Thursday 19 July 2018

Cinema reviews: Trainwreck feels like yet another Bridget Jones

Trainwreck Cert: 16

It's complicated: Amy Schumer gets up close and personal with Bill Hader in the romantic comedy Trainwreck
It's complicated: Amy Schumer gets up close and personal with Bill Hader in the romantic comedy Trainwreck
Caper: Hugh Grant in stylish remake of The Man from U.N.C.L.E.

Hilary A White and Aine O'Connor

Reviewed this week are Trainwreck,, Paper Towns, Pixels, Mistress America and The Man from U.N.C.L.E.

Amy Schumer's lurid and heavily subscribed brand of comedy - as demonstrated in the hit series Inside Amy Schumer - means that Trainwreck comes with ample dollops of hype attached to it. She is very much a woman of the moment, a new funnygirl to rank alongside your Tina Feys and Amy Poehlers, and therefore this self-penned rom-com fulfils the role of a proper big-screen star vehicle to assist her breakthrough.

It's also a handy introduction to the apple-cheeked comedienne, known for imbuing her comedy with a crafty, low-flying feminism and all manner of anatomical sleaze.

Schumer teams up with US comedy bigwig Judd Apatow (Knocked Up, The 40-Year-Old Virgin) and the result is a serviceable first-date flick with some fresh ideas sprinkled throughout. She plays Amy, a commitment-phobic magazine writer in the Big Apple who sees little issue with her incessant mattress-hopping.

She is blindsided, however, when she meets Aaron (Bill Hader), a sports physician to the stars whom she is sent to write about. Willing on any development is her more rounded sister (Brie Larson)

For all its perspiration while knocking out what is essentially a series of off-colour comedy sketches (ably supported by an unrecognisable Tilda Swinton and real-life basketball star LeBron James), Trainwreck can feel like yet another Bridget Jones, Appropriate Behavior or any number of comedies about flaky female shirkers getting their act together in the name of love. And being Apatow, it's also a good half hour too long.


Now showing

Paper Towns

Cert: 12A

On the face of it, a coming-of-age yarn about privileged US teens starring uber-hip model Cara Delevingne would struggle to entice viewers of a certain age. That Paper Towns is also based on a John Green young-adult novel - he of the Kleenex-devouring The Fault In Our Stars - only adds to the sense that Jake Schreier's film is out to snare starry-eyed teens only.

The reality is that Schreier's follow-up to his well-regarded debut Robot & Frank is a disarming affair that is more than the sum of its pretty cast and bestseller source material.

It helps that Delevingne (showing sturdy acting chops) really only bookends the tale, remaining throughout as more of a symbol. She plays Margot Roth Spiegelman, the above-average girl next door whom Quentin (Nat Wolff) has been infatuated with since childhood. They drift apart through high school, he keeping his head down with fellow outsiders Ben (Austin Abrams) and Marcus (Justice Smith), she living life on the edge of delinquency.

After roping Quentin into a nocturnal mission one night, Margot vanishes but leaves clues for him to follow. A road trip is undertaken but the clock is ticking to be back in time for prom and a last hurrah before they all go their separate ways.

Wolff and the young cast are superb, while Delevingne's smoky expression suits the role of the elusive mystery girl. But what gives this parable on young love real resonance is its charming and considered conclusion.


In cinemas from tomorrow


Cert: 12A

Our grandchildren will look back in puzzlement at this generation and our foolish ways. How did we let the environment go to such ruin, they will ask? Why were we not more forthright on human rights? And how did we let Adam Sandler make as many dreadful movies as he did, year after year?

With 15 in the last five years alone, there looks to still be an appetite for Sandler with our cousins Stateside. Elsewhere, however, he is met with the suspicion of a thespian M Night Shyamalan, someone so synonymous with regular critical lambasting you wonder how on earth they remain employed.

In Pixels, Sandler's limited comedic palette is wisely playing second fiddle to tremendous CGI flurries of old-school video game animation designed squarely to tickle the nostalgia of dads while distracting their unfussy children. Not even Sandler could mess this up, your better judgement tells you.

He plays Sam, an 80s arcade-game champion before his career was scuppered by arch nemesis Eddie Plant (Game of Thrones' Peter Dinklage). Jump forward to present day and Sam is now a home entertainment repair man and has-been.

He is called to the White House where boorish best pal Will Cooper (Kevin James) is now installed as commander-in-chief.

It turns out that aliens have decided to attack Earth using the principles of arcade game staples - Pac-Man, Donkey Kong, Space Invaders - as a foundation for the assault. Sportingly, the extra-terrestrials are offering humanity the chance to play against them and Sam finds his calling.

Elaborately animated bogeys rain down as Sam and sidekick Ludlow (the ever disagreeable Josh Gad) fire back with absurd military contraptions, all before the adoring eyes of Michelle Monaghan's White House scientist.

If you can suspend your ire for Sandler and Gad (with Dinklage not much better) and the ponderously witless dialogue, mild fun can be elicited from the bombastic action pieces. That, however, is a very big "if".Dire.


Now showing

The Man From U.N.C.L.E.

Cert: 12A

After lolling around in development purgatory, with everyone from Tom Cruise to Quentin Tarantino attached to the project, a Man From U.N.C.L.E feature film finally emerges after some 20 years of false starts. The hit 60s TV show was a glamour-laden, vaguely kitsch spy serial and it would appear that this adaptation by Guy Ritchie wishes to keep those groovy ghosts alive in 2015.

Unsurprisingly, it's as stylistically heavy-handed as we've come to expect from the London director whose Sherlock films have provided him with a passport back to respectability following a fallow mid-noughties period. Split-screens dance about to Daniel Pemberton's hot-to-trot score, while sartorial elegance and Cold War intrigue are muddled happily like Mad Men rewritten by Ian Fleming. Very little could be called objectionable, bar perhaps a stop-start pace that can lurch from snazzy and finger-clicking to casual and self-satisfied.

Robert Vaughn's Napoleon Solo and David McCallum's Illya Kuryakin are rebooted capably by Superman himself Henry Cavill and Armie Hammer (The Social Network). The former is a smooth-talking and unflappable CIA agent, the latter his glass-chewing KGB opposite number. Neither is especially fond of the other, to put it mildly.

None-the-less, they are thrown together by their respective agencies to infiltrate an international organisation bent on developing nuclear weaponry. Facilitating this mission is Gaby Teller (Alicia Vikander), the fetching and formidable daughter of a German scientist being held by the cabal.

All the mise en scene fruits of East Berlin and va-va-voom Italy are put to good use as the trio exchange jibes and try to outfox the enemy. Hugh Grant and Elizabeth Debicki tag along for the cartoonish fun.


Now showing

Mistress America

Cert 15A

Collaborations between director Noah Baumbach and life partner Greta Gerwig have always been interesting and this latest project Baumbach directs what he and Gerwig co-wrote is no exception. Tracy (Lola Kirke) feels that college in New York is not all that she hoped and she's finding it hard to fit in and a little tame as a result. After some hesitation she contacts her older soon-to-be step sister Brooke (Gerwig) and is instantly transfixed by the human whirlwind. Brooke, who makes the entrance she feels she deserves down the red steps of Time Square, knows all the right people in all the right places and is well on her way to fulfilling her dream of setting up a trendy but homey restaurant.

When funding falls through Tracy enlists the help of her friend Tony (Matthew Shear) and his jealous girlfriend Nicolette (Jasmine Cephas Jones) to drive herself and Brooke to their last hope, arch nemesis Mamie Claire (Heather Lind) and her husband Dylan (Michael Chernus). The film instantly switches tone from frenetic mumblecore to old-fashioned farce. It works well exploring the notion of being yourself or becoming a persona and it's great to see juicy female roles, though there are female stereotypes as well. The changing tone, Gerwig's performance and fast dialogue make it feel messy at times but overall it's vibrant, original and funny.


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