Movie boffin: what’s happening at the cinema

By admin
27 September 2013

The American summer blockbusters have all come and gone so there are a few smaller films this week, although they still have big stars.

Thanks for Sharing (16LNS) is a comedy drama starring Mark Ruffalo (The Hulk in The Avengers) as recovering sex addict Adam who considers abandoning his celibate life when he meets fitness fanatic Phoebe (Gwyneth Paltrow). Meanwhile Adam’s support group friends are in different stages of addiction: middle-aged Mike (Tim Robbins of The Shawshank Redemption) is rattled when his junkie son (We Bought a Zoo’s Patrick Fugit) reappears in his life while ER doctor Neil (Josh Gad of Love & Other Drugs) is in denial until he meets Dede (pop star Pink), who’s also taking small steps towards recovery.

The movie received mixed reviews. Critics reviews aggregate sites Rotten Tomatoes and Metacritic gave it 53 and 55 per cent respectively. On the former the consensus was that “Thanks for Sharing showcases some fine performances but doesn’t delve into its thorny premise as deeply as it should”. British film magazines Empire and Total Film were more positive – they both gave it three stars. Empire’s Anna Smith also praised the acting, writing, “Performances are strong — Pink impresses in her debut and a couple of terrific scenes delve into the psycho-sexual darkness. But these are largely sidestepped for cute one-liners and group hugs. An enjoyable, if slightly over-earnest pat on the back for recovering addicts.”

Justin Timberlake stars in the thriller Runner, Runner (13LSV) about Richie Furst, a university student who pays his tuition by winning online poker tournaments. When he loses all his money through what he considers a scam he travels to Costa Rica to confront the wealthy mastermind behind the site, Ivan Block (Ben Affleck). To Richie’s surprise Ivan offers to bring him into his operation but soon he’s caught in a dangerous game.

The film hasn’t been widely reviewed yet but so far reaction has been mostly negative. Empire and Total Film both gave it two stars. The latter’s Stephen Kelly summed it up with, “Despite [director Brad] Furman’s competent handling, it’s a story that follows a fairly simple, unsurprising arc that never really gives the earnest Timberlake or villainous Affleck any chance to show off what they can do.” Stella Papamichael of concurred, “The entire cast is short-changed in a film that prioritises cheap thrills over characters you can invest in, and the problem is compounded by a plot that’s designed by the numbers.”

If you’re looking for an old-school tale of adventure, you might enjoy Red Tails (13PV). Produced by Star Wars creator George Lucas, who’d tried to bring the project to the screen for many years, the film tells the story of the Tuskegee Airmen, the first African-American fighter-pilot squadron who were part of the United States’ armed forces during World War 2, and stars Terrence Howard, Cuba Gooding Jnr and singer Ne-Yo.

The film received mostly negative reviews. Rotten Tomatoes gave it 40 per cent and the consensus was that “despite a worthy fact-based story and obvious good intentions, Red Tails suffers from one-dimensional characters, corny dialogue and heaps of clichés”. But again Empire and Total Film were more positive, both giving it three stars. Empire’s Ian Nathan described it as an “entertaining slice of old-fashioned adventure that never realises the full potential of its subject matter”. Total Film’s Paul Bradshaw wrote, “Deserving an Eastwood epic full of sombre insight and elegant understatement, these brave men get the full Lucasfilm treatment instead – a popcorn memorial that’s as eye-saucering as it is shamelessly corny.”

Based on the kykNET sitcom, Molly & Wors: Die Movie (10-12PGDL) is about the ups and downs in the marriage of middle-aged mechanic Wors (Willie Esterhuizen of Vetkoekpaleis) and his wife, Molly (Lizz Meiring of Lipstick Dipstick). When Wors wins a trip to Amsterdam Molly plans to join him, but things go awry and Wors arrives in the Netherlands on his own. While he’s enjoying himself he’s blissfully unaware of what’s brewing back home. Will his marriage survive?

Die Burger’s Laetitia Pople gave the film only one star, describing it as common, cheap and filled with gross-out jokes. Pople ended her review with, “If I weren’t a paid critic I would have walked out.”

Michael Douglas and Matt Damon take on their most daring roles yet in Behind the Candelabra (16DLS), acclaimed director Steven Soderbergh’s look at the troubled six-year relationship between flamboyant pianist Liberace (Douglas) and his young lover Scott Thorson (Damon).

The film got almost universal praise, scoring 95 per cent on Rotten Tomatoes and 82 per cent on Metacritic. On the former the consensus was that it’s “affectionate without sacrificing honesty [and] couples award-worthy performances from Douglas and Damon with some typically sharp direction from Soderbergh”.

Empire and Total Film both gave it four stars, the latter’s Emma Morgan writing, “Laying bare the homosexuality Liberace hid from public view, it’s hardly the red-carpet treatment the pianist dreamt of. Nor is it the fantastically kitsch biopic that some anticipated. Rather, it’s a witty, classy study of relationships, sex and stardom.” Empire’s Dan Jolin raved about the performances, praising Douglas for “pulling it all off with sensitivity and sympathy” and lauding Damon, who “impresses in the hardest role: the non-showy one”.

The two documentaries out this week centred on bands couldn’t be more different.

One Direction: This Is Us (PGL) is surely a review-proof movie: no matter what critics say, its intended target audience will flock to it. It’s an all-access look at the biggest boy band in the world at the moment and tells the story of Niall Horan, Zayn Malik, Liam Payne, Harry Styles and Louis Tomlinson’s meteoric rise.

Critics usually can’t wait to slate these types of films, but it received surprisingly positive reviews, scoring 63 per cent on Rotten Tomatoes where it was described as “mostly for the converted, but fun for fans – and offering just enough slickly edited concert footage to entertain the casual viewer”. Empire and Total Film both gave it three stars, the latter’s Matthew Leyland writing that it “presents the fab five as your typical, likeable, everyday millionaire idols”. Empire’s Anna Smith said it “works both as a concert film for fans and — to a lesser extent — an insight into the phenomenon of their fame”.

Metallica: Through the Never (13LV) combines footage of a concert by the heavy metal band with a fictional narrative about one of their roadies (Dane DeHaan of Chronicle) sent on a dangerous mission during the show. The film received mostly positive reviews and scored 82 per cent on Rotten Tomatoes, where it was described as, “Imaginatively shot and edited, Metallica: Through the Never is an electrifying, immersive concert film, though its fictional sequences are slightly less assured.” Todd Gilchrist of called it “a sweeping, ambitious take on concert films [that] works well enough visually, and certainly musically, to make up for its feeble attempt to fictionalise the lengths to which a fan would go for his favourite band”.

-Sandra Visser

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