entirely at Easter, yet focuses on the inauguration of Jack Frost (Chris Pine) into the titular Avengers-style cabal of folkloric heroes. The latter – which comprises the Tooth Fairy, the Sandman and the aforementioned Santa and Easter Bunny – has been charged with protecting the world’s children against the creeping forces of evil, represented here by Pitch Black, a sinister lord of darkness intent on turning everyone’s dreams into nightmares.

Voiced by Jude Law, he at least brings a hint of menace to proceedings. Sadly, the rest of the film is so confused it becomes hard to get swept up in Jack Frost’s plight – especially as he tries to work out why he’s been chosen to protect children who don’t believe in him. That said, it’s not without fun. The idea of a Sandman who can only communicate in symbols is visually satisfying and turning the Easter Bunny into a boomerang-wielding warrior voiced by Hugh Jackman isn’t the worst idea. Sidelining Christmas in a Christmas film, however, just might be.