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The Big Release
What's the story? Struggling with writer's block, Eddie is offered the chance to unlock the full capabilities of his mind by taking a healthy dose of NZT, an untested new drug. Once taken Eddie becomes superhuman and gains access to the full capacity of his brain, which helps him to rule everything from the Stock Market to the female species. The drugs, however, may include side effects.
Cast: Bradley Cooper (The Hangover, Wedding Crashers), Robert De Niro (Raging Bull, Taxi Driver), Abbie Cornish (Bright Star, Candy). Director: Neil Burger (The Illusionist, The Lucky Ones).
Plus points: If you're wondering who your girlfriend is currently thinking about during the physical act of love, chances are it's Bradley Cooper. On lists of who's hot, The Hangover star is practically volcanic and in Limitless, his first real leading man role, all signs point to this continuing way, way into the future.
Let downs: While once upon a time De Niro was unmissable, years of phoned in performances (the Fockers trilogy) and poor choices (Righteous Kill) make watching the once legendary actor an occasionally painful experience.
Critics said: It's "Faust for the pharmaceutical age" (Empire) and sometimes "scatty" but "fast paced" (Time Out). 65% on Rotten Tomatoes.
Verdict: Based on an interesting, if rather silly, premise, Limitless embraces its absurdity. Get used to Mr. Bradley Cooper's face because it'll be here for a few years.
What's the story? Britain 140AD. To restore his family's honour Centurion Marquis Aquila must travel to Scotland to seek out the Eagle of the Ninth, a golden emblem that was lost when his father's army failed to return home. At his side is Esca, a British slave, who holds secrets about the land 'north of the border'. Secrets of battered confectionery...or not.
Cast: Channing Tatum (Dear John, Step Up), Jamie Bell (King Kong, Billy Elliot). Director: Kevin Macdonald (State of Play, The Last King of Scotland).
Plus points: Kevin Macdonald has been quietly making a name for himself as a director with real talent in both documentaries (One Day In September and Touching the Void) and dramatic thrillers (Last King Of Scotland and State of Play). The Eagle boasts some impressive cinematography and battle scenes.
Let downs: It's difficult to see the kids from Step Up and Billy Elliot as hardened soldiers without thinking they might break into street dance.
Critics said: "An intriguing, enjoyable adventure" (Total Film) but one that "can’t compensate for a middle section that never finds its feet " (Empire). 37% on Rotten Tomatoes.
Verdict: The shadow (and dust) of Gladiator still casts darkness over all contemporary Roman epics. Ten years later The Eagle, unfortunately, offers little new and falls well below par.
What's the story? Kelly Canter is a Country and Western superstar fresh out of rehab. Her husband/manager arranges a comeback tour which Kelly insists newcomer, and rising star, Beau Hutton appear on.
Cast: Gwyneth Paltrow (Shakespeare In Love, Se7en), Tim McGraw (The Blind Side, Friday Night Lights). Director: Shana Feste (The Greatest).
Plus points: If the idea of listening to yokels holler dispassionately about how their pick up truck has run off with their wife/sister floats your boat, then catch Country Strong now. Chris Martin isn't in it.
Let downs: If last year's The Blind Side, and its irritating Southern ways, left you in desperate need of a shotgun and a rocking chair to live out the last few moments of your life in, give Country Strong a miss.
Critics said: Not only is it "dead on arrival" (Rolling Stone) but it's a "muddled mess of achy-breaky clichés and claptrap" (Dallas News). 22% on Rotten Tomatoes.
Verdict: The cinematic equivalent of the contents of a spittoon.
What's the story? After a ten year stretch in the clink, Driver (yes that's his name) seeks revenge on the crew that set him up and killed his brother. Like an African/Canadian/Samoan version of the bride from Kill Bill, Driver compiles a revenge list and sets off for justice with a world weary cop and a sadistic hit-man close on his tail.
Cast: Dwayne Johnson (Be Cool, The Mummy Returns), Billy Bob Thornton (Bad Santa, Sling Blade). Director: George Tillman Jr. (Notorious, Men of Honour).
Plus points: After a few years of kids' fare in The Tooth Fairy and Race to Witch Mountain, Dwayne formerly The Rock Johnson is back to doing what he does best; name-taking and ass-kicking.
Let downs: As cheesy as a cheese feast special with extra mozzarella. If dumb violence ain't your thing keep moving.
Critics said: "Sometimes it’s fun to be 12, for a while" (Newark Star), and to prove the point one reviewer went for, "this film is on like Donkey Kong" (Movieline). 44% on Rotten Tomatoes.
Verdict: Any film with the tagline, 'Slow Justice is No Justice' is hardly going to be one for the history books but Faster certainly has a ronseal quality to it. Rock fans won't be disappointed.
The Best Film Still Showing
After a depressingly limited release last week Submarine finally gets the push it deserves, so you should be able to catch it in a cinema near(ish) you. From Richard Ayoade based on the book by Joe Dunthorne and including a soundtrack by Arctic Monkey's Alex Turner, Submarine is easily the best British film, since the last one Paddy Considine was in.
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