Welcome to the NME Weekend Movie Guide, setting the most challenging cinematic questions since Al Jolson enquired whether or not we wanted to hear 'Toot, Toot, Tootsie?'
The Big Release
What's the story? Race car Lightning McQueen, along with his best friend and pick up truck, Mater, gets himself into some secret service hijinks when he sets off for a Worldwide Grand Prix.
Cast: Owen Wilson (The Darjeeling Limited, Zoolander), Larry the Cable Guy (Cars, Larry the Cable Guy:Heath Inspector), Michael Caine (The Dark Knight, Alfie). Directors: John Lasseter (Toy Story, Toy Story 2), Brad Lewis (Antz, Ratatouille – Producer).
Plus points: Often derided as the weakest of the Pixar films, the original Cars did provide great entertainment in the way of existential quandaries provoked by the alternative universe, namely: “Where do Cars come from? What do they eat? If they don't eat why do they have tongues?”. Amongst the philosophical musings, it's easier to forget the animation is faultless.
Let downs: Apart from the unanswerable poser, “Larry The Cable Guy - Why?”, if you're spending all your time asking questions like, “Are the younger cars stuck in a childlike state forever?”, “How do they lace up the projectors in the drive-in theatre?” and “Is this, fundamentally, a God created Universe?”, then the film you're watching is a failure.
Critics said: "As a character-led film it doesn’t work" (Time Out), Cars 2 is "lacklustre and predictable" (USA Today). 36% on Rotten Tomatoes.
Verdict: The first Pixar film to be certified Rotten by critics – and the first since the original Cars not to hit over 90% fresh – Cars 2 represents the sad-but-true fact that John Lasseter and company are fallible. Not that it'll bother the kids though, who will lap up the merchandise like kittens in a milk factory, but adults will be too busy twitching and asking “Why are there tins of food on shelves?!?!” to derive any real pleasure from proceedings.
What's the story? Fed up with being bullied by their respective, and yes, horrible, bosses, three friends ascertain a plan in which they will each 'do away' with their problem employers.
Cast: Jason Bateman (Juno, Arrested Development), Charlie Day (Going The Distance, It's Always Sunny In Philadelphia), Jason Sudeikis (Hall Pass, SNL). Director: Seth Gordon (Four Christmases, The King of Kong).
Plus points: With three of the best TV comedy character actors still trying to breakthrough to film (even Bateman hasn't eclipsed his TV persona yet) and four A-list extended cameos in Kevin Spacey, Colin Farrell, Jennifer Aniston and Jamie Foxx, Horrible Bosses has an enviable cast giving their all.
Let downs: Part of the 'Hangover' crowd of movies that appear to have become deeply boring almost overnight, the fact that none of the three writers (all from TV) have worked on features before speaks volumes.
Critics said: "Not as dark and disturbing as it easily could have been" (Film Four), Horrible Bosses is still "funny and frantic" (Total Film). 71% on Rotten Tomatoes.
Verdict: Funny but forgettable. Those looking for a satirical Swimming With Sharks-style piece of subversion may be disappointed but those that want an occasionally gross and offensive throwaway comedy should get their money's worth.
What's the story? A graphic artist looks back on his relationship with his recently deceased father, including his last few months struggling with cancer, and the revelation that he was gay.
Cast: Ewan McGregor (Moulin Rouge, Shallow Grave) Christopher Plummer (The Last Station, The Sound of Music). Director: Mike Mills (Thumbsucker).
Plus points: With a screen career getting on for 60 years, Christopher Plummer just keeps getting better and better and, thankfully, the 81-year old is being rewarded with roles like this. His part is the dictionary definition of life-affirming.
Let downs: The 'quirkiness' of a film that features an all knowing, talking dog will certainly alienate some, as will McGregor's overly reflective voice-over. Melanie Laurent's actress character also errs on the side of 'kooky'.
Critics said: "Well made, well performed and believable" (Empire), it's "a hopeful fable with deep optimism" (Roger Ebert). 82% on Rotten Tomatoes.
Verdict: It's always nice to get a real 'indie' in amongst the summer fare, and Beginners is as 'indie' as 'indie' can be. You'll know if the movie is for you simply by the tagline, “This is what love feels like”. If you're not retching into a bin, go buy a ticket.
The Best Film Still Showing
The Tree of Life
Probably the most divisive thing since Captain Separator and his Scissors of Secession, Terrence Malick's film about Life, the Universe and Texan upbringing, is a must for anyone who enjoys a ruddy good cinematic natter post credits.
Not that you should need background reading before watching a film, but knowing that The Tree of Life is incredibly autobiographical (the director could have dropped 'The Tree of' from the title and replaced it with 'Terrence Malick's') could help sway your analysis from 'boring, prentious tosh' to 'intimate, personal film-making of the highest order'.
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