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The Big Release
Battle: Los Angeles
What’s the story? It’s the end of the world as we know it, yet again, as aliens descend on the City Of Angels with the sole purpose of making humans go squish. Exactly why LA is the location for the final showdown remains to be seen. Perhaps the little green men were waiting to see if Hollywood could muster up a decent invasion flick.
Who’s in it? Aaron Eckhart (The Dark Knight, In The Company Of Men), Michelle Rodriguez (Avatar, Girlfight). Director: Jonathan Liebesman (Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning, Darkness Falls).
Plus points: A hefty budget of $100 million means you should certainly get a fair amount of bang for your buck, and who doesn’t like to see aliens getting a kicking? A superior lead actor always helps (Aaron ‘Two Face’ Eckhart never puts in a performance that’s less than worthwhile. He’s even survived a Jennifer Aniston movie).
Let downs: It’s helmed by a direct-by-numbers guy whose previous offerings were fairly turgid slasher pics. Expect a predictable outcome and a rallying speech nowhere near as cheesy or fun as Independence Day.
Verdict: Battle:Los Angeles has little new to offer the increasingly computer game-lite Alien Invasion genre.
What’s the story? Two best friends, Fred and Paul, begin to feel the strains of married life until their respective partners offer them a “hall pass” entitling them to one week of singledom. Despite the presence of gross-out comedy kings Peter and Bobby Farrelly behind the wheel, the pair return to their loved ones with lessons learnt rather than questionable diseases.
Cast: Owen Wilson (Wedding Crashers, The Royal Tenenbaums), Jason Sudeikis (30 Rock, SNL). Director: Peter and Bobby Farrelly (There’s Something About Mary, Dumb and Dumber).
Plus points: The comedy pedigree of all involved – stars, writers and directors – points to something special.
Let downs: The trailer points to sweet FA in the way of jokes or likeable characters while accusations of misogyny have been thrown about.
Verdict: A lack of laughs drives Hall Pass way off the comedy gold of the Farrelly Brothers former years.
What’s the story? Undercover CIA operative Valerie Plame is left high and dry by the US government after her identity is leaked in retaliation for her husband’s negative stance on the Bush administration.
Cast: Naomi Watts (King Kong, Mulholland Dr.) Sean Penn (Milk, Mystic River). Director: Doug Liman (The Bourne Identity, Swingers).
Plus points: An interesting true story of how the US looks after its own. Liman’s explorations of government and identity worked a treat before.
Let downs: Anyone expecting fast Bourne-style action may be disappointed and while nobody is expecting a laugh a minute, Penn and Watts scowling for two hours can be a hard watch, as 21 Grams proved.
Critics said: “Ultimately a tale of heroism in the face of fearsome, powerful opposition” (The Onion AV Club) that “gets you riled up all over again at a deeply unpatriotic abuse of power” (Entertainment Weekly). 80% on Rotten Tomatoes.
Verdict: Great performances from the two leads and an intelligent political script to boot. If your brain is still working at the weekend, give it a treat.
What’s the story? Hammer Horror continues its resurgence of old school chills and spills with the tale of a young female doctor who has more to fear from her landlord than just extortionate rent payments.
Cast: Hilary Swank (Million Dollar Baby, Boys Don’t Cry) Jeffrey Dean Morgan (Watchmen, The Losers), Christopher Lee (The Wicker Man, Dracula). Director: Antti Jokinen (Assorted Music Videos).
Plus points: Having made a name for himself as a prolific and respected music video director (who provided promos for everyone from Korn to Westlife), Antti Jokinen’s debut is hotly anticipated. Plus Sir Christopher Lee adds class to anything.
Let downs: Since winning her second Oscar Hilary Swank’s track record for picking exceptional material hasn’t exactly been great.
Verdict: A solid, old school genre piece with decent shocks.
The Best Film Still Showing
Nearing the end of its theatrical run, it’s worth catching the ballet horror on the big screen for a host of reasons, not least of all Natalie Portman’s Oscar-winning turn as White Swan/Black Swan mentalist Nina Sayers.