Sunday, 28 April 2013

Sundance London: Day 4

And so it winds to an end, the second Sundance Film & Music Festival dragged me out to the O2 every day for the past week to see some very good films indeed (and a few only ok ones). My 5 best of the festival are In a World, Blood Brother, God Loves Uganda, The Kings of Summer and History of the Eagles Part One. Here are a few final notes...

Upstream Color
dir Shane Carruth; with Amy Seimetz, Shane Carruth 13/US ***
Carruth is back with an even more challenging film than Primer, eschewing traditional narrative to create a sensual thriller based on visual and audio textures. But there's not much in the way of coherent plot or characterisation. It's a bit infuriating, as it indulgently refuses to coalesce into something focussed, but as a cinematic experience, it's pretty fascinating. It centres on a woman (Seimetz) who is robbed with the use of a trance-inducing worm. When she wakes up afterwards, she has a strange connection to a cyclical system involving pigs, a sound recordist and the other people who have been robbed this way, including a man (Carruth) she falls in love with. We never really have a clue what's happening, but the film is gorgeously shot and edited, with a stunning sound mix. And in the end, it's more like an eerily emotional David Lynch thriller than Terrence Malick's Tree of Life, which it strongly resembles.

dir Stu Zicherman; with Adam Scott, Richard Jenkins 13/US ***
There's a strong autobiographical feeling to this comedy, in the sense that the filmmaker is using it to work out his own issues as an Adult Child of Divorce. Yes, it feels like an act of therapy rather than an actual organic comedy. Fortunately, it has a strong cast of comedy experts who make it both funny and engaging. Scott stars as a guy terrified by the thought of his brother (Clark Duke) getting married, because it means their feuding parents (Jenkins and Catherine O'Hara) will be in a room together. So he turns to his childhood therapist (the magnificent Jane Lynch) for help, and discovers that he was the subject of a book as a child. And now she wants to write about him again as an ACOD. The dialog is snappy and often hilarious, performed to perfection by an up-for-it cast who know how to deliver a punchline. So it's a bit annoying that the plot itself feels so contrived, cycling through the expected situations on the way to the expected conclusion. The cast includes Amy Poehler, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Ken Howard and Jessica Alba. Yes, really.

The Inevitible Defeat of Mister & Pete
dir George Tillman Jr; with Skylan Brooks, Ethan Dizon 13/US *** 
A strong story helps make up for this film's somewhat pushy tone, as it features young actors who are simply too sophisticated for their characters. But it's still thoroughly engaging, winning us over with its open-hearted approach and the tenacity of people living in such a difficult situation. Mister (Brooks) is a 14-year-old whose junkie-hooker mother (Jennifer Hudson) goes missing at the beginning of the summer. Saddled with Pete (Dizon), the 9-year-old she was babysitting, Mister decides they can survive alone for the summer and make it to his August audition for a role in a TV series, which will of course solve all his problems. As they panhandle for survival, they seek help from a wealthy friend (Jordin Sparks), a pimp (Anthony Mackie) and a homeless veteran (Jeffrey Wright), all while trying to avoid a ruthless cop (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje). Yes, the cast is impressive, but the script is extremely constructed, and the young actors are a bit too good to be true. But the story is important, and the film wins us over with its genuine emotional depth.

The Summit
dir Nick Ryan; with Pemba Gyalje, Cecilie Skog 12/Ire ***
This strikingly well-made documentary about a harrowing real-life incident lets itself down by taking a too-ambitious approach to the narrative. Filmmaker Ryan chops the story up in an attempt to build suspense, but ends up making it very difficult to engage with the chain of events. In August 2008, 11 climbers died on K2 in one of the deadliest days in mountain-climbing history. But what happened was a mystery, and the facts weren't revealed until three family members travelled to Pakistan to talk to Sherpa Gyalje to fill in the gaps. Frankly, the story is thrilling enough without being told in such a circular fashion, and intercutting it with Walter Bonatti's account of the first K2 ascent in 1954 leaves both stories feeling incomplete. Which is frustrating since the film looks absolutely amazing, seamlessly mixing archive footage and photos with dramatic recreations shot in the Swiss Alps. The cinematography (by Robbie Ryan and Stephen O'Reilly) is spectacular, and the interviews with survivors are deeply moving.

Sundance Shorts
There were nine short films in this programme, including the prize winner - and easily the best in the collection: William Oldroyd's Best is a brief little film that packs a whole world into its single scene. A clever idea impeccably executed by a strong cast and crew.  Other stand-out clips included the hilarious cat-breeding comedy The Date from Finland, the blackly amusing horror comedy The Apocalypse, and the intriguing stop-motion doc Irish Folk Furniture. There were also two films that attempted to show stereotypical men as human beings: The Whistle quietly follows a beleaguered Polish football referee, while the slightly preachier Black Metal centres on a death-rock singer blamed for a tragedy.

Saturday, 27 April 2013

Sundance London: Day 3

Friday was my longest day at the Sundance London Film and Music Festival: I left home at 8am and got back after midnight. And there's not much to do at the O2 beyond seeing movies or eating in bland chain restaurants! I saw four features and eight shorts...

Emanuel and the Truth About Fishes
dir Francesca Gregorini; with Kaya Scodelario, Jessica Biel 13/US ***
Made with considerable skill and style, this offbeat drama struggles to find authenticity due to an combination of over-developed script and superficial characters. It has its moments, and is intriguing enough to hold our interest, but ultimately leaves us empty. It centres on Emanuel (Scodelario, pictured), who as she nears her 18th birthday begins her annual descent into grief and guilt about her mother, who died in childbirth. Her father (Molina) tries to be understanding, but his new wife (O'Connor) is like salt in the wound. Then Linda (Biel) moves next door with her infant daughter, and Emanuel discovers that parenthood is never what it seems. Yes, there's a lot of lesson-learning in this movie, although writer-director Gregorini isn't too heavy handed about that. On the other hand, the film is very indulgent in its more fantastic elements, which refer to the title and never quite make sense.

Sleepwalk With Me
dir Mike Birbiglia; with Mike Birbiglia, Lauren Ambrose 12/US ***
Based on his one-man show, Birbiglia's film is an almost startlingly honest exploration of events from his own life. Because he makes himself deeply unlikable. It's not easy to sympathise with someone who is this relentless in his self-obsession, to the point where he alienates everyone he loves. But Birbiglia seems to be suggesting that this was a good thing for his career. He plays a thinly fictionalised version of himself: a wannabe stand-up comic who has a potentially dangerous sleepwalking condition, brought on by self-inflicted stress about his career, a fear of commitment to his long-term girlfriend (Ambrose) and a refusal to properly deal with pressures from his parents (Carol Kane and James Rebhorn). Yes, the supporting cast is amazing, peppered with ace comics who bring out the humour and drama perfectly. And the portrayal of a young comic getting his start in a harsh business is fascinating. But Birbiglia is far too hard on himself, wallowing in his failings and giving us very few reasons to root for him.

In a World...
dir Lake Bell; with Lake Bell, Fred Melamed 13/US *****
This almost painfully hilarious script playfully explores an aspect of the movie business while touching on some serious issues about competition between genders and generations. It also places the actress Bell on a list of writer-directors to watch. She plays Carol, a vocal coach who discovers she has a gift as a voiceover artist like her dad Sam (Melamed). But when she goes up for a job voicing a trailer for an epic quadrilogy, she opens a can of worms not only with her fiercely jealous dad, but also with his womanising prodigy (Ken Marino). And can a woman voice an iconic "in a world" trailer? That's a man's job! The script is a riot of side stories, from marital problems to unspoken crushes, plus family resentments and professional rivalries. It's so cleverly constructed that it grips us from the moment it starts, then keeps us laughing helplessly with a steady stream of verbal and visual gags - so much so that we'll want to watch it again to catch anything we might have missed. These are great characters with feisty inter-relationships we can identify with. And it's also a wonderful exploration of a side of the movie industry we rarely see on screen. As Bell said in the post-screening Q&A, making a trailer for this movie is the real challenge.

Metro Manila
dir Sean Ellis; with Jake Macapagal, Althea Vega 13/Ph ***.
With a striking usual sensibility, British director Sean Ellis takes us into the bustling streets of Manila for a family drama that shifts into a seriously intense thriller. The story is perhaps a bit too tidy, broadly signposting both themes and plot twists, but a natural cast and the urgent camerawork make it a riveting ride. It centres on Oscar (Macapagal), a struggling farmer who uproots his wife Mai (Vega) and two daughters to move to the capital to try to make a living. But things are of course even more difficult there. Oscar manages to get a job as an armoured van driver, the most dangerous job in town, while Mai finds work in a lap-dancing club. But both are pushed into horrible moral corners. And when Oscar's partner (Arcilla) makes a shady proposal, he sees a possible way out. Thankfully, the story doesn't go as expected; Ellis has a few surprises up his sleeve. And this is the kind of tale that could be set in hundreds of cities where desperate people try to solve impossible economic difficulties. So the film has a strong resonance as things get very nasty indeed. In the end, it's slightly over-constructed to lay its messages out clearly for us, but it's also a thrilling drama that beautifully captures the Filipino settings with a documentary sense of urgency.

New American Noise
This shorts programme featured six films highlighting underground music scenes in six American cities: Detroit, Atlanta, Portland, Brooklyn, Los Angeles and New Orleans. Lords of Detroit and Electric Noise (Portland) are overview films, exploring musical heritage mixing with present-day musicians. They look like slick adverts produced by the city to attract funky artists to the city. Atlanta Dream$ is colourfully set in the strip clubs, which launch much of the local rap music. Spit Gold Under an Empire (Brooklyn) takes a much more personal approach, following a few gifted rappers around the streets exploring their inspiration. SFV Acid (Los Angeles) is even more focussed, as it artfully centres on the eponymous San Fernando Valley musician (aka Zane Reynolds) and how he creates his moody tracks. And saving the best for last, That B.E.A.T. (New Orleans) is a thrilling explosion of raw energy, skilfully exploring the infectious rhythms of bounce. In addition, we were also shown the two finalists in the Talenthouse competition, seeking similar films internationally. There's Nothing Like a Soundsystem explores the lively underground party scene in Glasgow, where it's all about amplifying that pounding baseline. And Red Earth Hip Hop is a stunning film about Australian DJ Morganics travelling to an isolated Outback community where local music is combining with rap to produce something rather astonishing.

Friday, 26 April 2013

Sundance London: Day 2

As the Sundance London Film and Music Festival heads into the weekend, the schedule is getting crowded with narrative features, documentaries, shorts, live events, musical performances, workshops and just a lot of time hanging out with the filmmakers at the festival hub in the O2. Yesterday's big press event was a chance to meet the current lineup of the Eagles (Timothy Schmit, Don Henley, Glenn Frey and Joe Walsh, pictured) following the morning screening of their new documentary.

Having grown up on their music, I found the film almost too nostalgic ... and then being in a room with them was almost too awesome for words. They chatted energetically about how their interaction as a band has mellowed with age (Henley: "Men grow up slowly." Frey: "If at all."), and they even took a poke at reality music competitions ("How can you call it art if it's a contest?") Of course, Walsh just punchlines to most comments; he entered carrying a fire extinguisher and when asked when he arrived in London replied, "I'm not here yet." Anyway, here are comments on that film, and a few others...

History of the Eagles: Part One
dir Alison Ellwood; with Don Henley, Glenn Frey 13/US ****
There's an astonishing level of detail in this documentary about one of the 1970s most iconic rock bands, including extensive archive footage, rare performances, vintage photos and new interviews to put everything into perspective. The story of the Eagles may not as outrageous as some other bands, but it's utterly gripping. Filmmaker Ellwood (working with producer Alex Gibney) goes back to Henley and Frey's childhoods and traces their love of music, early collaborations and the launch of the Eagles in the early 1970s. Over the next decade, the band's line-up changes subtly, refining the unique mix of rock, country and blues. But a band is like a marriage, and this five-man group struggles to hold thing together. Intriguingly, it's not the drugs, sex or hotel-room trashings that break them up. And while there's a sense that their interaction has been edited (what are we not seeing?), the simple facts are riveting. As are the amazing home movies and live music performances.

Touchy Feely
dir Lynn Shelton; with Rosemarie DeWitt, Josh Pais 13/US ***
Shelton once again tackles sensitive relationship issues in this observant comedy, which finds quiet resonance in the astute performances even if the script never really fills in the blanks. It's an enjoyable dark comedy, although it's also too awkward for its own good. The story centres on a massage therapist (DeWitt) who suddenly begins to recoil at the touch of human skin. Meanwhile, her dentist brother (Pais) discovers that he may have the ability to heal his patients. The tidy symmetry of the cast is a little frustrating, but the messy interaction keeps us engaged. Especially since it's so impeccably played by the superb cast, which includes Ellen Page, Allison Janney and Scoot McNairy.

In Fear
dir Jeremy Lovering; with Iain De Caestecker, Alice Englert 13/UK ***
A contained experiment in horror, this film's infuriatingly vague approach removes any chance for actual terror. It's extremely well shot and acted, creepy and atmospheric, with a moody sense of uncertainty and some nasty jolts. But making us jump isn't the same as putting our stomach in knots. There are only three people in the cast, as Tom and Lucy (De Caestecker and Englert) head off in search of a romantic getaway hotel in the middle of nowhere, then get hopelessly lost in a maze of country roads. As darkness sets in, they start to wonder if someone is messing with them by changing the roadsigns. Then they meet a terrified young man (Leech). The roles are pretty demanding, as the film is laced with subtext that's a lot more interesting than the plot itself. The best thing here is watching Tom and Lucy's young relationship be rattled to the breaking point right before our eyes. And writer-director Lovering does a great job creating a nasty atmosphere in the dark, rainy wilderness.

Blood Brother
dir Steve Hoover; with Rocky Braat, Steve Hoover 13/US ****.
What starts out as a profile by filmmaker Steve Hoover of his best pal Rocky turns into a remarkable journey into the human soul. Not only does Steve witness something unexpected about Rocky, but his own life is changed forever by the experience. And the film is beautifully shot and edited to make the story powerfully compelling. At the beginning, Steve finds it difficult to understand why Rocky has decided to move to India and live in a refuge full of children with Aids. So he travels there to see what it's all about. But even as he's shocked by the realities of a situation in which children die regularly, he begins to see how Rocky has given his heart to this rural community, finding purpose and meaning outside a more commercial, money-driven America. And while Rocky sometimes looks a bit saintly, the film also shows his doubts and frustrations. But it's in the dramatic events caught on camera that the film shakes us to the core, inspiring us to find meaning in our lives too.

Running From Crazy
dir Barbara Kopple; with Mariel Hemingway, Bobby Williams 13/US ***.
Mariel Hemingway takes us on a trip into her famous family in this sometimes too-intimate documentary. While it has a lot to say about mental illness and suicide, it's even more interesting as an exploration of one family's difficult journey. But the raw facts are almost overwhelming: Mariel has survived seven suicides in her family, including her iconic author grandfather Ernest and her model-actress sister Margaux. So now she dedicates her life to well-being and health, talking opening about everything in an attempt to help her daughters Langley and Dree escape the family "curse". Filmmaker Koople never flinches from anything, as Mariel talks openly about her troubled life. And a good chunk of the film consists of telling footage from Margaux's 1984 work to document the family. It's intimate and sometimes shocking, and very moving.

Thursday, 25 April 2013

Sundance London: Day 1

The 2nd Sundance London Film and Music Festival kicked off at the O2 today with another ambitious collection of films from the January event in Park City, plus a number of live performances, workshops, panel discussions and musical events. Press screenings have been underway all week, and now the fun really starts, since all of the filmmakers are in town for the festival.

Yesterday we had a big launch press conference with Robert Redford, who noted that Sundance's first venture outside its home base in Utah was a big success last year, and he was happy to be invited back again. "It's a cultural exchange," he said, "We bring foreign films to Utah and now we're exporting American films to London audiences. And the filmmakers are excited to see their films travel outside America's borders." Here are a few early highlights...

The Kings of Summer
dir Jordan Vogt-Roberts; with Nick Robinson, Gabriel Basso 13/US ****
Witty direction and an exceptionally sharp script give this coming-of-age film a blast of originality that completely wins us over. There may be a few too many wacky touches, but overall the film is grounded in solid characters and hilariously squirm-inducing observations. It centres on three teens (Robinson,  Moises Arias and Basso, pictured) who run away from home and build a cabin in the woods to escape their humiliating parents. And we can see why, with brilliant supporting turns by the likes of Nick Offerman and Megan Mullally. So even if the film sometimes drifts toward Napoleon Dynamite, it remains grounded by the excellent performances and sharply observant filmmaking.

The Look of Love
dir Michael Winterbottom; with Steve Coogan, Imogen Poots 13/UK ***.
This fascinating story is told with vivid style, a terrific use of actual settings and a strong cast. But the characters never quite get under our skin, so our interest in the history of one of London's more colourful districts is never deepened by personal resonance or larger meaning... REVIEW >

dir Jeff Nichols; with Tye Sheridan, Jacob Lofland 12/US ***.
Nichols is a gifted writer-director who knows how to get into the heads of his characters. And this film has superior actors who create people who are intriguing and hugely involving. But the overlong running time makes the story drag badly, straining our patience to the point where we don't really mind how things end... REVIEW >

God Loves Uganda
dir Roger Ross Williams; with Christopher Senyonjo, Lou Engle 13/US *****
This deeply disturbing documentary shines the light on a side of American culture that seems wholly positive to everyone involved. But from the outside it looks sinister and hateful. Credit must go to the filmmakers for presenting this in a fair and balanced way, covering the whole story with remarkable restraint. The topic is the missionary work run by the Kansas City-based International House of Prayer in Uganda, where in the name of Christian outreach they export ultra-conservative views that would never take root in America. This has led to several violent murders as "Christians" rise up to kill anyone perceived to be a homosexual, and indeed a law is before Uganda's parliament to make being gay a capital offense. Watching these clean-cut, under-educated American young people is shocking: their hearts may be in the right place, but they simply don't realise that they are actually killing people instead of helping them. A remarkably honest but truly shocking film that deserves to spark a lot of discussion. Especially in Uganda.

Monday, 22 April 2013

Critical Week: It's just so hilarious

Judging by the poster image, Hollywood veterans Susan Sarandon, Robert DeNiro, Diane Keaton and Robin Williams clearly found their new movie The Big Wedding absolutely hilarious. And there was plenty of laughter at last week's UK press screening, although reviews are embargoed until next Friday. Reviews are also embargoed for Iron Man 3, which was screened to us on Wednesday night with director Shane Black and his cowriter Drew Peace on hand to do a stand-up style introduction. They certainly got us in the right mood for the film.

Off the beaten path: we also saw Olivier Assayas' ambitious but somewhat dry youth-in-revolt drama Something in the Air and the very nicely written and played Spanish drama The Sex of Angels (released this week as The Angels of Sex in the USA), which dares to take a complex and offbeat approach to romance. I also attended the opening night of "The Film That Changed My Life" at the Barbican Centre, which is celebrating the centenary of the Critics' Circle with 14 special screenings at which critics introduce a key film. Friday's launch film was Gillo Pontecorvo's urgent and stunningly relevant 1966 uprising thriller The Battle of Algiers, presented by David Gritten. And from the sublime to the ridiculous, I also had to watch nine episodes of the latest series Spartacus: War of the Damned, in all its ludicrous, bombastic, macho-posturing glory.

This coming week, we'll be seeing Jason Statham in Hummingbird and the Italian drama Shun Li and the Poet. And we also have press screenings all week as part of the Sundance London Film and Music Festival, including Lynne Shelton's Touchy Feely, Sleepwalk With Me, A.C.O.D., Upstream Color, In Fear, In a World, Emanuel and the Truth About Fishes, The Inevitable Defeat of Mister and Pete, The Kings of Summer, The History of the Eagles (with an appearance by the band), Metro Manila, The Summit and God Loves Uganda. Full coverage of the festival starts here on Thursday....

Tuesday, 16 April 2013

Critical Week: La dolce vita

There was a nice break from bleak drama, rude comedy and apocalyptic blockbusters this week with Noah Baumbach's wonderfully upbeat comedy Frances Ha, in which Greta Gerwig held her quirkiness in check to play a memorable character trying to get her life going in the right direction. OK, it's shot in black and white, as a clear homage to everyone from Federico Fellini to Woody Allen. But it's a sheer delight compared to the admittedly enjoyable post-apocalyptic blockbuster Oblivion, a well-made sci-fi film starring a nicely haunted Tom Cruise. Even more derivative, The Words is another nicely made film with a terrific cast (including Bradley Cooper, Jeremy Irons, Dennis Quaid and Olivia Wilde), but it's never quite original enough to come together.

Off the beaten path, we had the small but important British drama Honour, an awkwardly structured message film about honour-killings starring the always terrific Paddy Considine; the shambolic comedy Bula Quo!, which sends the members of Status Quo on a crazy adventure in Fiji about 35 years too late; Rob Zombie's witchy horror The Lords of Salem, which mixes gonzo nuttiness with inventive freak-outs and some nostalgic filmmaking, all to great effect; the indie American drama Nate & Margaret, which is kind of a light Harold & Maude, tracing a gently involving and nicely played friendship; and the oddly unsexy documentary F**k for Forest, about the global movement to save the environment through sex.

I also caught up with two collections of short films: Bafta Shorts 2013 features seven of the eight shorts nominated for this year's Baftas, including the two winners: Lynne Ramsay's Swimmer and Will Anderson's animation The Making of Longbird. And Peccadillo's collection Boys on Film 9: Youth in Trouble features eight edgy shorts dealing with sexuality issues among teens and 20-somethings, with the highlight being Benjamin Parent's essential It's Not a Cowboy Film.

This coming week we have press screenings of 2013's next blockbuster Iron Man 3, Robert DeNiro and Diane Keaton leading the all-star cast of The Big Wedding, Olivier Assayas' Something in the Air, the Spanish drama The Sex of Angels (aka Angels of Sex in the US), the Russian historical drama In the Fog, and the Italian drama Shun Li and the Poet.

There are also two special events: First is the Barbican cinema's special season to tie in with the Critics' Circle's centenary celebrations, in which UK critics introduce "the film that changed my life" - which gives me a chance to catch David Gritten presenting the acclaimed 1966 war drama The Battle of Algiers. And finally, we also start press screenings for the second Sundance London Festival (25-28 April).

Tuesday, 9 April 2013

Critical Week: Dancing on air

I essentially took the week off, because I had family visiting. But still managed to attend a few screenings in between the London Eye, the National Gallery, Madame Tussaud's, We Will Rock You (not bad!) and even a day trip to Paris. Filmwise, Pedro Almodovar's latest film I'm So Excited is a broad 80s-style farce about a group of people on what they think is a doomed airliner. It's unusually camp and ridiculous even for Almodovar, and will probably divide audiences. Some will be disappointed that Antonio Banderas and Penelope Cruz only have cameos in the film, but gay audiences will at least get all the hilarious jokes.

London critics also got to see Mud, Jeff Nichols' new drama with Matthew McConaughey and Reese Witherspoon. It's skilfully written, directed and played, as expected - a fascinating Huck Finn-style drama - but it feels very long. Also overlong, the Swedish thriller Easy Money with Joel Kinnaman is finally getting a UK release (it was made in 2009) - it's slick and enjoyable, but not hugely original. And Disney's Chimpanzee is also getting a long-delayed UK release. It's a cuddly doc that shamelessly humanises a baby chimp.

This coming week we have a very late screening of Tom Cruise in the apocalyptic thriller Oblivion, Paddy Considine in Honour, Greta Gerwig in Frances Ha, the rock band adventure Bula Quo, and two collections of short films: this year's Bafta nominees and Boys on Film 9: Youth in Trouble.

Monday, 1 April 2013

Critical Week(s): Nine years later...

The most anticipated London press screening in the past 10 days was for Richard Linklater's Before Midnight, the third visit with Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy after Before Sunrise and Before Sunset. This time they're on a Greek island at the end of a holiday, and their conversation has shifted yet again with another nine-year interval. It's a marvellously funny, sometimes scary look at relationships. Two rather larger movies starred Saoirse Ronan: Andrew Niccol's The Host (based on a novel by Twilight's Stephenie Meyer) wasn't screened to the press, so I had to attend the first public screening on Friday morning to see it (with just three Twi-hards). Frankly it was pretty good, and would have benefitted hugely from press screenings and opening weekend word-of-mouth. And Ronan also led the charge in Byzantium, Neil Jordan's extremely off-beat vampire thriller, which avoids cliches to create some vivid characters. (29th March cover at right.)

We also had a double dose of Dwayne Johnson, as he rocked two action movies: G.I. Joe: Retaliation is the much more bombastic, inane sequel to the surprise critical hit The Rise of Cobra, with a largely new cast and crew. It's pretty bad. Johnson was also the focus of Snitch, a grittier thriller that required some acting, which he's clearly capable of even when things get a bit silly. And this week's final loud action blockbuster was Olympus Has Fallen, with Gerard Butler in a Bruce Willis/Die Hard role. It's actually good fun, mainly because the script is so ludicrous that you'll laugh all the way through the final act.

Four more random films: in the rude college comedy 21 & Over, Miles Teller and Skylar Astin have an adventure eerily similar to The Hangover, which is no surprise since it's written by the same writers. There are some nice touches, but more originality and fewer cheap jokes would have helped. Family Weekend is a high-concept comedy about a teen who takes her parents (Kristin Chenoweth and Matthew Modine) hostage to teach them a lesson in parenting. The actors rescue it. From Britain, All Things to All Men is jarringly hard-to-follow crime thriller starring Rufus Sewell and Toby Stephens. And Audrey Tautou and Gilles Lellouche are solid in Claude Miller's remake of Therese Desqueroux, although it all leaves you a bit cold.

Coming up this next week are Matthew McConaughey's new thriller Mud, the new Almodovar airbourne romp I'm So Excited, Joel Kinnamon in the Swedish underworld remake Easy Money, and the Disney 3D documentary Chimpanzee. Yes after the busy schedule of the past two weeks, I am taking it a bit more quietly this week! (5th April cover at right.)