ARTHUR * * *
Cert 12A, 109 mins
For a man of his talent, it must have been a little galling for John Gielgud to pick up his only Oscar for a fluffy romcom.
Helen Mirren has already won hers, so she has no problem having a little fun and even putting on a Darth Vader mask for comic effect. And actually, despite some sniffy reviews in America, this is not a film she’ll want to leave off her CV.
Of course it’s not as good as the original, but 30 years later Russell Brand is much better in the Dudley Moore role than we might expect. Charming, witty and showing real potential in his vulnerable moments, this is the film where I’ve enjoyed watching him the most.
He plays the billionaire playboy of the title, a kind-hearted but irresponsible drunk who’s never grown up. Mirren takes the Gielgud role of Hobson, now his disapproving but caring nanny rather than the butler.
The strong cast also includes Geraldine James as his cold mother, Jennifer Garner as the even nastier woman she wants him to marry, and Greta Gerwig as his real love interest, sweet but poor tour guide Naomi, the role taken by Liza Minnelli in the original.
The less said about Nick Nolte’s appearance, the better.
It’s fun to see what $950 million can buy a man, as we watch him box with Evander Holyfield and drive his many movie cars, from a Batmobile to the De Lorean from Back To The Future.
And there’s a touching moment when he closes Grand Central Station for his first date with Naomi.
Much as I wanted to dislike this movie, I admit to laughing out loud a couple of times, chuckling at Mirren’s dry delivery of some choice one-liners and being won over by Brand by the end.
His many fans will not be disappointed to learn he spends quite a few minutes in nothing but his underpants. I guess the naked truth is that Brand can actually act. RL
FAST FIVE * * *
Cert 12A, 130 mins
The Fast And The Furious street racing series screeched on to screens a decade ago, with ex-con Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel) going head-to-head with LAPD officer Brian O’Conner (Paul Walker).
By the end of the movie they’d struck up a friendship and moved to the same side, although in the next sequel Brian continued alone. Neither were in the third movie, Tokyo Drift, then both returned for the fourth, just called Fast & Furious (keep up at the back, now).
Now we’re on the fifth instalment, which picks up exactly where that movie left off. Dom has been sentenced to 25 years in jail, but Brian and his girlfriend Mia (Jordana Brewster), who’s also Dom’s sister, free him from the prison bus using their usual nifty driving.
The subsequent crash sets the destructive tone of a film that is packed to the rafters with smashed-up bodywork. The trio flee to Rio de Janeiro, where they’re roped into stealing cars in a daring raid on a train.
That brings them to the attention of tough federal agent Hobbs played by Dwayne Johnson, who looks more ridiculously muscle-bound than ever and who sports a silly beard, no doubt to distinguish him from fellow baldie Diesel in the action scenes.
The gang call on old friends like Tyrese Gibson, Tego Calderon, Sung Kang and Ludacris to help them rob Rio’s top drug lord of $100 million, even though the money is in a heavily-guarded vault in a police station.
Attempts to add emotional depth are misguided, but this is an entertaining popcorn flick.
The scenery is picturesque and the stunts are spectacular. Let’s face it, you watch these films for the action, not for a clever plot and sparkling banter. In that sense Fast Five delivers, especially with an audacious final chase. The gang promise to “disappear forever” if their ‘final’ job comes off, but they’re clearly lying as a sixth instalment is on the way. Shame the title won’t be so alliterative. RL
BEASTLY * *
Cert 12A, 86 mins
Fresh from I Am Number Four, pretty boy Alex Pettyfer returns full of himself as Kyle, a young man who thinks he’s going places – until he’s given an ugly curse that only a girl telling him ‘‘I love you’’ will break.
A reworking of Beauty and the Beast for the ‘‘never judge an e-reader by its protective cover’’ teenage crowd, Beastly has some groan-inducing lines and acting to match.
And yet, there’s something strangely poetic about Kyle’s hideous disfigurements. His newly-acquired facial features are what some British men freely choose to do to themselves and girls like Kendra (Mary-Kate Olsen) will always manage to discover a soul in the most unlikely of places.
Utterly predictable and feeling much longer thanks to little-known director Daniel Barnz, Beastly will find a young audience among the post-Disney generation who weren’t even born when Sean Patrick Flanery was starring in Victor Salva’s cruelly overlooked albino film, Powder (1995). GY
LITTLE WHITE LIES * * *
Cert 15, 154 mins
This film starts in dramatic fashion with a lorry versus scooter crash, which leaves the rider fighting for his life.
Unfortunately, it then slows down to 2mph as it evolves into a kind of French version of The Big Chill. The self-absorbed friends of crash victim Ludo – couples and singletons in their 30s and 40s – gather at the hospital, but then decide to leave him and go off on holiday to the coast.
They’re staying at the holiday home of rich, but grumpy, restaurateur Max (Francois Cluzet, who has the look of a taller Dustin Hoffman), but the atmosphere is strained since Vincent (Benoit Magimel) declared his attraction to his host, while insisting he’s not gay.
There are a few amusing moments and great music but it’s a little dull watching this group, including Marion Cotillard, drink, eat, smoke and chat, even if they do it in a stylish French way.
It’s written and directed by Guillaume Canet, who also produced the superior thriller Tell No One. He could have done with injecting Little White Lies with some of that film’s pace and tension.
True, it’s fairly watchable and manages to pack an emotional punch at the end, but by then you may have lost interest. RL
SCRE4M * * *
Cert 15, 111 mins
Given that all three previous Scream movies from 1997-2000 were rated at 18, it’s a sign of the times more than a decade later that the latest franchise entry should now be worth just a 15 even though it’s littered with unpleasantly-explicit abdominal stabbings and a Ripper-style killing.
Social networking in general and the rise of fully-referenced ‘‘torture porn’’ movies like Saw give director Wes Craven more than enough excuses to dig out his old knife-sharpening gadgets, while scriptwriter Kevin Williamson uses his own scalpels to re-operate on the modern rules of horror.
Once again starring the resourceful pair of Neve Campbell (Sidney Prescott, now a self-help author) and fame-seeking reporter Courteney Cox (Gale Weathers, now married to David Arquette’s over-promoted sheriff Dewey), Scre4m will please those who want the same old movie dressed up in Primark clothes.
Purists will appreciate it has the grace to acknowledge the seminal Michael Powell movie Peeping Tom (1960) and to then highlight ‘‘the first rule of remakes – don’t f*** with the original’’. GY
TT3D: CLOSER TO THE EDGE * * * *
Cert 15, 103 mins
You might expect this week’s 3D release would be Scre4m; instead it’s a little documentary from commercials’ director Richard De Aragues about the fearsome Isle of Man Tourist Trophy races which have seen more than 230 riders killed since 1907.
With history offering a fatality for every corner and more than five per mile, your heart will be in your mouth watching the likes of maverick rider Guy Martin go hell for leather in search of his dream of winning just one race, no matter how great the potential cost. GY
PINA * * * *
Cert U, 103 mins
Showing at the Electric Cinema on Station St, Wim Wenders’ Berlin-based dance movie has even less of a reason to be in 3D.
An interpretive tribute to the work of fellow German Pina Bausch, the late founder of the Tanztheater Wuppertal, Pina starts off in a very stilted fashion.
Wenders slowly grows in confidence with his subject matter, lyrically exploring how dance can represent all known human emotions.
Although it’s a given that anyone remotely interested in the art of dancing will be fascinated by this, Pina should not be underestimated as a tool for understanding how the great teachers don’t just teach, but inspire, too. GY