"Beefcake" Hugh Jackman as big clawed Wolverine / image courtesy of Twentieth Century Fox
Our weekly round up of film reviews, a bit later than usual. But hey, it's a Bank Holiday
Much like Christmas, summer blockbuster season gets earlier and earlier. X-Men Origins: Wolverine came out on Wednesday, a "frankly redundant fourth effort, purporting to tell us how Wolverine, aka Logan, got his metal skeleton and fancy retractable claws" (Guardian, 2 stars). We begin in the 1840s, when young Logan and his half-brother Victor / Sabretooth (Liev Schreiber) realise something's not quite right, what with them having regenerative powers and claws and all. We follow them through multiple wars and being initiated into a covert ops team - but Sabretooth goes rogue. Oh noes! "The plot is riddled with more holes than a holiday resort for moles... Wolverine is not as hateful as X-Men: The Last Stand, but it’s still a big old mess" says Empire (2 stars), something with which the Evening Standard (2 stars) agrees: "the screenplay is only just adequate and, frankly, neither Wolverine nor Sabretooth are given much in the way of character to bite on". But there's lots of action and helicopter chases, and Hugh Jackman "arguably the most physically perfect specimen of cinema beefcake in Hollywood" (an overexcited Times, 2 stars) being hairy in a vest. But if you want SF back story, you might be better off waiting for next week's Star Trek.
Is Anybody There? has a British cast to tremble for. Michael Caine, Anne-Marie Duff, the always wonderful David Morrissey, Leslie Phillips, Elizabeth Spriggs (in her last role) and Sylvia Syms are joined by young Bill Milner, playing a child living in an old people's home run by his parents. Caine is a former magician who crankily befriends the youngster, "their old-codger-and-a-lad relationship runs along tracks that are a little too movie-ish to be entirely credible, sweet though the film’s intentions are" (Telegraph, 3 stars). A bunch of pensioners shuffling towards death may not be everyone's idea of fun, but the Guardian (3 stars) insists "this is a quiet little film that provides a welcome contrast to the steroidal blast of most other film entertainment, and Caine is on great form". The film "is about looking back on life, accepting it, the bleak moments and all" says the Evening Standard (3 stars), directed with care by John Crowley: "it's the little details that lift [the] film from black humour into something warmer" (Independent, 3 stars). We're just surprised that all the ratings are 3 stars, since all the actual reviews suggest a much fonder regard. Reading between the lines, it's an enjoyable film that won't set the world alight.
If you don't know who Hannah Montana is, or indeed why she's got The Movie, then you should probably skip this paragraph. This film isn't for you, you will never see it. If, however, you're required to shepherd some young charges to the cinema this weekend, here's what's in store. "To recap: Hannah is the pop star alter ego of Miley Stewart (Miley Cyrus), who lives a double life thanks to one blonde wig. Here, Miley gets too big for her boots and is taken to the country by her dad (Billy Ray)" says Empire (2 stars), who also continue "it's easy to mock". Yes. Yes it is. Or so you'd think: annoyingly, the broadsheets aren't playing along. "An infectious and irresistible fantasy that all the family can enjoy" according to the Times (4 stars). "The landscape is ravishingly shot, the songs are cute and the plot moves from slapstick to romance at a cracking pace" says the Independent (3 stars). These reviewers, they spoil all our fun.
Helen is a low-budget debut from British writer-directors Christine Molloy and Joe Lawlor which has had rave reviews on the festival circuit. The eponymous character is a girl in care, asked to reconstruct the last known movements of another, missing, girl, Joy. "She begins to follow in Joy’s footsteps... But the film doesn’t go where you expect, into a creepy world of identity theft" (Times, 4 stars). The Guardian is in love: "Molloy and Lawlor aspire to something more complex and less schematic: a meditation on identity and fate, filmed and presented in a way utterly different from a crime procedural. It drifts. It floats. It is dreamy, mysterious and often beautiful" (4 stars). Empire demurs, thinking it "promises much but ultimately fails to deliver" (2 stars), but the Evening Standard strikes a happy balance, saying it "finally triumphs beyond all expectation" (3 stars).
Oh, Matthew McConaughey. What happened to your film career? Do you "read the words “arrogant, torso-flaunting alpha male” in script synopses and think: 'That’ll do'" (Telegraph, 3 stars)? This time around he's Connor, a serial shagger disillusioned with love, when his ghostly uncle (Michael Douglas) appears and promises to send three apparitions to show him his Ghosts of Girlfriends Past. That noise? Dickins turning in his grave. "There isn't an original thought in the film, but it bounds along amusingly" says the Independent (3 stars) but "the whole concept founders on McConaughey’s unalterable cheesiness" (Times, 1 star). Indeed, the Evening Standard (2 stars) reckons the film has "a nasty misogynist edge, suggesting that women are gasping for cads such as Connor to seduce them. But if [he] had a bit more charm, you could believe they just might".
The End "is a story never before been told of a group of men with a common bond" says a weary-sounding Empire (who were too scared of East-End retribution to give it a rating). The Times (3 stars) expands: "the daughter of an East End crook, Nicola Collins interviews a selection of these men, including her father, in this grainy black-and-white documentary". But "the warning bells sound early: Nicola and [producer, sister] Teena both starred in Snatch... It also turns out that they themselves - just like most old belly-achers and nostalgia-peddlers who witter on about how the East End ain’t wot it used to be - don’t actually live there; they’re out in Los Angeles" (Telegraph, 2 stars). "The film is content to take the interviewees at their own lenient estimation of themselves" says the Guardian (2 stars), however it does have "some interest as a set of case-studies in sociopathic conceit".
Down at the ICA is best-title-of-the-week Funuke: Show Some Love, You Losers! "Something here for devotees of offbeat Japanese black-comedy weirdness" says the Guardian (2 stars). The Funukes are a group of step-siblings trying to re-connect after the death of their parents. There's a stroppy actress and a nutcase younger sister, channeling murderous rage through manga. "The film’s wacky ghoulishness holds your attention, but there’s not much more than that on offer" (Times, 2 stars).
Next week: Star Trek sends the Enterprise crew out for the first time, and Robert Pattinson cements his smouldering status as Salvador Dali in Little Ashes.