Review: Dad’s Army

How_similar_are_the_new_Dad_s_Army_cast_to_the_TV_originals_

DIR: Oliver Parker • WRI:Hamish McColl • PRO: Damian Jones • DOP: Christopher Ross • ED: Guy Bensley • DES: Simon Bowles • MUS: Charlie Mole • CAST: Toby Jones, Michael Gambon, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Bill Nighy, Mark Gatiss

Dad’s Army is a light-hearted comedy based on the sitcom of the same name from the 60s and 70s, and features an all-star cast, including Catherine Zeta-Jones, Bill Nighy, Toby Jones, Michael Gambon, and Blake Harrison, all of whom have proven time and time again that they can easily handle comedic acting. It’s just unfortunate that their considerable talents can’t make up for the weak, toothless, and above all unfunny script provided by Hamish McColl.

Gone is the subtlety, the nuance, the class-warfare jokes, the wit of the original show, instead replaced by pointless innuendos and a plot that demands every single character act like a fool in order for it to make sense.

To the plot. It’s 1944. The Nazis are looking for information on Britain’s upcoming invasion plans, so they’ve sent in agent Cobra (Catherine-Zeta Jones, who tells them her name is Rose Winters) to uncover the plans, or something. I’m not really sure why she was sent there, but then again neither is the film, so it all balances out. Later on, characters try to credibly state that if the information she has manages to find its way to the Nazis, they could lose the war.

Now the original show had its fair share of slapstick comedy, as well, as wit and charm, and while those last two can be quite difficult to capture properly, slapstick is usually easy enough to make funny. It’s just too bad that the slapstick here is completely uninspired, often falling into the cliché territories of characters hitting their heads or falling out of windows, or flashing their genitalia at German soldiers. O.K. that last one isn’t cliché, but believe me when I say, this film executes it pretty poorly, so it still isn’t able to make you laugh, which is a pretty big failing in a comedy.

Now, that isn’t to say this film is completely terrible. The cast all do well, Gambon, Nighy, Jones, and Harrison all do their best with the sub-standard script, and did make me chuckle begrudgingly a few times, and Zeta-Jones does extremely well as the wily femme fatale, using her good looks and charm to get the information she needs from the oafish men of the town.

Also, on the plus side the cinematography is done well, and D.O.P. Christopher Ross deserves a lot of credit for how good this film looks, with its bright colours, brilliant shot composition, and breath-taking use of the English Countryside in order to immerse us more in this small seaside town.

But really, though, these positive aspects are in a small minority when you examine this film as a whole. As well as the problems mentioned above, the whole plot feels completely inconsequential, there are no real character arcs, and you never get the feeling that anything’s really at stake.

Ultimately Dad’s Army is a “comedy” which fails so spectacularly to amuse that it would embarrass even Adam Sandler.

Darren Beattie

PG
99 minutes (See IFCO for details)

Dad’s Army is released 5th February 2016

Dad’s Army – Official Website

 

 

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Cinema Review: Side Effects

DIR: Steven Soderbergh  WRI: Scott Z. Burns  PRO: Scott Z. Burns, Gregory Jacobs, Lorenzo di Bonaventura  DOP: Steven Soderbergh  ED: Steven Soderbergh   DES: Howard Cummings  CAST: Jude Law, Rooney Mara, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Channing Tatum

It’s a big day for Emily Taylor (Mara). Her young husband Martin (Tatum) is being released from jail after serving four years for insider trading, and it should be a chance for the young couple to start all over all again, and maybe recapture the glamorous lifestyle they had. But then Emily drives her car into a wall – and it doesn’t look like an accident.

At hospital, the on-call psychiatrist Jonathan Banks (Law) believes she’s not suicidal, but she does become his patient – and the search for a drug that will help lift her ‘fog’ of depression begins. Things improve, but then it goes sideways; she begins to sleepwalk, loses her sense of time, and then there’s another possible suicide attempt. Nothing’s working, so after consulting Emily’s former therapist Victoria Sibert (Zeta-Jones), Law cautiously prescribes ablixa, a new ‘wonder’ drug he’s acting as a consultant for.

At this stage, the fim takes one of its many turns and things aren’t all they seem as Soderbergh skilfully lays out his revelatory drama. An incident results in Emily being shipped off for court-ordered psychiatric care, but then a question mark forms over Dr. Banks and his actions. Was what happened a terrible side effect of ablixa, the drug he prescribed? Is someone else to blame here?

Mud sticks though, and now Banks becomes front page news. There’s a medical enquiry, and he quickly begins to lose everything: patients, the consultancy, and then his practice. His psychiatrist his sessions with Emily have to continue though, and he becomes suspicious about her. Some of the things she said don’t add up, and the stock prices for a rival to ablixa have soared in the wake of this scandal; can the two things be related?

Then Banks receives some compromising photographs in the mail, and a story from his past comes back to haunt him. His wife Dee (Vinessa Shaw) leaves him, taking their son, and Banks realizes that he’s being set up, and there’s nothing he can do about it – except work with his patient, Emily, to find out what’s going on…

Apparently Soderbergh’s last movie before his retirement, Side Effects is a low-scale thriller that again marks another tight collaboration between him and writer Scott Z. Burns (they worked on Contagion and The Informant! too). Soderbergh – again working as his own cinematographer and editor under assumed names – keeps the tension up, and though there are some good performances from Rooney and especially Law, there’s a distinct lacks of thrills and danger.

 

Whether there’s the suggestion of a huge medical industry conspiracy or not, you still expect Law to get into some real trouble, be in real danger – but here it’s more garden variety career and family ruination. When you start with a bloody stabbing and get into lies and deception you expect more of a drama spiral, but never the less it’s a solid piece of modern filmmaking. No matter what, make sure you check out the great ablixa ‘website’: www.tryablixa.com

James Bartlett

15A (see IFCO website for details)

105mins
Side Effects is released on 8th March 2013

Side Effects – Official Website

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QGe2ZE0prGg

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Cinema Review: Broken City

DIR: Allen Hughes  • WRI: Brian Tucker  PRO: Remington Chase, Randall Emmett, George Furla, Allen Hughes, Stephen Levinson, Teddy Schwarzman, Mark Wahlberg  • DOP: Ben Seresin • ED: Cindy Mollo • DES: Tom Duffield • CAST: Mark Wahlberg, Russell Crowe, Catherine Zeta-Jones

Another tale of political corruption in the US here, Broken City feels very much a product of a different time, that time being the 1990s.

Written by newcomer Brian Tucker, Broken City sees New York’s slimy mayor Nicholas Hostetler (Russell Crowe) trying to win a tight re-election campaign against improbably nice politician Jack Valliant (Barry Pepper). His name sounds like valiant, so you know he’s the good guy. Unfortunately for everyone (including us), the manipulative Mrs. Hostetler (Catherine Zeta-Jones) is having a not-so-subtle affair, and her accomplice may be a member of Valliant’s campaign team. Proper scandal here, like.

Enter Mark Wahlberg’s Billy Taggart, a disgraced former cop let off the hook by Hostetler back in the day, now a struggling private detective. Taken on by Hostetler to spy on his wife, Billy soon ends up getting caught in a web of intrigue and back-stabbery that might make a good TV movie version of L.A. Confidential.

Breaking so little new ground that it actually manages to pack dirt back into that hole, Broken City is however a passable entertainment, the sort of film that you might catch on the telly at 11pm after an aborted night out and be very grateful to have stumbled upon.

Crowe and Wahlberg, two actors prone to violent bouts of over-acting when under-directed, make a surprisingly good pair here, neither quite able to out-class, or out-yell, the other. Zeta-Jones sleepwalks through her role like never before, but the always reliable Jeffrey Wright and comeback king Kyle Chandler provide quality support, however rarely.

Director Allen Hughes, out on his own for the first time having made the likes of From Hell and The Book of Eli with his twin brother Albert, goes for a gritty look in his film, but finds the night sky of New York too polluted with office lights and street lamps. Even in the darkest corners of Brooklyn Hughes can’t quite make New York look like a bad place to live. The constantly moving camera makes one wonder if his DOP was involved in some twisted re-enactment of the film Speed, where if the camera dropped under 2 miles per hour it would explode.

The main plot may be nothing new, but it has enough little twists to keep the attention, even if it never gives a sense of New York City beyond the corridors of power. The subplots are a mess however, with Billy’s troubled relationship and even more troubled past feeling like after thoughts, which are hardly resolved at all.

With some nice touches, particularly a television debate between Hostetler and Valliant – in which Crowe is finely caked in fake tan – that takes a turn for the nasty, Broken City is still little more than another post-Oscars screen-filler. It will do fine until something better comes along, but it’ll do even finer on Netflix during a post-Christmas party hangover. If you must see it, save it for then.

David Neary

15A (see IFCO website for details)
108mins
Broken City is released on 1st March 2013

Broken City  – Official Website 

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Cinema Review: Rock of Ages

I heard the Cruise today, oh boy

 

DIR: Adam Shankman  WRI: Allan Loeb, Justin Theroux  PRO: Adam Shankman, Tobey Maguire, Matt Weaver  DOP: Bojan Bazelli  ED: Emma Hickox  DES: Jon Hutman  Cast: Tom Cruise, Alec Baldwin, Russel Brand, Julianne Hough, Diego Boneta, Malin Akerman, Bryan Cranston, Catherine Zeta-Jones

Musicals are the epitome of cinematic marmite. You either love them or you hate them. Rock of Ages is no different. The film tells the story of Sherrie (Julianne Hough) and Drew (Diego Boneta) and their romance during the ‘hair metal’ era of 1980s Los Angeles. Sherrie and Diego work at the Bourbon Room. The owners, Dennis (Alec Baldwin) and Lonny (Russell Brand) are about to put on the final concert of Arsenal, a heavy metal band that’s fronted by a mercurial singer, Stacee Jaxx (Tom Cruise). It’s here that Drew gets his big break and begins the story of the film. Concurrent to this, Catherine Zeta-Jones and Bryan Cranston – who play a mayoral couple looking to wipe heavy metal from the streets of Los Angeles – are plotting to shut down the Bourbon Room and run them out of business.

As mentioned earlier, musicals are either in your taste or they aren’t. It’s very difficult for someone that has a passing interest in the genre to watch this film, given that they break into song every five seconds. Rock of Ages is a cheesy romp and it makes no excuses for it. Most of the songs are based in that era, including Def Leppard’s ‘Pour Some Sugar (On Me)’ and Bon Jovi’s ‘Dead Or Alive’ as well as some originals, too. It’s clear from watching the film that the cast were thoroughly enjoying their time on screen. Tom Cruise’s singing voice is surprisingly good and Russell Brand is playing a role he’s lived for the past thirty-odd years.

 

The young couple at the centre of the film are schmaltzy and corny beyond belief. However, the film itself is not to be taken seriously therefore this can be easily forgiven. Adam Shankman’s direction is straight-forward and to the point. Having worked on musicals prior to this, Hairspray being one of them, it’s clear he has a talent for the genre and it’s evident throughout. The plot and screenplay are all very much rudimentary and simply serve to bridge the huge musical set-pieces together. The film is very much a faithful adaptation of the musical and fans of it will not be disappointed. Rock of Ages is enjoyable and a tongue-in-cheek ode to a musical fad that’s best left in the history books. If musicals work no charm on you, however, you’ll find Rock of Ages a grating experience.

Brian Lloyd

 

Rated 12A (see IFCO website for details)
Rock of Ages is released on 15th June 2012

Rock of Ages – Official Website

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=USxhXb5VC5E

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The Rebound

The Rebound

DIR/WRI: Bart Freundlich • PRO: Bart Freundlich, Mark Gill, Robert Katz, Tim Perell • DOP: Jonathan Freeman • ED: Christopher Tellefsen • DES: Ford Wheeler • CAST: Catherine Zeta-Jones, Justin Bartha

We have seen the wonderful Meryl Streep age gracefully into romcoms for the over 40s, and Dustin Hoffman begin to play romantic characters fathers – but now the inevitable has occurred, and age has morphed from ‘the new black’ into ‘the laboured joke’. I knew that nothing good could ever come of Cougar Town!

What really bites about the car-crash that is The Rebound is not the one-dimensional characters, nor the cut-and-paste clichéd storyline, but the fact that the wonderful Catherine Zeta Jones is the ‘oldie’ in all of this! That the woman who glowed on Broadway, yet remains the natural, foul-mouthed Welsh lassie, has been reduced to a newly-divorced cougar is like acid on the tongue throughout the playing time. And does that playing time draaaag…despite the miniscule 95 minutes running time, the story is spun through an emotional rollercoaster, giving no time to get a feel for the characters or to really care where this journey will leave them. The unavoidable conclusion of this is a jaw-droppingly bad montage sequence – which attempts to tie up every possible loose end in jaunty song time – and an ending that not only feels rushed, but embarrassingly insubstantial.

Why the talent of Zeta Jones was required for a movie like this, or – more pressingly – why she would agree to it, is beyond me. Its paint-by-numbers storyline might have been forgivable – after all, who amongst us really goes to see a romcom expecting exceptionality of script – were it not for the suspicion that this is a movie written by committee. You can almost imagine the numerous writers with some sort of ‘wheel of fortune’ type contraption, listing all of the most over-used and clichéd film elements known to man. Moving to the city? Must have a homeless guy eating raw fish and exposing himself! Woman making it alone? She is surely instantly successful, despite years of absence from the job-market, and resurfacing with her out-of-date skills in a recession! Children of divorce? Make them precocious and comedic, showing no signs of mental anguish or trauma! Twenty-somethings on nights out? Lots of waistcoats and straw hats, and that singer-songwriter showcase is a must! Now and again, flashes of brilliance occur in Zeta Jones’ acting – but they only serve as a reminder of how poor every other element of the movie is. Not even watching Art Garfunkle ham it as a Jewish father can save this travesty of celluloid from the waste-bin of mediocrity.

The release date has been staggered, put back, and put back again, and the proof is in the proverbial pudding. An affront to any sort of feminist ideal, The Rebound was death by committee in so many ways; loathe to take one side or the other in any controversy over age difference and love, it weakly limps along with no real purpose or substance to its bones. Not content with lacking body, it then goes on to fail completely in the professed ultimate task of a romcom – to amuse and entertain. All in all, a disappointing return to screen for an actress who can be so much better, and a lacklustre entry into a genre that is quickly loosing its foothold and relevancy.

Sarah Griffin

Rated 15A (see IFCO website for details)
The Rebound
is released on 23rd July 2010

The Rebound Official Website

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