Movie boffin: what’s happening at the cinema

By admin
23 August 2013

Here are several new movies to enjoy on the big screen this week.

Sandra Bullock returns to what she does best in The Heat (16 DLV), a buddy action comedy with a twist: the buddies are women. The Oscar winner teams up with comedy star of the moment Melissa McCarthy (Bridesmaids) to play uptight FBI agent Sarah Ashburn and foul-mouthed Boston cop Shannon Mullins who have to work together to track down a druglord. At first they’re like oil and water, but bond as the investigation continues. With two sexist male agents also on the druglord’s trail, can Ashburn and Mullins catch him first?

The film received mostly positive reviews. Reviews aggregate site Rotten Tomatoes gave it 65 per cent, saying it’s “predictable, but McCarthy is reliably funny and Bullock proves a capable foil”. Empire magazine’s Anna Smith gave it three stars and said it’s like “Miss Congeniality teaming up with Bridesmaid’s Megan. The cruder gags won’t win everyone over, but McCarthy and Bullock’s chemistry helps paper over the plot cracks and there’s enough situation comedy to entertain”.

Director Michael Bay, master of big, brash blockbusters such as Transformers (2007) and Bad Boys (1995),scales back with Pain & Gain (16 DLSV), a black comedy based on a true story, starring Dwayne Johnson and Mark Wahlberg as two cash-strapped, blockhead bodybuilders desperate to live the American Dream. They concoct a plan to kidnap a sleazy Miami millionaire (Monk’s Tony Shalhoub) and of course it’s not long before things start going awry.

The film got mostly mixed reviews: Rotten Tomatoes gave it only 46 per cent, and fellow reviews aggregate site Metacritic gave it 44 per cent. The consensus on the former was that “it may be his most thought-provoking film to date, but Bay’s Pain & Gain ultimately loses its satirical edge in a stylised flurry of violent spectacle”.

Empire and Total Film magazines were more positive: both gave it three stars. Empire’s Mark Dinning praised the cast, writing they “embrace the grotesquery with muscle-bound arms” and play the “dimwits with joyful knowingness”. Total Film’s James Mottram noted, “Like all of Bay’s work, it’s over-the-top, brash and exhausting to watch. But like the lifestyle its characters aspire to, there’s an allure too.”

Based on the bestselling 2007 novel by Mohsin Hamid, The Reluctant Fundamentalist (13LPVS) looks at post-9/11 racism in America. Young Pakistani-born Princeton graduate Changez Khan (Riz Ahmed) starts a promising career on Wall Street when 9/11 brings turmoil to his life. Returning to his homeland as a lecturer, his suspected ties with a terrorist organisation puts an American journalist (Liev Schreiber of Ray Donovan) on his trail.

The film received mixed reviews. Rotten Tomatoes gave it 54 per cent and the consensus was that although it’s “technically proficient with solid acting and cinematography, its message is so ambitious and heavy-handed that some of its power is robbed”. Again Total Film and Empire were more positive, both giving it three stars. Eric D Snider of About.com wrote that the film is “reasonably thoughtful, moderately engaging material dealing with some thorny issues. It might be a catalyst for intelligent conversation, which is more than you can say for most movies”.

Madras Cafe (age restriction to be announced) is an Indian political thriller set in the late ’80s and early ’90s during the time of Sri Lankan civil war. Shortly after the Indian Peace Keeping Force is forced to withdraw from Sri Lanka, an Indian Army special officer (John Abraham) is appointed to conduct covert operations in the country. As he journeys to Sri Lanka with the intention of disrupting a rebel group, he meets a British journalist (Nargis Fakhri) who wants to reveal the truth about the civil war and in the process uncovers a conspiracy.

The film caused controversy because some critics felt it depicted Sri Lankan rebels as terrorists and so it wasn’t screened in certain parts of India. The Times of India’s Srijana Mitra Das gave it four stars and praised the filmmakers for “diving boldly into terrain Bollywood hasn’t touched before” but warned that “if you like typical Hindi masala (Bollywood) films with unrealistic action or melodrama, this movie isn’t for you”. Divya Solgama of MoviezADDA.com gave it four stars and described it as a fine political thriller that will inspire filmmakers to explore taboo subjects.

-Sandra Visser

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