Monday 26 September 2016

Movie reviews: She's Funny That Way, Station to Station, Minions

Published 27/06/2015 | 02:30

Minions
Minions

Paul Whitington reviews this week's other big releases: She's Funny That Way, Station to Station, Minions.

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Back in the early 1970s, Peter Bogdanovich was widely regarded as the next big cheese. After befriending Orson Welles and piggybacking on his reputation, Bogdanovich released an elegiac film called The Last Picture Show that followed two young friends who come of age in a dead-end Texan town. It was good, really good, and fast-tracked its director to the top of the Hollywood pile.

He didn't stay there long, however, and after a couple of forgettable hits became bogged down in a mid-70s slough from which he's never quite emerged. Mr Bogdanovich talks a good game, and turns up on documentaries sounding learned, but has never come close to matching the excellence of his début. Which must be annoying.

Not half as annoying, however, as this latest effort, She's Funny That Way (2*, No Cert, IFI, 93mins), a frothy sex comedy containing scarcely a believable moment. Broadway producer Arnold Albertson (Owen Wilson) uses prostitutes and gives them a lot of money to quit and start new lives after he sleeps with them. Imogen Poots plays Izzy Beatty, a sweet Brooklyn hooker whose dreams of being an actress come true when she Arnold gives her $30,000.

All is going swimmingly until she auditions for a play and finds that Arnold is its director, and his wife Delta (Kathryn Hahn) is the star. Rhys Ifans plays an odious British actor, and Jennifer Aniston is a therapist whose bedside manner leaves a lot to be desired. Only she has the comic timing to overcome Bogdanovich and Louise Stratten's clumsy script, and She's Funny That Way feels like something Woody Allen dashed off on a rainy day and wisely threw in the bin.

In 2013, Californian multimedia artist Doug Aitken masterminded an ambitious project involving almost 100 musicians, writers, painters and performers and a pimped-up transcontinental train. Decked out in flashing lights, the nine-carriage train travelled 4,000 miles across America from New York to San Francisco, staging impromptu avant garde events on the way.

Station to Station (2*, No Cert, IFI, 71mins) provides a visual record of that escapade, and takes the form of 60-odd minute-long films. Doug Aitken's film might have worked better as a straight documentary, but instead we get this frustrating collage of cinematic bits: the good ones feel too short, the others meandering, inconsequential. Some of the 'happenings' are annoying, but much worse are the moments when Mr Aitken and friends sit around talking about art, a clattering compendium of American pretension.

Along with Disney's Frozen, it's likely you've seen the Despicable Me franchise's little yellow devils hither and thither of late; on buses and beyond. Resistance, in other words, is futile. Actually, there's little real need for resistance, as Minions (3*, U, 104 mins), the spin-off from the obscenely successful Despicable Me, is as charming as they come. The titular minions become the underlings of an evil villain Scarlet Overkill (Sandra Bullock), after a long search to find the biggest and baddest villain possible to serve. After botching the job time and time again - they kill Dracula with a surprise birthday party by ripping open the curtains and boot Napoleon into oblivion with his own cannon - they find themselves in 1960s London, where Scarlet enlists their services to swipe the crown from the Queen.

Chaos ensues, as well it might when accident-prone, yappy yellow things are involved. With Bullock and Hamm on board (Hamm plays Scarlet's sappy love interest, Herb Overkill), the film is in safe hands. Neither of them, from the sounds of things, are merely dialling in their roles, and Minions is all the more entertaining for it. It's a zippy and endlessly fun ride, packed with gags. Adults will love the visual attention to detail and the ever-so-slight dark underbelly, while kids will eat the cuteness up. Parents, set your wallets to 'fork out for a lot of yellow stuff'.

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