Wednesday 21 March 2018

Megastars fail to light up Knight

Knight and Day
Cert 12A

Aine O'Connor, Padraic McKiernan and Hilary A White

James Mangold's career as writer and director has been varied and interesting, he made Walk the Line, Cop Land and Girl, Interrupted, coaxing award-winning performances from many a star. Mangold directs only in Knight and Day, working from a script by the inexperienced Patrick O'Neill and no-one is pitching for any great emotional depth, it's Tom Cruise and Cameron Diaz lashing about in a summer blockbuster.

June Havens (Diaz) finds her life entangled with maverick secret agent Roy Miller (Cruise), and try as she might to return to her life, survival hinges on hooking up with Roy and a boy genius (Paul Dano) against a series of bad guys. But who exactly are the baddies? Clearly you'd have to do quite a lot of car chases and international travel to find out, and this is what they do. There's an almost forgettable bridesmaid subplot and something about a fireman.

There's been a return to old-fashioned action, big names saving the day, high-octane sequences and high baddie death tolls. In Knight and Day it's all chirpy killing where none of the dying even bleed, let alone writhe in agony. The humour is simple, and overall, the script is mediocre. Diaz and Cruise are likable but lack chemistry, while support from Peter Sarsgaard, Viola Davis and Spanish actor Jordi Molla is solid.

All in all it trots along, proving entertaining but pretty ridiculous. The plot is saved with some laughs, lots of action and two high-wattage movie-star performances.


Knight and Day is now showing

Step Up 3-D

Cert PG

EVER wonder why they say it's murder on the dancefloor? On the evidence of high-energy dance extravaganza Step Up 3-D, it's down to the killer dance moves. The good news for fans of this popular franchise is that this feature from John Chu is undeniably a step up (sorry) on anything that has gone before.

The Big Apple has replaced Baltimore as the main backdrop in a story that sees Moose, the incredibly gifted Adam G Savani from the previous instalment, arriving in New York to study engineer- ing. His strait-laced parents are relieved that he's agreed to hang up his dancing shoes, but his resolve is fleeting.

Destiny intervenes in Washington Square, when Moose's metatarsal mastery gets him noticed by Luke (Rick Malambri) and The Pirates, the latter's troupe of underground street dancers. The hunktastic Luke operates a dance cooperative from a property he inherited in Manhattan but money problems mean he and his hip-hop homies will be evicted if they don't win the $100,000 on offer in a danceslam.

Is Moose the missing link that will propel The Pirates to triumph? Where there's a hunk there's usually a hottie and the arrival on the scene of the bodacious Natalie (Sharni Vinson) shouldn't go without mention. As one who has long adopted a can't-dance-won't-dance approach to this sort of thing I'm not going to pretend I was anything other than deeply unmoved by the experience. I did see enough, however, to suggest this movie's twinkle-toed target demographic will be suitably dazzled. Savani's Jacko-esque athleticism is truly astounding, while a couple of decent comic moments help maintain momentum. The 3-D aspect works well in accentuating the choreography.


Step Up 3-D is now showing

Beautiful Kate

From Walkabout to Wolf Creek, Australian cinema has a thing for nightmarish scenarios about human dysfunction amid the isolation of the Outback. Multitalented actor-turned-writer/director Rachel Ward may not associate herself with this tradition, but Beautiful Kate's tale of skeletons in a rural family's cupboard is not far removed.

Rakish writer Ned (Ben Mendelsohn) and his Barbarella-like fiancee hit a kangaroo en route to Ned's remote family home. Though insignificant in the larger scheme of the story, the incident hints at the tragic consequences of certain mistakes. Welcoming Ned back is sister Sally (another expertly crafted Rachel Griffiths turn), but welcomes are not forthcoming from their hate-filled father (Bryan Brown). We quickly appreciate that this man was a horrid father, but there is something else missing in the picture that Ned is forced to come to terms with when Sally leaves for a few days.

Beautiful Sophie Rowe plays the titular Kate, twin sister to Ned, whose death, along with that of older brother Cliff, is the dark heart of the tale. Ned undergoes fraught flashbacks to his troubled teenage years with Kate, writing it all down while battling with father and fiancee. It soon becomes clear that he has to hit rock-bottom before the healing can begin.

Shot in the stunning expanses of the Flinders Range, Ward's adaptation of Newton Thornburg's US novella keeps the agoraphobia in check and lets the dread emanate from closer to home -- the barn, the dried-up lake etc. But this is no horror show. The director is careful to treat the siblings' abnormalities with a nurturing hand, at odds with the grotesque distortions that Outback cinema usually dangles in front of us.


Beautiful Kate is now showingat the IFI

London River

Cert: 12A

Sotigui Kouyate makes his final screen appearance in this simplistic but ultimately poignant story about parents scouring London for their children following the 7/7 bombings. The Malian actor died earlier this year, and while this swansong may not endure, it is a somewhat fitting way to remember him.

He plays Ousmane, leaving his adopted home of France to search for his son in the aftermath of the 2005 terror attacks. He crosses paths with Guernsey-based English mum Elizabeth Sommers (a slightly irksome Brenda Blethyn) who, fearing the worst, travels to London in the hope of finding her daughter. She is initially intolerant of Ousmane, but the pair soon discover their offspring were in a relationship. As more common ground is established, an alliance forms, one the gentlemanly African settles into with ease. This is a little harder for Elizabeth, who suspects her daughter was corrupted by this stranger's son.

Narratively, London River does more than it needs to, and occasionally patronises the viewer with spoon-feeding. This comes in the shape of superfluous shots of the characters walking around as a dreadful saxophone score is repeated in the background. Blethyn's performance, meanwhile, throws subtlety out the window, something plainly visible amid such subdued cinematography.

While the plot is predictable, there is still no denying the large-hearted sensitivity writer and director Rachid Bouchareb has brought to this treatment of a nightmarish situation. You sense that this is most likely an accurate depiction of those post-attack days -- London's sizeable Muslim community were as confounded as anyone but life still had to carry on for everyone, save the victims and their families.


London River is now showing

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