Friday 28 July 2017

Movie reviews: Rules Don't Apply, Their Finest, The Zookeeper's Wife, Unforgettable

  • Rules Don't Apply (12A, 126mins) ★★
  • Their Finest (12A, 117mins) ★★★★
  • The Zookeeper's Wife (12A, 126mins) ★★
  • Unforgettable (15A, 100mins) ★★
Cloying: Lily Collins in Rules Don't Apply
Cloying: Lily Collins in Rules Don't Apply

Paul Whitington reviews this week's other big releases...

Warren Beatty emerges from a 15-year hiatus with Rules Don't Apply, writing, directing and starring in this sprawling account of Howard Hughes' mental breakdown. But no one these days wants to watch a film about a crazy old guy, so his film comes equipped with a purpose-built love story involving younger, more attractive people.

It's 1958 and Hughes' chauffeur Frank Forbes (Alden Ehrenreich) gets a call to pick up an actress from the airport.

Marla Mabrey (Lily Collins) is a beauty queen from Virginia, a cloyingly apt state of origin as she's pure as the driven snow. She won't be for long, however, because this is Hollywood, Sodom of the west, and soon Marla is drawn into the spider's web of Hughes' inner circle.

When Howard (Beatty) eventually invites her to dinner, he turns out to be charming, if a little confused, but his intentions may not be entirely honourable, and meanwhile Marla has a more earnest admirer in Frank.

That summary might make Rules Don't Apply sound coherent: in fact it's anything but. Having tread water reasonably competently for an hour or so, the film soars forwards pell-mell to 1964 and glosses over the story's most interesting element - Hughes' madness.

Beatty's performance is one of the production's brighter spots; his screenplay is the real problem as it never quite decides which story to tell, never mind how to tell it.

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The spirits of Powell, Pressburger and the Boulting brothers are agreeably summoned by Their Finest, Lone Scherfig's impeccably cast comic drama set in wartime London.

The ever-likeable Gemma Arterton is Catrin Cole, a young Welsh woman who takes a job as a copywriter at the Ministry of Information's film division. There, her talent is spotted by head screenwriter Tom Buckley (Sam Claflin), who seconds her to work with him on what the War Office hopes will be a rousing propaganda feature film about the Dunkirk evacuation. There's a spark between Catrin and Tom, but meanwhile they must cope with interfering superiors and the antics of their impossibly vain lead actor, Ambrose Hilliard (Bill Nighy).

There's something appealingly old-fashioned about Their Finest, a film that recalls with warmth and humour the glory days of British cinema, and includes some lovely acting, particularly from Nighy.

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Meanwhile, in Poland, a very different war was taking place. The Zookeeper's Wife is based on a true story and stars Jessica Chastain as Antonina, a mother-earth figure with a special gift for animals who's devastated when their zoo is overrun by Nazis. Most of the animals are either exported to Berlin Zoo or eaten, but soon Antonina has new inmates to worry about when her husband Jan (Johan Heldenbergh) begins smuggling Jews out of the ghetto.

The couple would accommodate and rescue as many as 300 'guests', but, sadly, Niki Caro's film makes a right old mess of telling this fantastic story, and even the normally resplendent Chastain does not escape with her dignity entirely intact.

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So bad it's actually entertaining, Unforgettable ought to have been made in the 80s and starred Rebecca De Mornay or some such queen of the melodrama. Instead, it stars Rosario Dawson as Julia Banks, a businesswoman with trauma in her past who moves to Los Angeles to live with her new boyfriend.

David (Geoff Stults) is recently divorced and shares a daughter with his frosty blonde ex-wife Tessa (Katherine Heigl), who seems reasonable but is actually a bunny-boiling maniac who'll go to any lengths to sabotage Julia's relationship.

Risible, predictable, unintentionally camp, Unforgettable is hilarious but never on purpose, and would almost constitute a good night out.

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Irish Independent

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