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It's Big Brother ...with monkeys

CHIMPANZEE

Nature Documentary. Narrated by Tim Allen. Directed by Alastair Fothergill and Mark Linfield. Cert General

There's something reassuringly old-fashioned about Disneynature's latest offering. Back in the 1950s and '60s, Walt Disney was scooping Oscars by the bucketload with his True-Life Adventures series, in which nature footage was framed around a written narrative and what audiences saw was, in effect, a classic three-act story arc enacted by creatures in the wild.

As a kid, I loved those movies and even though there are several points at which it's easy to take issue with Chimpanzee, there's no reason why a new generation shouldn't be gently eased into a love of nature films via this route.

Directed by veterans of the BBC's Natural History unit, the film is set in the rainforests of West Africa and follows the story of Oscar, a young chimp who's orphaned and initially shunned, but pulls through against the odds to take his place among the troop by the end of the film.

The footage, it has to be said, is stunning.

Advances in camera technology have made it possible to plant small, high-definition devices in animals' habitats in order to observe them over a period of time and Chimpanzee does this brilliantly, capturing behaviour which seems almost human at times, but there also lies one of the biggest bugbears of modern nature films: ah yes, it's our old friend anthropomorphism.

Even the great, if not godlike, David Attenborough has been guilty of this in the past, making animal activities appear human-like in order to lure an audience in. In Chimpanzee, the cringeworthy narration is supplied by Tim Allen and out of what must have been thousands of hours of footage what we have is, in effect, a scripted reality show set in the jungle. Granted, the participants are a few rungs higher on the evolutionary ladder above, say, the cast of Tallafornia or Geordie Shore, but there's still something a little too schmaltzy about the way cute little Oscar is adopted by troop leader Freddy and they have to fend off the territorial claims of the 'bad' chimpanzees led by a mean-looking veteran who's been christened Scar by the film-makers. Scar, really?

The fact that chimpanzees, particularly young males of the species, are vicious creatures doesn't come across at all here. In fairness, I accept that Chimpanzee is aimed at children and doesn't purport to be a definitive account of how the primates' social structure operates – that would be a little too much for wee ones to take – but it could have done with a little bit more bite in it and absolutely most definitely a different narrator. 3 stars

21 & OVER

Comedy. Starring Miles Teller, Skylar Astin, Justin Chon, Sarah Wright, Francois Chau. Directed by Jon Lucas and Scott Moore. Cert 16

There have been some truly horrible 'what a night that was' movies from America in recent years, vile vehicles for the adolescent revenge fantasies of their writers – several of them starring Jonah Hill for some reason – and 21 & Over has set the bar lower still. The directing team of Jon Lucas and Scott Moore made their name with the screenplay for The Hangover, a genuinely funny 'what a night that was' movie in which the central characters were a bunch of hapless eejits.

However, come the sequel they were a bunch of obnoxious assholes and the result was a laugh-free farrago of a film. Naturally, it made more money than the original. With 21 & Over, Lucas and Scott have set their sights even lower, taking a plot that's been flogged to death for decades and bringing absolutely nothing new to the party.

Effectively The Hangover, only with a different set of 'characters', the story, such as it is, revolves around one-time high-school buddies Casey (Skylar Astin) and Miller (Miles Teller) taking their studious Asian buddy Jeff Chang (Justin Chon) out for 'a drink' on his 21st birthday, promising that of course he'll be bright-eyed and bushy-tailed for his big interview for medical school the next morning. What could possibly go wrong? Well, the entire film for starters. Having to endure 90 minutes in the company of such boorish, shallow, racist, sexist and downright objectionable creations as they drink and 'party' their way through the bars of a college campus makes for thoroughly depressing viewing.

Maybe bars in America have changed a hell of a lot since I was last there, but I'd love to see a movie where these morons tried to behave like that in, say, the Sunset House, the Towers or the Furry Bog.It'd be a very short film but by God it'd be funnier than this. 1 star

THE GATEKEEPERS

Documentary. Featuring Avraham Shalom, Carmi Gillon, Ami Ayalon, Yaakov Peri, Avi Dichter, Yuval Diskin. Directed by Dror Moreh. Cert Club

Deservedly nominated for an Oscar earlier this year, Dror Moreh's fascinating documentary brings together the six surviving former heads of Shin Bet, Israel's counter-terrorism agency, to talk candidly about how their country acted from the Six-Day War in 1967 to the present day.

There are candid admissions of how 'collateral damage' in dealing with Palestinian terrorists is assessed and acted upon or not and overall a genuine regret that successive Israeli governments didn't engage in discussions with their avowed enemies when they had the chance.

This is a marvellous piece of work which should be viewed by anyone with even the slightest interest in the politics of the Middle East. 4 stars


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