Three sequels in, Shrek battles midlife crisis
Shrek Forever After
NINE years and three sequels on from the original, Shrek Forever After sees franchise creators DreamWorks deliver a masterclass in the art of quitting while you're ahead. Billed as the "final instalment", this Mike Mitchell-directed feature doesn't quite compare with the original in terms of the visual and verbal "wow!" factor -- but it does represent a return to form for a box-office juggernaut that was showing signs of having run out of road.
Be careful what you wish for sums up the setup. The opening scenes find Shrek (voiced by Mike Myers) in the throes of a mid-life meltdown. The daily domestic drudge with Princess Fiona (Cameron Diaz) and his three adorable tykes has left him wondering whether he's become a "jolly green joke," while the demands of his adoring fans has set him on a collision course with the end of his tether.
Enter Rumpelstiltskin (Walt Dohrn) as the evil imp who offers Shrek an opportunity to rediscover his mojo and go right back to "when the world made sense".
Oblivious to the former's nefarious instincts, Shrek signs along the dotted line and finds himself catapulted into a parallel universe where the evil Rumpelstiltskin and his squadrons of witches call the shots and ogres are an endangered species.
Needless to say, it isn't long before good is going toe to toe with evil and franchise staples Donkey (Eddie Murphy) and Puss in Boots (Antonio Banderas) are back on the scene.
The plot is excessively complicated and the 3D effects come across as superfluous but the spectacle benefits greatly from the vibrancy and vitality the main players bring to their voice work. Banderas is a consistent hoot while Dohrn makes the sort of impact as Rumpelstiltskin that adds to the sense of a franchise finishing with a flourish. Not that this is definitely the end. I mean we've been introduced to the next generation. Any takers for Son of Shrek?
On nationwide release from July 2
Get Him to the Greek
Onstage at the premiere in Dublin to introduce Get Him to the Greek, Russell Brand and Jonah Hill say f*** a lot. They are trying to be funny. I confess a mild dislike for Russell Brand's style. It doesn't bode well.
Get Him to the Greek is sort of a spin-off of Forgetting Sarah Marshall. Both are directed, this also written, by Nicholas Stoller and both feature Brand as Aldous Snow, debauched rock star whose career is now failing. Hill plays Aaron, an eager to please music company employee despatched to London on the arduous task of getting Aldous across the Atlantic. Aldous is an addict who is pining for ex-girlfriend Jackie Q (Rose Byrne) and Aaron has the added distractions of Machiavellian boss Sergio (Sean Combs) and a possibly ex long-term girlfriend (Elizabeth Moss).
It's essentially a buddy movie and there's more than a whiff of producer Judd Apatow. This in itself says a lot about the humour. There are some stupid lines, a little too much dependence on shock value and body-related incidents for laughs and the songs just aren't funny, but there are also some great lines. I rather enjoyed Sergio's leather jacket being three zippers short of Thriller and the Blind Medicine reference to Sarah Marshall.
It is the performances however that make it. Combs throws himself into it with abandon, mining all the worst things ever said about him to produce a winningly horrible performance. Hill is straight but not so straight as to be a caricature and Brand was a great surprise, he was really good. The chemistry between the buddies also works well.
A strange mix of vomit and bonding, Get Him to the Greek is too long but it works more than it doesn't work and the performances carry it through. Although anyone who hates Apatow's style will still hate this.
Now showing nationwide
Stomachs will be put to the test with this mutilation thriller from Marcus Dunstan and the good folk who brought us the last four Saw instalments. That franchise made a name for itself with pornographic standards of torture and bloodletting, and the song remains the same with this close relative.
It's straight down to business after the nightmarish opening credits (an industrial techno dirge over images of cockroaches and sharp things), as we're introduced to ex-con Arkin (a coldly wooden Josh Stewart). Arkin poses as a handyman by day before picking the safes of those he's working for by night. We're unsure about him as he skulks around the home of a wealthy jeweller and his family, smoking cigarettes and looking shifty.
But that night when he breaks into the house to steal some jewels that will help his ailing domestic situation, Arkin becomes the prey. It turns out there is someone else in the house who has mum and dad bound and slashed in the basement while the rest of the premises is booby-trapped in a range of colourful and ironic ways. Enter the titular psychopath.
Arkin's anti-hero journey is probably the most noteworthy thing about a film that relies more on a potent sense of dread and grossing you out than doing anything particularly outlandish. It is certainly very creepy and unpleasant if you're into that sort of thing, but you feel they've over-iced the cake on the gore. After an eerie build up, it's down to the basement we go -- from here on it is unrelentingly graphic and exhausting.
The twisty ending is not so much bittersweet as actively acidic and hints at a possible sequel, but you're worn out and need a hug by then. If the idea is to make audiences squirm so much they're too tired to complain, then The Collector succeeds.
Now showing nationwide