Thursday 18 January 2018

Mildly funny Korma caper lacks spice

film reviews

Padraic McKiernan and Aine O’Connor

It's a Wonderful Afterlife

Cert 12A

Bollywood collides with Blighty courtesy of UK-based Indian director Gurinda Chadha's visually vibrant comedy It's a Wonderful Afterlife. This well intentioned affair has been described as My Big Fat Greek Wedding meets Shaun of The Dead but a more accurate appraisal would be "The Kumars at No 42: The Movie" meets "Carry On Korma".

Set in Southall and starring Shabana Azmi, newcomer Goldy Notay and Golden Globe winner Sally Hawkins, the set-up is an attempt to put the killer into killer comedy. When repeated attempts to marry off her rather rotund daughter Roopi (Notay) come to nothing, Mrs Sethi (Azmi) embarks on an Indian cuisine-themed killing spree targeted at those who rejected her daughter.

Consequences of this er, naanslaughter, include departed spirits unable to move on, the arrival on the scene of a couple of defective detectives played by Mark Addy and love interest Sendhil Ramamurthy, with significant input from Roopi's best mate, "psycho psychic" Linda (Hawkins). Throw in a decent comic cameo from Zoe Wannamaker as Mrs Sethi's Jewish neighbour, copious amounts of slapstick and you've got most of this movie's finer points. Proceedings come to a crescendo at an Indian wedding ceremony thanks to a dreadfully unfunny curry... sorry, Carrie homage delivered by Hawkins.

This harmless but forgettable comic caper can't be faulted in terms of production values but the problems begin and end with a script that is just too light on laughs. It comes from the director and her husband and long-standing writing partner, Paul Mayeda Berges. On this evidence, criticism isn't a factor in their relationship.

It could be that the ranks of the easily pleased will find compensations in the food fights and the easy-on-the-ear Eighties classics. As for the comedy cognoscenti? Unlikely to curry favour, I'm afraid.


'It's a Wonderful Afterlife' is now showing nationwide

The Last Song

Cert 12A

When her parents divorce, Ronnie Miller (Miley Cyrus) does not forgive her father (Greg Kinnear) for moving all the way to Georgia, so when she and her younger brother are despatched to spend the summer with him, Ronnie goes into teenage overdrive to make him pay. A piano prodigy, Ronnie's rebellion has also taken the form of refusing to play, even though Julliard are holding a place for her.

Her goth (read outsider) self catches the attention of sporty golden boy on the beach Will (Liam Hemsworth) and he tries but fails to attract her attention until they bond over some turtles and some tortured teenage love ensues. He has a past, his mother is a cow, Ronnie has trust issues, then, wouldn't you know it, there's a problem with dad.

Adapted and co-written by Nicholas Sparks from another of his horrible novels, and a first film for TV director Julie Anne Robinson, there is so much packed into this, so much melodrama and emoshun that it made me queasy.

Cyrus is oddly one-dimensional, Kinnear looks like he has conjunctivitis from the amount of eye misting required, the little brother is so sincere he needs a kick and Hemsworth is so busy smirking and puffing his chest out he didn't get a chance to act.

To be fair (if I must), this grown-up Miley Cyrus role isn't pitched at middle-aged women -- especially not those who are subjected to Hannah Montana, Miley's alter ego, for an unreasonable amount of hours per week. Her fans and teens in love with love should actually enjoy the latest festival of schmaltz that that man Sparks has spawned.


'The Last Song' opens on Friday


Cert 15A

Michael Fassbender seems keen on physically demanding roles and in Centurion we first see him, bulked up since Hunger, crawling, handcuffed through the snow. His name is Quintus Dias and this is neither the beginning nor the end of his story.

Stationed at the Romans' most northerly British outpost for two years, he is captured by the Picts and brought before their king, Gorlacon, because he can speak their language (with a twang of the Kerry Gaeltacht?). But he escapes, meeting up with the legendary Fifth Legion as they march north under orders to rout the unruly Picts once and for all. Quintus' knowledge of Gorlacon will be a bonus.

According to legend, the Legion disappeared and Centurion attempts to explain how and why. In the aftermath, Quintus Dias heads up a motley group of survivors (including Liam Cunningham, David Morrissey and JJ Field) who must make their way back to safety, rescuing their General Virilus (Dominic West) on the way. But events mean that they will be pursued at every step by Etain (Olga Kurylenko), who takes no prisoners. Literally.

Centurion does what it says on the tin. Nary a subplot (well, almost) diverts from the manly action, stylised gore and battles aplenty -- it is after all directed by Splat Pack member Neil Marshall whose horror pedigree has given him gory death experience. However, it is a great-looking, dramatically shot film and surely at least partially funded by the Scottish tourist board.

Quintus Dias is quite metrosexual for a Roman soldier. None of your raping and pillaging for him, but he does wield a mean sword and shows remarkable resilience in the face of all odds.

The film should bring Marshall a new audience, it is still action but 117AD and semi historical, a visual feast which is certainly worth the price of the popcorn if you don't mind a beheading or two.


'Centurion' is now showing nationwide

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