Sunday 28 May 2017

One of life's disappointments

FILM REVIEWS

Padraic McKiernan and Aine O'Connor

Life as We Know It

Cert 12A

THE danger of allowing a car crash to play a pivotal role in the plotline of a comedy is that if the experience is a little light on laughs it's only a matter of time before opportunistic reviewers start stumbling on lines that lean towards describing the spectacle as succeeding in putting the car crash into car-crash comedy. It would be a little unfair to describe this glossy romantic comedy starring Katherine Heigl and Josh Duhamel in such terms, but only a little.

Heigl and Duhamel star as Holly and Messer, two individuals with little in common except mutual friends and mutual antipathy towards one another. He's a committed commitment-phobe and bona fide babe magnet, while she shows early signs of being able to give Bridget Jones a run for her money in the singleton stakes.

Everything changes when their mutual best friends are killed in that aforementioned car crash, leaving Holly and Messer as the legal guardians of the dead couple's toddler Sophie. We know from an earlier blind date that Holly and Messer are unsuited to the point of making chalk and cheese seem compatible, so how are they supposed to cohabitate while taking care of a cute but demanding infant? It isn't long before the baby poop hits the fan. No prizes for guessing the direction this one is taking.

Great things were expected from this feature directed by Greg Berlanti, but a combination of slapstick and jaw-dropping predictability prevent it from delivering. Heigl has some decent moments, but on this evidence, the campaign to establish her as Hollywood's rom-com queen remains a work in progress.

Life as We Know It is now showing

The Death and Life of Charlie St Cloud

Cert 12A

His impeccable Hollywood heart-throb credentials are well established, but Zac Efron's starring role in The Death and Life of Charlie St Cloud offers further proof that the man Rolling Stone magazine once dubbed a "poster boy for tweenyboppers" has started to transcend the limitations imposed by a pretty-boy persona.

Taking the central role as Charlie St Cloud, a Pacific-coast based high-school graduate for whom life is about to take a turn for the tragic, Efron is the star performer in this touching metaphysical melodrama based on a novel by Ben Sherwood.

Our first encounter with Charlie finds him very much in all-American hero mode. A sailing prodigy, his seafaring prowess has bagged him a scholarship with an Ivy League University, while on the domestic front, he enjoys the love of his mother, an underwritten Kim Basinger, and the adulation of his baseball crazy 11-year-old brother Sam (Charlie Tahan).

Their idyllic existence is shattered by a tragedy about which the less said here the better. Suffice to say the Charlie we encounter five years later is profoundly changed. Frozen with grief and unable to move on with his life, he's exchanged his maritime ambitions for a... er... dead-end job working in the local cemetery. The arrival on the scene of Tess (Amanda Crew), a round-the-world yachtswoman, offers a possibility of a new life, but imprisoned by the sadness surrounding his past, Charlie struggles to embrace the present.

This movie has shipped some criticism in the States on account of implausibility, and a jarring supernatural aspect, but allow yourself to enter into the somewhat disjointed spirit of proceedings and a poignant, touching and family-friendly movie-going experience is guaranteed. Efron brings some beautifully judged pathos to his portrayal while Burr Steers's accomplished direction ensures that no tear is left unjerked.

The Death and Life of Charlie St Cloud is now showing

Mr Nice

Cert 18

TALK about the ultimate trip down memory lane. You don't have to be a committed pot-head to fully enjoy director Bernard Rose's Howard Marks biopic Mr Nice, but I suspect it will aid appreciation levels.

Loosely based on Marks's autobiography of the same name, and starring Rhys Ifans in the central role, this visually impressive film charts the rise and fall of a man who, at one stage in the Seventies was considered one of the world's most notorious drug-smugglers. And also, as the opening scenes confirm, one of the most unlikely.

This opening portrait sequence of the dope-dealer as a young man is filmed in black and white and covers a nondescript childhood in Wales. Things took a turn for the exceptional when his intellectual gifts earn him a scholarship to Oxford where his first spliff is shown, both literally and metaphorically, to have brought colour into his life for the first time.

Nothing was ever the same for Marks as this event kick-started a love affair with cannabis that eventually saw him controlling a global empire. Somewhat bizarrely, the points in between included vast amounts of drugs being channelled through Shannon Airport courtesy of a psychotic IRA operative (was there any other type?) played convincingly by David Thewlis. It all eventually came crashing down but not before Marks got to experience the "fame" and "fortune" for which he "yearned."

Ifans is exceptional in the central role and makes one of the stronger contributions to a production that leaks credibility. Marks' story is mildly interesting and as professional parasites/drug smugglers go he seems more affable than most. Anyone looking for a degree of remorse, however, concerning past excesses will be disappointed.

Mr Nice is now showing

Rhys Ifans interview, page 12

Back to the Future

Cert PG

THERE are two main categories of Films You Saw Years Ago and Thought Were Great: those that you rewatch and discover were good, those that you rewatch and discover were rubbish.

Twenty-five years since its first release, Back to the Future is braving a new generation. Marty McFly (Michael J Fox) is back on his skateboard helping Doc Brown (Christopher Lloyd) discover time travel in a DeLorean. Based on co-writer Bob Gale's musings as to whether he and his father would have been friends if they had been contemporaries, Marty ends up travelling 30 years back in time.

The time-travel theme reduces any sense of the film dating since the Eighties. There are few enough special effects to have aged, bar the ageing which is a bit dubious, the script is funny and sharp and the gusto-filled performances do it justice. I'm willing to wager any withering comments of a new generation will be minimal.

Back to the Future is now showing

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