Now showing at Cineworld Newport Wales Newport Retail Park, Seven Styles Avenue,Newport,Gwent NP19 4QQ firstname.lastname@example.org 0871 200 2000
- Absolutely Anything
- Fantastic Four
- Hitman: Agent 47
- Inside Out
- Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation
- NT Live: The Beaux' Stratagem
- Paper Towns
- Sinister 2
- Straight Outta Compton
- The Bad Education Movie
- The Man From U.N.C.L.E.
- We Are Your Friends
Absolutely Anything 1 stars
Neil Clarke is a disillusioned schoolteacher, whose only friend in the world is his trusty dog, Dennis. A quintet of crazy extra-terrestrials grant Neil the power to do anything he wishes. He transforms his body into a perfectly gym-toned physique and grants Dennis a voice. Oblivious to the potential benefits of his powers to the rest of the planet, Neil continues to use his newfound abilities for personal gain by wooing sexy neighbour Catherine.
- GenreComedy, Romance, Science Fiction
- CastKate Beckinsale, Robin Williams, Simon Pegg.
- DirectorTerry Jones.
- WriterGavin Scott, Terry Jones.
- Duration86 mins
- Official site
In the 1970s, Monty Python gave British comedy an injection of sublime surreality with four series of the Flying Circus, and the subsequent feature films. Four decades later, surviving members John Cleese, Terry Gilliam, Eric Idle, Terry Jones and Michael Palin drive a stake through the heart of British comedy with a woefully misconceived fantasy about a schoolteacher blessed with the power of eternal wish fulfilment.
Directed by Jones and scripted by Gavin Scott, Absolutely Anything marks a reunion for the cult troupe, as well as the final screen role of Robin Williams as the voice of a shaggy dog with a penchant for biscuits and frottering the nearest human leg.
On every count, it's a shambolic waste of talents including Eddie Izzard, Sanjeev Bhaskar, Meera Syal and Joanna Lumley in instantly forgettable supporting roles. "Nobody's perfect," quips one character as the end credits roll and our suffering ends. That's an understatement for a gifted cast and crew, who struggle in vain to achieve even mediocrity over the course of 86 bewildering minutes.
Neil Clarke (Simon Pegg) is a disillusioned schoolteacher at a London comprehensive, who repeatedly clashes with the officious headmaster (Izzard). The teacher pines for downstairs neighbour Catherine (Kate Beckinsale), who works on a book review TV show that delivers "scandal, gossip and character assassination with a thin veneer of literary respectability".
A quintet of crazy extra-terrestrials known as the Intergalactic Council of Superior Beings (voiced by Cleese, Gilliam, Idle, Jones, Palin) conducts a wacky experiment on Earth by granting one human the power to do anything he wishes.
They bestow this incredible gift on Neil, who initially abuses his power to make fellow teacher Miss Pringle (Emma Pierson) fall madly in love with best friend Ray (Bhaskar). Neil also allows his four-legged companion Dennis to communicate in English.
As the godly dictates escalate out of control, Neil becomes a target for Catherine's psychotic ex-boyfriend, Colonel Grant (Rob Riggle). "Absolute power doesn't corrupt, it just drives you mad!" despairs the teacher. Meanwhile, the Intergalactic Council of Superior Beings witnesses the devastation with a mounting sense of disappointment and frustration. They are not alone.
Absolutely Anything is a ghastly, unedifying mess that will be remembered for all the wrong reasons. Pegg fails to make his hapless hero sympathetic or likable, and he shares more screen chemistry with his glasses than a lovingly tousled Beckinsale.
Misguided humour lurches wildly from the childish (big-eared police officers in lurid pink uniforms) to the twisted (the slaughter of 39 teenagers), punctuated by laughter-starved longueurs. One of the comedic highpoints of the film is two steaming dog turds, which magically come to life, leap into a toilet bowl and flush themselves to oblivion. Never has an image been more unintentionally apt.
Fantastic Four 2 stars
Reed Richards is an inquisitive scientist, who has conducted experiments since his schooldays, which he hopes will reveal the secrets of the universe. Accompanied by Johnny Storm, computer scientist Victor von Doom and best friend Ben Grimm, Reed teleports to an alternate universe where disaster strikes. The three survivors and Johnny's sister Sue are blessed with startling new abilities and vow to use their extraordinary talents for the good of mankind.
- GenreAction, Adaptation, Adventure, Fantasy, Romance, Science Fiction
- CastMiles Teller, Kate Mara, Michael B Jordan, Jamie Bell, Toby Kebbell.
- DirectorJosh Trank.
- WriterJeremy Slater, Simon Kinberg, Josh Trank.
- Duration100 mins
- Official sitewww.fantasticfourmovie.co.uk
If at first you don't succeed, please gracefully admit defeat. That would be my heartfelt advice to filmmakers, who have been striving for decades to bring Marvel Comics' longest running superhero team to life on the big screen.
A low budget Fantastic Four shot in 1993 and produced by Roger Corman was never released and a vapid 2005 blockbuster starring Ioan Gruffudd, Jessica Alba, Chris Evans and Michael Chiklis spawned an equally dull sequel two years later.
Now Josh Trank, who helmed the slick sci-fi fantasy Chronicle, attempts to reboot the franchise with a hip, young cast but similarly depressing results. The opening chapters of most superhero film series only have to illuminate one origin story but Fantastic Four has the unenviable task of putting flesh on the bones of a quartet of distinctly different protagonists and their mentally unhinged arch-nemesis.
Regrettably, the three scriptwriters don't possess the powers of brevity or wit, daubing characters in broad strokes in between high-volume, low-thrills action set pieces. The only thing remotely 'fantastic' about Trank's film is that he has limited our suffering to 100 minutes. Be exceedingly grateful for small mercies.
Miles Teller, who was mesmerising in Whiplash, squanders his talent as Reed Richards, an inquisitive student from Oyster Bay, New York, who creates a "cymatic matter shuttle" with best friend Ben Grimm (Jamie Bell) that transports objects between two realms.
Dr Franklin Storm (Reg E Cathey), Dean of the Baxter Institute, offers Reed a scholarship to realise his dream of inter-dimensional travel as part of a privately funded team that includes Storm's adopted daughter Sue (Kate Mara), hot-headed son Johnny (Michael B Jordan) and computer scientist Victor von Doom (Toby Kebbell).
Disaster strikes during the first teleportation and Victor is lost, presumed dead. The survivors recuperate with "aggressively abnormal conditions" at a classified facility known as Area 57.
Reed can stretch his human form to outrageous lengths and Sue can become invisible and generate force fields. Johnny can set himself ablaze and take flight while Ben is cocooned inside stone armour and can perform feats of incredible strength.
Baxter Institute board member Allen (Tim Blake Nelson) intends to sell the survivors to the highest military bidder but US government subterfuge is a trifling distraction from the destruction wrought by Victor, when he returns to our world as megalomaniacal super-villain Dr Doom.
Fantastic Four delivers a soulless blitzkrieg of wanton destruction, hung limply on an undernourished screenplay. The good-looking ensemble cast struggles to be seen and heard above the digitally-generated din and Trank's film is devoid of jeopardy, even when Dr Doom conjures a black hole to bring about mankind's downfall.
Part of us secretly hopes he succeeds. Total annihilation is a small price to snuff out the possibility of a Fantastic Four sequel.
Hitman: Agent 47 2 stars
Genetically engineered assassin 47 carries out contracts on high profile targets on behalf of the International Contracts Agency. Known by a barcode tattoo on the back of his neck, 47 is the product of years of research. Unfortunately, a huge corporation fronted by Le Clerq wishes to exploit these abilities for nefarious purposes to create an unstoppable army of obedient trained killers.
- GenreAction, Adaptation, Thriller
- CastZachary Quinto, Ciaran Hinds, Rupert Friend, Thomas Kretschmann, Hannah Ware.
- DirectorAleksander Bach.
- WriterSkip Woods, Michael Finch.
- Duration96 mins
- Official sitewww.foxmovies.com/movies/hitman-agent-47
Based on the hugely successful Hitman videogames, Aleksander Bach's frenetic action thriller hopes to atone for the sins of a drab 2007 film version headlining Timothy Olyphant. Unfortunately, a new lick of paint and some breathlessly choreographed fight sequences can't disguise the same fatal flaw.
Like so many screen adaptations of videogames, Hitman: Agent 47 fails to replicate the adrenaline-pumping visceral thrill of assuming control of an iconic character and nervously guiding them through the digital realm. The agonising sense of responsibility, which draw beads of sweat on a player's brow, are completely lost on an audience sitting comfortably in the dark of an air-conditioned cinema.
Director Bach evidently loves the games and he confidently orchestrates action set pieces, punctuated by slow motion acrobatics and explosions. A prolonged bout of bone-crunching hand-to-hand combat on the tracks of the Berlin underground, and a high speed pursuit around a multi-storey car park, are high points.
Once the bullets have all been discharged, vehicles wrecked and necks snapped, the film offers little in the way of characterisation, plot or emotional nuance. The protagonist is a genetically engineered assassin called Agent 47 (Rupert Friend), who carries out high profile contracts assigned to him by his handler, Diana (Angelababy).
Known by a barcode tattoo on the back of his neck, 47 is the product of years of scientific tinkering, which has imbued him with unrivalled intelligence, speed, stamina and strength... until the next iteration. Diana orders 47 to hunt down and kill Dr Litvenko (Ciaran Hinds), mastermind of the Agent program.
A huge corporation called Syndicate International fronted by Le Clerq (Thomas Kretschmann) is also looking for Litvenko and intends to use his groundbreaking research to create an unstoppable army of obedient trained killers. The only way to flush the scientist out of hiding is by using his daughter Katia (Hannah Ware) as bait.
Unfortunately, she has also vanished off the grid. Agent 47 tracks her down in Berlin where battle ensues between the hit man and her enigmatic protector, John Smith (Zachary Quinto).
The balance of power tips back and forth between 47 and Smith, and Katia must decide who - if anyone - she trusts. "Don't put your faith in me, you'll be disappointed," growls 47.
Hitman: Agent 47 is a tiny improvement on the 2007 film but it's a close call. Friend is suitably lifeless as the gun-toting anti-hero, expertly performing fight choreography including a couple of bruising showdowns with Quinto. Ware is equally bland yet considerably more emotional as the pawn in a game that she unknowingly controls.
Kretschmann doesn't have sufficient screen time to put meat on the bones of his lacklustre villain, who swipes angrily at a touchscreen desk as his masterplan falls apart. Bach's film obligingly follows suit.
Inside Out 5 stars
From the moment baby Riley opens her eyes, her mood is shaped by five coloured emotions - Joy, Sadness, Fear, Anger and Disgust - which bicker behind a large control desk laden with buttons and levers. Joy is the dominant emotion in Headquarters and she safeguards Riley's memories, which are stored as glowing orbs. When Riley turns 11, her parents relocate from Minnesota to San Francisco. Traumatic events such as a first day at a new school nudge Sadness to the fore.
- GenreAnimation/Cartoon, Comedy, Family, Family
- CastDiane Lane, Amy Poehler, Kyle MacLachlan, Bill Hader, Phyllis Smith, Lewis Black, Mindy Kaling.
- DirectorPete Docter, Ronaldo Del Carmen.
- WriterPete Docter, Meg LeFauve, Josh Cooley.
- Duration102 mins
- Official sitewww.movies.disney.com/inside-out
Despite gargantuan advances in medical science, we still don't fully understand the complexities of the human brain: its ability to process vast quantities of information, solve problems and store memories at speeds that put supercomputers to shame.
Pixar Animation Studios, the wizards who conjured the Toy Story trilogy, contemplate the vagaries of neuropsychology with this visually stunning and emotionally rich comedy, which unfolds predominantly inside the head of a little girl.
This high-brow concept doesn't seem like the most accessible subject matter for a family-oriented computer animation. But directors Pete Docter and Ronaldo Del Carmen elegantly tilt their film at the windmills of the mind and deliver a hilarious, heartfelt and ultimately life-affirming adventure that celebrates childhood innocence, family unity and the power of the human spirit to overcome adversity.
Laughter and tears abound, as well as cute visual gags, ensuring parents will be repeatedly dabbing their eyes while children whoop and gurgle with glee at the slapstick and rollicking action sequences.
A mother (voiced by Diane Lane) and father (Kyle MacLachlan) welcome a baby girl called Riley (Kaitlyn Dias) into the world. From the moment she opens her eyes, Riley's mood is shaped by five coloured emotions - golden Joy (Amy Poehler), blue Sadness (Phyllis Smith), purple Fear (Bill Hader), red Anger (Lewis Black) and green Disgust (Mindy Kaling) - which bicker behind a large control desk laden with buttons and levers.
Joy is the dominant emotion in Headquarters and she safeguards Riley's memories, which are stored as glowing orbs, tinged with the colour of the emotion that prevailed at the time. When Riley turns 11, her parents relocate from Minnesota to San Francisco.
Traumatic events such as a first day at a new school nudge Sadness to the fore. Following an altercation, sworn rivals Joy and Sadness are expelled from Headquarters and find themselves stranded in the labyrinth of Riley's long-term memories.
Aided by Riley's imaginary friend Bing Bong (Richard Kind), Joy and Sadness blaze a haphazard trail on the chugging train of thought back to Fear, Anger and Disgust, who have been left in charge of Headquarters, with disastrous consequences.
Inside Out is Pixar's best film since the holy animated trilogy of WALL-E, Up and Toy Story 3. Docter's script, co-written by Meg LeFauve and Josh Cooley, glisters with imagination, wit and invention, delivering guffaws with detours into the heads of Riley's parents as they attempt to deal with her pre-teenage rebellion.
Vocal performances are note perfect, led by Poehler's exuberant portrayal of Joy and Smith's sincere embodiment of Sadness, who tugs heartstrings as the film reaches its exquisite conclusion.
The film is preceded by a short: a musical love story entitled Lava between two volcanoes called Uku and Lele, directed by James Ford Murphy. Joy and Sadness shared blissful control of my mind throughout.
Minions 3 stars
Since the dawn of time, the Minions have gravitated towards the most despicable master they can find. One Minion named Kevin embarks on an epic quest to find a new evil boss for his brethren to follow. Flanked by teenage rebel Stuart and diminutive scaredy-cat Bob, Kevin leaves the Minions' current home in Antarctica bound for 1968 New York City, where he stumbles upon the world's first female super-villain: Scarlet Overkill.
- GenreAnimation/Cartoon, Comedy, Family, Family
- CastChris Renaud, Sandra Bullock, Pierre Coffin, Steve Coogan, Allison Janney, Michael Keaton, Katy Mixon, Jon Hamm.
- DirectorPierre Coffin, Kyle Balda.
- WriterBrian Lynch.
- Duration91 mins
- Official sitewww.minionnation.co.uk
You can have too much of a good thing. In small doses, Despicable Me's goggle-eyed hench-creatures are a deranged delight. As unwittingly heroes of their own big screen adventure, these pint-sized "knights in shining denim" lose some of their loopy lustre, hindered by Brian Lynch's flimsy script, which is disappointingly light on storyline and belly laughs.
A dazzling vocal cast of gifted comic actors is repeatedly short-changed. Very young children, who gurgle with glee at the Minions' bonkers vernacular combining Esperanto and gobbledygook, will adore the slapstick, pratfalls and the tiniest member of the Minions clan, Bob, who clutches a well-loved teddy bear called Tim.
Adults will be considerably harder to win over. The lack of a coherent storyline grates as much as the lazy cultural stereotyping of the British as tea-sipping, corgi-riding folk, who frequent pubs called The Pig's Spleen.
Since the dawn of time, Minions have gravitated towards despicable masters including Tyrannosaurus Rex, Count Dracula and Napoleon. Unfortunately, these masters die prematurely - at the hands of the clumsy, yellow hench-creatures - leaving the Minions in a state of deep depression.
One brave soul named Kevin steps forth to find an evil boss for his bald, jaundiced brethren. Flanked by Stuart and scaredy-cat Bob, Kevin leaves the Minions' ice cave retreat bound for 1968 New York City. Cue a President Richard Nixon billboard proclaiming "Finally: a name you can trust". Could the Minions have stumbled upon their arch-villain?
No. The plucky trio learns about a gathering of criminals in Orlando and hitches a ride to the convention with a bank-robbing family led by Walter Nelson (voiced by Michael Keaton) and wife Madge (Allison Janney).
Their daughter Tina (Katy Mixon) points the Minions in the direction of bouffant super-villain Scarlet Overkill (Sandra Bullock). "If I was a minion, that's who I'd want to work for," she swoons. Thus the trio pledges allegiance to Scarlet and her inventor husband Herb (Jon Hamm), who are plotting to steal the Crown Jewels from Queen Elizabeth II (Jennifer Saunders).
While the soundtrack swings its flares to The Kinks and The Who, Kevin, Stuart and Bob careen around London armed with Herb's nifty gadgets: a robo-suit, lava lamp gun and hypno-hat.
Minions has a sprinkling of giggles and doesn't outstay its welcome but there's an unshakable feeling that Pierre Coffin and Kyle Balda's film falls short. The groovy time period should be a velvet goldmine of visual gags but the best the film can muster is a nod to The Beatles and a faked moon landing.
The 3D version doesn't exploit the eye-popping format so parents with tykes in tow should save their money for the inevitable raid on the concessions stand. Animation is colourful and pristine, opting for shiny surfaces and sharp angles that reduce the need for meticulous detail and realism. Despicable? Meh.
Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation 4 stars
The Impossible Missions Force (IMF) led by agent Ethan Hunt has taken down some of the most deadly criminal networks in the world using guile and state-of-the-art technology. Now the hunters become the hunted. A shadowy band of assassins known as the Syndicate targets IMF for extinction. Hunt reunites with colleagues William Brandt, Benji Dunn and computer hacker Luther Stickell to expose the Syndicate and bring down the organisation using every weapon and turbo-charged vehicle at their disposal.
- GenreAction, Adaptation, Adventure, Thriller
- CastJeremy Renner, Simon Pegg, Tom Cruise, Ving Rhames, Sean Harris, Alec Baldwin, Rebecca Ferguson.
- DirectorChristopher McQuarrie.
- WriterChristopher McQuarrie.
- Duration131 mins
- Official sitewww.missionimpossible.com
Call it testosterone-fuelled recklessness, hubris or feeling the need... the need for speed, Tom Cruise certainly puts on a show in the fifth instalment of the Mission: Impossible franchise. He clings to the side of an airplane as it takes flight, slaloms at dizzying speed on a motorcycle and performs death-defying leaps as secret agent Ethan Hunt.
The 53-year-old star performs most of these hair-raising stunts himself, allowing writer-director Christopher McQuarrie to capture every pulse-quickening second in thrilling close-up with minimum digital trickery.
Cruise's commitment to his role puts fellow action stars to shame - unlike the films of Stallone and Schwarzenegger, the script is devoid of wry one-liners to poke fun at his advancing years.
McQuarrie, Oscar-winning screenwriter of The Usual Suspects, bookmarks slam-bang action sequences with intentionally ambiguous exchanges between rival operatives, who acknowledge the futility of their efforts as pawns in the spy game.
Their inevitable deaths will go unnoticed and fresh-faced young agents will step forward, continuing the brutal tug-of-war between political idealism and global terrorism. The film opens with the Impossible Missions Force (IMF) hijacking a shipment of nerve gas from Chechen separatists.
Soon after, CIA Director Alan Hunley (Alec Baldwin) succeeds in shutting down IMF for a total disregard for protocol, which led to the destruction of the Kremlin in the previous film. The hunters become the hunted when a shadowy organisation known as the Syndicate, fronted by Solomon Lane (Sean Harris), targets IMF for extinction.
Hunt covertly reunites with colleagues William Brandt (Jeremy Renner), Benji Dunn (Simon Pegg) and computer hacker Luther Stickell (Ving Rhames) to bring down The Syndicate using every gadget, disguise and turbo-charged vehicle at their disposal.
The operation brings Hunt into close contact with undercover MI6 agent Ilsa Faust (Rebecca Ferguson) and her slippery handler (Simon McBurney), a sadistic henchman known as the Bone Doctor (Jens Hulten) and the unsuspecting British Prime Minister (Tom Hollander). "This may very well be our last mission," Brandt tells Hunt. "Make it count."
Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation is slickly bolted together by McQuarrie and editor Eddie Hamilton (Kick-Ass, Kingsman: The Secret Service). Turbo-charged scenes of carnage are punctuated by IMF's existential crisis in a world that regards their methods as "outdated".
Cruise somersaults, punches and tumbles through every frame without breaking sweat, while Pegg, who was pigeon-holed as comic relief in the previous instalment, steps up in a pivotal supporting role.
Ferguson's ice maiden doesn't thaw sufficiently under Cruise's smouldering gaze to kindle on-screen chemistry but her femme fatale snaps several limbs and necks in impressive hand-to-hand combat sequences.
Humour is used sparingly to diffuse tension, leaving us hungry for another explosion of IMF antics to the pulsating rhythm of Lalo Schifrin's iconic theme. On this evidence, Mission: Impossible and its gung-ho leading man won't be self-destructing any time soon.
NT Live: The Beaux' Stratagem 3 stars
Two penniless bounders hope to marry for money in this revival of George Farquhar's biting restoration comedy, which is broadcast live to cinemas from the stage of the National Theatre in London. Aimwell and Archer have fallen on hard times in London. So they travel around the country posing as master and servant respectively in the hopes of wooing rich ladies to secure their financial future.
- GenreComedy, Romance, Special
- CastSamuel Barnett, Pippa Bennett-Warner, Esh Alladi, Susannah Fielding, Geoffrey Streatfeild.
- DirectorSimon Godwin.
- WriterGeorge Farquhar.
- Duration180 mins
- Official sitentlive.nationaltheatre.org.uk
- Release03/09/2015 (selected cinemas)
Two penniless bounders hope to marry for money in this revival of George Farquhar's biting restoration comedy, which is broadcast live to cinemas from the stage of the National Theatre in London. Aimwell (Samuel Barnett) and Archer (Geoffrey Streatfeild) have fallen on hard times in London. So they travel around the country posing as master and servant respectively in the hopes of wooing rich ladies to secure their financial future. The chancers take lodgings at an inn, run by shady landlord Will Boniface (Lloyd Hutchinson) and quickly learn that their primary target should be wealthy widow Lady Bountiful (Jane Booker), who has a beautiful daughter called Dorinda (Pippa Bennett-Warner). The widow also has a son Mr Sullen (Richard Henders), whose wife (Susannah Fielding) clearly yearns for more excitement than the town of Lichfield can offer. So Aimwell and Archer resolve to seduce Dorinda and Mrs Sullen but the two women are more than a match for the penny-grabbing paramours. Directed by Simon Godwin.
Paper Towns 3 stars
Florida high school student Quentin Jacobsen has been madly in love with his neighbour Margo Roth Spiegelman since she moved into the house across the street. He has never mustered the courage to declare his true feelings, to the chagrin of Quentin's best friends Ben and Radar. Out of the blue, Margo vanishes without trace. Quentin knows that Margo likes to leave secret markers when she goes walkabout, so he follows a treasure hunt of cryptic clues to track her down.
- GenreAdaptation, Drama, Film, Romance, Teenage
- CastNat Wolff, Cara Delevingne, Austin Abrams, Justice Smith.
- DirectorJake Schreier.
- WriterScott Neustadter, Michael H Weber.
- Duration116 mins
- Official sitewww.papertownsmovie.com
Buoyed by the success of superior teen weepie The Fault In Our Stars, based on the book by John Green, scriptwriters Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber attempt to recreate the magic with this faithful adaptation of Green's bittersweet third novel.
Paper Towns deals with similar themes of alienation and sexual awakening from the perspective of peer pressured teenagers, whose existence hinges on finding a date for the end of year prom.
Director Jake Schreier sensitively and earnestly navigates these turbulent waters, eliciting solid performances from a young cast including leading man Nat Wolff, who played blind best friend Isaac in The Fault In Our Stars.
In the absence of a dramatic hook like terminal illness, Schreier's film sometimes lacks momentum and is missing a big emotional crescendo. However, there's a refreshing refusal to succumb to sentimentality when the going gets tough and the script doesn't polish the characters' rough edges in order to tie up loose plot strands in a neat bow.
Every childhood is tainted with confusion and disappointment, and this coming-of-age saga is no different. The film's unassuming hero is Florida high school student Quentin Jacobsen (Wolff), who has been madly in love with neighbour Margo Roth Spiegelman (Cara Delevingne) since she moved into the house across the street.
He has never mustered the courage to declare his true feelings, to the chagrin of best friends Ben (Austin Abrams) and Radar (Justice Smith), who are also poorly equipped to communicate effectively with the opposite sex.
Ben is a hormone-addled mess around blonde classmate Lacey (Halston Sage), while Radar has a girlfriend called Angela (Jaz Sinclair), who he fears will dump him for someone better. Out of the blue, Margo knocks on Quentin's bedroom window and asks him to help her wreak revenge on her cheating jock boyfriend (Griffin Freeman).
The covert night-time mission is a success but the next morning, Margo does not turn up for class. She vanishes without trace and her parents assume she has run away again. Quentin knows that Margo leaves secret markers when she goes walkabout, so he follows a treasure hunt of cryptic clues to track her down.
Paper Towns refers to fictional locations, which cartographers intentionally add to maps to prevent their hard work being plagiarised. Many of the underlying themes of Schreier's film feel second-hand - paper angst if you will - but the script treats characters and their predicaments with cool, genuine affection.
Delevingne is a puckish, cynical foil to Wolff's naivete, and Abrams and Smith banter effectively as the comic relief. Young hearts run free throughout to a soundtrack of indie pop and rock including Vampire Weekend and Twin Shadow. On this count, these teenagers are too hip to be square.
Pixels 2 stars
Out of the blue, alien invaders attack Guam military base with energy that has been coded to swarm like the creatures in the arcade game Galaga. It transpires that a time capsule, sent into space by NASA after the 1982 arcade game world championships, has been intercepted by extra-terrestrials and misinterpreted as a declaration of war. In order to halt the alien advance, mankind must beat the aliens at life-or-death versions of classic games including Centipede and Pacman
- GenreAction, Adaptation, Comedy, Family, Family, Romance, Science Fiction
- CastMichelle Monaghan, Adam Sandler, Kevin James, Peter Dinklage, Josh Gad.
- DirectorChris Columbus.
- WriterTimothy Dowling, Tim Herlihy.
- Duration106 mins
- Official sitewww.facebook.com/PixelsFilm
Like many socially awkward children of my generation, I escaped reality by playing fiendishly addictive games on consoles and computers, including an Atari, Vic 20 and Commodore 64. Asteroids, Battlezone, Centipede, Pacman, Phoenix, Space Invaders and Track & Field were trusted friends.
Pixels is an action comedy, which harks back to this bygone era before smartphones and immersive 4D, when guiding a circular yellow head around a maze with four coloured ghosts in hot pursuit, was the height of hi-tech entertainment.
Based on a short film of the same title by Patrick Jean, Chris Columbus' big budget romp imagines life-size arcade games on the streets of bustling modern cities. Except here, losing a life could mean the end of planet Earth. Scriptwriters Tim Herlihy and Timothy Dowling fail to capitalise on this neat and tantalising premise, crafting an inane story of triumph against adversity that treats female characters as pretty baubles.
In 1982, prepubescent pals Sam Brenner (Anthony Ippolito) and Will Cooper (Jared Riley) attend the arcade game world championships where they befriend conspiracy theory-spouting oddball Ludlow Lamonsoff (Jacob Shinder).
Sam gets through to the final where he loses a showdown on Donkey Kong, against egotistical champion Eddie Plant (Andrew Bambridge). More than 30 years later, Sam (now played by Adam Sandler) installs software for a living, while Will (now played by Kevin James) has become the deeply unpopular President of the United States.
Alien invaders attack Guam military base with energy that has been coded to swarm like the creatures in the arcade game Galaga. It transpires that a time capsule of arcade game footage, sent into space by NASA in 1982, has been intercepted by extra-terrestrials and misinterpreted as a declaration of war.
In order to halt the alien advance, mankind must compete in life-or-death versions of Centipede and Pacman. Sam and Will reunite with Ludlow (now played by Josh Gad) and Eddie (now played by Peter Dinklage) to secure mankind's victory, armed with light cannons fashioned by military weapons specialist Lieutenant Colonel Violet van Patten (Michelle Monaghan). "Let the nerds take over!" she bellows defiantly. Please don't.
Pixels is a nostalgia-drenched bore, hung on the centerpiece recreations of classic games, which result in the destruction of swathes of London and Manhattan. Sandler sucks the dwindling energy out of every frame, unable to muster any enthusiasm for his two-dimensional role.
Monaghan is wasted as the simpering love interest while James goofs and gurns as a highly improbable American leader. Columbus, who directed the first two instalments of the Harry Potter films, fails miserably to conjure the same magic.
He gleefully fills the screen with familiar pixelated characters including Q*bert, Frogger and Mario. Regrettably, it's game over from the opening frames for genuine emotion and narrative sophistication.
Sinister 2 3 stars
Courtney Collins moves into a farmhouse with her nine-year-old twin sons, Dylan and Zach. They are unaware of the grim history of the house or the presence of the malevolent spirit. Late one night, Dylan sleepwalks and is marked by Pagan deity Bughuul, who intends to possess the boy's body and then kill the rest of the family, documenting the massacre on Super 8 video. When Courtney discovers the horror taking place under her roof, she vows to protect Zach from harm.
- GenreHorror, Thriller
- CastJames Ransone, Shannyn Sossamon, Robert Daniel Sloan, Dartanian Sloan.
- DirectorCiaran Foy.
- WriterC Robert Cargill, Scott Derrickson.
- Duration97 mins
- Official site
A group of possessed children, a ritual sacrifice, a remote house with a dark cellar, a bogeyman who gets his kicks out of surprise appearances. Boo! This eclectic mix of cliche horror elements fails to blend in Sinister 2, a sequel to Scott Derrickson's 2012 supernatural yarn. The first film shockingly revealed that missing children were murdering their families.
The follow-up relies on jump scares to compensate for a storyline that lacks any new or unexpected insights. The central issue with Sinister 2 is that Bughuul, the demonic creature responsible for the bloodshed, has now lost his air of mystery and thus his punch. He was omnipresent in the tapes, photographs and shadows of the first film.
Once it becomes clear in the sequel that he is only instructing the children, Bughuul is downgraded to a useless token character, who lures but never attacks. It is his squad of possessed, pale-faced moppets who do the killing, the talking and, while they are at it, the feeble scaring.
Unfortunately, observing the deadly process unfold from the perspective of these tormented tykes does not ignite any fear - their manifestation is too polished, fading in and out of thin air too smoothly to cause alarm.
Sinister 2 revolves around ex-Deputy So & So (James Ransone), who discovers the latest house in a long sequence of family massacres orchestrated by Bughuul. Intent on ending the blood-letting, So & So is shocked to find runaway mother Courtney Collins (Shannyn Sossamon) and her twins Dylan and Zach (Robert Daniel Sloan and Dartanian Sloan) inhabiting the creaky farmhouse.
Courtney's violent husband Clint (Lea Coco) becomes embroiled in the madness, Dylan is subjected to increasingly disturbing nightly visitations and the ex-deputy chooses to stumble through any dark, haunted hallway in his vicinity, armed with a torchlight and an array of frightened expressions. Needless to say, characters hear suspicious noises in the dark and decide to check them out en masse.
Every time Sinister 2 is about to lose more momentum than its rocky storyline can afford, we see old footage of seemingly innocent home videos that suddenly take a deadly turn. These recordings are disturbing and the characters' demises are inventive, but they fail to supply an entire film with spine-tingling chills.
Director Ciaran Foy throws bloody rats, children with scythes and burning crucifixes into the mix in a vain attempt to inject a dose of fear. It's no use.
Sinister 2 relies too heavily on Bughuul's predictable jump scares, accompanied by an unsettling yet repetitive soundtrack. Audiences would need to be wearing earplugs and blindfolds not to guess what's coming.
Southpaw 3 stars
Billy Hope is a giant of the boxing ring, who relishes the adoration of the crowd. His adoring wife Maureen pleads with him to hang up his boxing gloves for good so he can spend more time with his young daughter, Leila. Billy accedes but then tragedy strikes and Leila is taken away by the courts from Billy, who sinks into a mire of alcohol-sodden self-pity and despair.
- GenreAction, Drama, Romance, Thriller
- CastRachel McAdams, Jake Gyllenhaal, 50 Cent, Forest Whitaker, Oona Laurence.
- DirectorAntoine Fuqua.
- WriterKurt Sutter.
- Duration124 mins
- Official sitewww.facebook.com/SouthpawMovie
Feted by some sports commentators as the greatest boxer of all time, Sugar Ray Robinson possessed one unshakable quality that gave him an edge over his opponents. "To be a champ you have to believe in yourself when no one else will," he insisted.
Director Antoine Fuqua, screenwriter Kurt Sutter and leading man Jake Gyllenhaal clearly believe in their hard-slugging sports drama about a one-time boxing legend, who hits the comeback trail in order to win back the custody of his young daughter.
Fuqua orchestrates testosterone-fuelled skirmishes inside the ring with brio, Sutter trades verbal blows with his snappy dialogue and Gyllenhaal trained intensively for six months with fight choreographer Terry Claybon to replicate the muscular physicality and snarling mentality of a light heavyweight.
Ironically, for a film that packs a wallop during briskly edited bouts, Southpaw delivers only a few light jabs to our heart strings, almost all of which are landed by 12-year-old actress Oona Laurence. At 124 minutes, Fuqua's cliche-riddled contender expects us to go 12 rounds with training montages and a euphoric Eminem soundtrack before the obligatory final showdown of brawn over brains.
Billy Hope (Gyllenhaal) is a giant of the boxing ring, who celebrates retaining his championship belt with his wife Maureen (Rachel McAdams) and precocious daughter Leila (Laurence). The girl begs to be allowed to watch her father's fights. "I see stuff like that on the TV all the time," she pleads. "I watch The Walking Dead."
Maureen becomes concerned about the toll on her husband's body and pleads with him to hang up his boxing gloves for good, which doesn't impress Billy's lifelong manager, Jordan Mains (Curtis "50 Cent" Jackson).
Tragedy strikes and Leila is wrested away from Billy by the courts after he sinks into a mire of alcohol-sodden despair. In order to reunite his fractured family, Billy must prove to child services officer Angela Rivera (Naomie Harris) that he can be a responsible parent.
To earn enough money to provide a home for Leila, Billy heads back into the boxing ring to fight his nemesis, Miguel "Magic" Escobar (Miguel Gomez). Thus the underdog begins the slow and painful journey back to peak physical fitness with the help of old school trainer Tick Willis (Forest Whitaker).
Southpaw is a rousing parable of triumph over adversity that won't knock out any fans of The Champ, Rocky and other displays of pugilistic big screen machismo. Gyllenhaal looks in peak physical shape, but mumbles his lines, some of which are incomprehensible.
McAdams illuminates her limited scenes while Laurence proves she can cry on cue like a leaky tap. Jackson plays his role with swagger, echoing the capitalist interests of modern sport when his bling-laden promoter grins, "If it makes money, it makes sense." Money talks, if only Gyllenhaal did more clearly.
Straight Outta Compton 4 stars
Good friends Dr Dre, Eazy-E, Ice Cube, MC Ren and DJ Yella search for an outlet for their creativity. With gentle persuasion from his buddies, Eazy-E sets up his own label, Ruthless Records, and the group's first release Boyz-n-the-Hood piques the interest of Jerry Heller. He sweet talks Eazy-E into becoming the band's manager. An electrifying live performance leads to a deal with Priority Records but Ice Cube grows increasingly concerned about Eazy-E's close working relationship with Heller and the absence of contracts for the rest of the group.
- GenreBiography, Drama, Musical
- CastCorey Hawkins, O'Shea Jackson Jr, Paul Giamatti, Neil Brown Jr, Jason Mitchell, Aldis Hodge.
- DirectorF Gary Gray.
- WriterJonathan Herman, Andrea Berloff.
- Duration147 mins
- Official sitewww.straightouttacomptonthemovie.co.uk
Whenever Hollywood immortalises pages from history at 24 frames per second, it's wise to treat each lustrous dramatisation with a pinch of salt. Rigorous factual accuracy is often sacrificed at the altar of artistic licence. In the case of F. Gary Gray's engrossing film, you will need to grab bulging fistfuls of sodium chloride.
Not only are two of the key protagonists of this rags to musical riches biopic listed as executive producers, one of the men - rapper turned actor Ice Cube - is portrayed on screen by his own son. The faint whiff of nepotism is overpowered by heady fumes of whitewash from Jonathan Herman and Andrea Berloff's script, which neglects to address accusations of misogyny and homophobia levelled at California hip hop collective N.W.A.
Regardless of the rosy tint to director Gray's lens, Straight Outta Compton is a fascinating portrait of youthful exuberance, raw ambition and racial divide that rubs some of that salt into the deep wounds inflicted since the police shooting of teenager Michael Brown in Ferguson.
The film opens in 1986 with pals Dr Dre (Corey Hawkins), Eazy-E (Jason Mitchell), Ice Cube (O'Shea Jackson Jr), MC Ren (Aldis Hodge) and DJ Yella (Neil Brown Jr) searching for an outlet for their creativity.
Tensions are high between police and black youths - random stop and searches are an unwelcome part of neighbourhood life. "I'm the only gangster round here," snarls one officer. With gentle persuasion from his buddies, Eazy-E sets up his own label, Ruthless Records, and the group's first release Boyz-n-the-Hood piques the interest of Jerry Heller (Paul Giamatti).
He sweet talks Eazy-E into becoming the band's manager. "What does N.W.A. stand for? No Whites Allowed?" asks Jerry naively. An electrifying live performance leads to a deal with Priority Records founded by Bryan Turner (Tate Ellington).
Ice Cube grows increasingly concerned about Eazy-E's close working relationship with Heller and the absence of contracts for the rest of the group. He eventually leaves and goes solo, sparking a bitter war of rhymes between the former band mates.
Ice Cube aligns himself with Suge Knight (R Marcus Taylor) and together they establish Death Row Records. Meanwhile, Dr Dre also turns his back on Eazy-E and N.W.A. and channels his energy into working as a producer for other acts including Snoop Dogg (Keith Stanfield) and Tupac Shakur (Marcc Rose).
Straight Outta Compton might run to a holler short of two-and-a-half hours but Gray's film has sufficient swagger to hold our attention. Hawkins, Mitchell and Jackson Jr deliver accomplished performances as the sometimes deluded pioneers of a hip hop revolution.
Musical performances pulse with energy including a stand-off with police at a concert that culminates in a riot. This might not be the whole uncomfortable truth, but what we are allowed to see hits the right notes.
The Bad Education Movie 3 stars
Frightfully posh yet inept history teacher Alfie Wickers takes his class of misfits on a trip to Cornwall despite vociferous protests from parents. Far from Abbey Grove School in Watford, Hertfordshire, Alfie and his socially awkward pupils rankle the locals including farmer Pasco and reunite with Alfie's old school chum Atticus Hoye. Police are eventually called in to restore peace and Alfie must consider if he is truly fit to be shaping impressionable and occasionally febrile minds.
- GenreComedy, Drama, Romance
- CastJeremy Irvine, Iain Glen, Talulah Riley, Mathew Horne, Joanna Scanlan, Jack Whitehall, Harry Enfield.
- DirectorElliot Hegarty.
- WriterFreddy Syborn, Jack Whitehall.
- Duration91 mins
- Official site
Written by and starring Jack Whitehall, Bad Education was a popular BBC Three sitcom chronicling the trials and tribulations of a frightfully posh yet inept history teacher called Alfie Wickers at the fictional Abbey Grove School in Watford, Hertfordshire. Over the course of three series, Alfie tried in vain to win the affection of biology teacher Rosie Gulliver (Sarah Solemani) and pull the wool over the eyes of the school's headmaster, Fraser (Mathew Horne). For this big screen misadventure directed by Elliot Hegarty, Alfie takes his class of misfits on a trip to Cornwall despite vociferous protests from parents. Far from Abbey Grove School, Alfie and his socially awkward pupils rankle the locals including farmer Pasco (Iain Glen) and reunite with Alfie's old school chum Atticus Hoye (Jeremy Irvine). Police are eventually called in to restore peace and Alfie must consider if he is truly fit to be shaping impressionable and occasionally febrile minds.
The Man From U.N.C.L.E. 2 stars
Victoria Vinciguerra is the beautiful mastermind of a criminal organisation, which hopes to destabilise the fragile global peace. American agent Napoleon Solo reluctantly works alongside Ukrainian rival Illya Kuryakin to thwart Victoria's nefarious plan. The two men join forces with Gaby Teller, whose father is a German scientist with the key to infiltrating the criminal network. With the clock ticking down to worldwide catastrophe, tensions between Solo and Kuryakin undermine the mission.
- GenreAction, Adaptation, Adventure, Comedy, Romance
- CastHenry Cavill, Alicia Vikander, Elizabeth Debicki, Armie Hammer.
- DirectorGuy Ritchie.
- WriterGuy Ritchie, Lionel Wigram.
- Duration116 mins
- Official sitewww.manfromuncle.com
More than 50 years after the achingly cool TV series The Man From U.N.C.L.E. exploited Cold War paranoia for rollicking entertainment, director Guy Ritchie continues to explore fractious male dynamics in this globe-trotting spy caper.
The unlikely pairing of suave American agent Napoleon Solo and tightly coiled Ukrainian rival Illya Kuryakin during the Cold War remains unchanged in Ritchie's script, co-written by Lionel Wigram. While the original pairing of Robert Vaughn and David McCallum lent swagger and smouldering sex appeal to the politically divided operatives, Ritchie's good-looking men from U.N.C.L.E. - Armie Hammer and Henry Cavill - radiate impeccably tailored style over substance and sizzle.
James Bond could arch an eyebrow and exude more charisma than either leading man manages here as they attempt to wrench a nuclear warhead from the clutches of a criminal network.
The film is having a laugh to suggest that these strapping and chiselled agents, both over six feet tall, could conduct covert surveillance without drawing attention. Ritchie evidently agrees and stokes homoerotic embers with a thinly veiled declaration of sexual preference that will prick up the ears of gay audiences as the men attempt to simultaneously pick two locks on a door and evade capture.
These throwaway moments, including an appearance by Pussy Galore's helicopter from Goldfinger, are symbolic of a film that has the right ingredients but no clear sense how to blend everything smoothly.
Victoria Vinciguerra (Elizabeth Debicki) is the beautiful mastermind of a criminal organisation, which hopes to destabilise global peace using a warhead armed by nuclear scientist Udo Teller (Christian Berkel). CIA handler Sanders (Jared Harris) instructs his debonair agent Napoleon Solo (Cavill) to join forces with KGB counterpart Illya Kuryakin (Hammer) to thwart Victoria's nefarious plan.
The two men bicker and brood, give each other pet names ("Red Peril" and "Cowboy"), and dangle Udo's car mechanic daughter Gaby (Alicia Vikander) as bait to flush the scientist out of hiding. En route, the agents clash with Gaby's sadistic uncle (Sylvester Groth) and forge an alliance with an unflappable British agent, Alexander Waverly (Hugh Grant).
The Man From U.N.C.L.E. lovingly evokes the textures, polish and poise of an era that rebelled against post-war drabness, with fine contributions from production designer Oliver Scholl and costume designer Joanna Johnston.
The soundtrack jives to jazzy beats, matched by Ritchie's measured direction, which thankfully avoids some of his usual showboating. If looks were everything, the film would twist and shout in snazzy kaleidoscopic split screens.
However, characters are poorly developed and on-screen chemistry between the leading men and a shamefully underused Vikander is tepid. "For a special agent, you're not having a very special day," Waverly quips to Kuryakin after one chase sequence. On this handsomely crafted yet bland evidence, nor is Ritchie.
Trainwreck 4 stars
At nine-years-old, Amy Townsend was told by her father that, "Monogamy isn't realistic." She has taken those words to her booze-soaked heart, enjoying numerous anonymous sexual encounters. When Amy isn't picking up men in bars, she works at lifestyle magazine S'Nuff and is assigned to pen a profile on sports doctor Aaron Conners. Unexpectedly, Amy kindles romance with the kind-hearted medic.
- GenreComedy, Drama, Film, Romance
- CastAmy Schumer, Bill Hader, Brie Larson, John Cena, Tilda Swinton.
- DirectorJudd Apatow.
- WriterAmy Schumer.
- Duration125 mins
- Official sitewww.trainwreckmovie.co.uk
Award-winning actress and writer Amy Schumer raises her skirt to political correctness and gleefully flashes sexual inequality with this potty-mouthed comedy that is far from the debacle promised by the title. Directed at a lick by Judd Apatow, who temporarily lost his mojo after Knocked Up in 2007, Trainwreck is a hilarious and heart-warming portrait of modern womanhood.
Throughout the uproarious two hours, Schumer is the butt of her own expertly targeted jokes, and she generously shares sparkling one-liners around the excellent ensemble cast. In particular, she creates a hysterical supporting role for Oscar-winning British actress Tilda Swinton, as a monstrous magazine editor, who demands gung-ho headline-grabbing titillation, not gently worded, sentimental froth.
There's a thin glaze of sweetness to pivotal moments between female characters in Schumer's script and an emotionally raw scene at a funeral deftly tugs the heartstrings. Yet, for its adherence to rom-com tropes, Trainwreck is laced with sufficient biting wit and self-effacement to drink The Hangover and its crude imitators under the table, and seal victory with a rousing belch.
At nine-years-old, Amy Townsend (Amy Schumer) learns a most valuable lesson about human relationships from her embittered father (Colin Quinn). "Monogamy isn't realistic," he tells Amy and her little sister Kim, encouraging the girls to chant this as a mantra.
Twenty-three years later, Amy has taken those words to her booze-soaked heart, enjoying numerous anonymous sexual encounters, while dating a musclebound hunk called Steven (John Cena), whose prowess leaves a lot to be desired.
In stark contrast, sister Kim (Brie Larson) has settled down with her knitwear-clad husband Tom (Mike Birbiglia). "You dress him like that just so no one else wants to have sex with him?" quips Amy, mocking her sibling's domestic bliss.
When Amy isn't picking up men in bars, she works at lifestyle magazine S'Nuff with kooky best friend Nikki (Vanessa Bayer). Out of the blue, editor Dianna (Tilda Swinton) assigns Amy to pen a profile on sports doctor Aaron Conners (Bill Hader), who is good friends with basketball player LeBron James (playing himself).
Amy knows almost nothing about sport but she obliges and sparks an unlikely romance with the kind-hearted medic that threatens to unravel the tattered fabric of her bed-hopping existence.
Trainwreck is a wicked delight that asserts independent, single women have the same right as men to enjoy carefree sexual escapades without being labelled a hussy. Schumer instantly endears us to her self-destructive 30-something, who has to hit rock bottom before she can begin the slow, painful ascent back to healthy self-respect.
Hader is an adorable comic foil and sparring partner, and on-screen chemistry between the two leads simmers beautifully. Supporting performances are equally memorable, including amusing cameos from Daniel Radcliffe and Marisa Tomei. Jump on board Schumer's runaway, filthy-minded train of thought and hold on tight.
Vacation 2 stars
Rusty Griswold draws inspiration from his childhood to reconnect to his family by taking his wife Debbie and bickering sons James and Kevin on a cross-country road trip to the Walley World theme park. En route, the Griswolds insult a rapist trucker, make a pit-stop at the home of Rusty's sister Audrey and her weatherman husband, and seek relaxation at a natural spring.
- GenreAction, Adaptation, Comedy, Drama, Romance
- CastLeslie Mann, Christina Applegate, Chris Hemsworth, Ed Helms, Chevy Chase, Skyler Gisondo, Beverly D'Angelo, Steele Stebbins.
- DirectorJohn Francis Daley, Jonathan M Goldstein.
- WriterJonathan M Goldstein, John Francis Daley.
- Duration99 mins
- Official sitewww.vacationthemovie.com
In the 1980s, Chevy Chase and Beverly D'Angelo played hapless parents Clark and Ellen Griswold in three raucous comedies under the National Lampoon banner, which reflected the exquisite agony of spending quality time with loved ones during the holidays.
Vacation, European Vacation and Christmas Vacation mined a rich vein of universal humour grounded in sibling rivalry and miscommunication between the generations.
Writer-directors John Francis Daley and Jonathan M Goldstein's contemporary update borrows the title of the first film and recycles the central plot but spatters the heartfelt sentiment with a thick layer of filth. Elegance and sophistication are strangers to a lumbering script peppered with paedophilia and projectile vomiting, that isn't averse to an in-joke about the film's hand-me-down origins.
"I've never heard of the original Vacation," remarks a teenager.
"Doesn't matter. The new Vacation will stand on its own," responds his father. It doesn't - the new film is on its knees, wretching and wretched, from the crass opening set piece.
As a boy, Rusty Griswold (Ed Helms) undertook an epic cross-country trip to the Walley World theme park with his family. More than 30 years later, Rusty is a commercial pilot for Econo Air with a beautiful wife Debbie (Christina Applegate) and two sons: sensitive teenager James (Skyler Gisondo), who plays a guitar, and foul-mouthed bully Kevin (Steele Stebbins), who torments his older brother.
For years, Rusty has taken his clan to a log cabin in Michigan for their summer holiday, but when he overhears his wife bemoaning the predictability of the excursion, he surprises the Griswolds with an impromptu road trip to Walley World.
The family begrudgingly bundles into a hulking hybrid hire car and hits the road. En route, the Griswolds insult a rapist trucker (Norman Reedus), make a pit-stop at the home of Rusty's sister Audrey (Leslie Mann) and her weatherman husband (Chris Hemsworth), and seek relaxation at a natural spring.
"This water was heated by Mother Nature's bowels," purrs Rusty, who fails to notice the steaming oasis is a raw sewage outlet. The pungent brown goo, which the Griswolds smear on their faces, believing it to be mineral-enriched mud, is a fitting summation of this joyless and charmless comedy of errors.
Characters have no depth and none of the central clan is particularly likable, even weakling James, who spends most of the film flirting awkwardly with a girl (Catherine Missal) on a similar road trip.
The script aggressively peddles puerile humour, liberally spraying bodily fluids and entrails over the actors, while Hemsworth's slight contribution is reduced to posing in his underwear with a sizable protrusion to draw the eye.
Cameos by Chase and D'Angelo provide a waft of sweet nostalgia to momentarily counteract the stink of everything else.
We Are Your Friends 3 stars
Cole is a 23-year-old aspiring DJ, who lives in the San Fernando Valley with his friends. One night, Cole crosses paths with James Reed, an established DJ, who has steadily risen through the ranks. James takes Cole under his wing and helps his protege to befriend the right people and become a record producer. As Cole hones his craft, he becomes attracted to James' younger girlfriend Sophie and their burgeoning friendship threatens to spark a full-blown affair.
- GenreDrama, Romance
- CastWes Bentley, Zac Efron, Jon Bernthal, Emily Ratajkowski, Jonny Weston.
- DirectorMax Joseph.
- WriterMax Joseph, Meaghan Oppenheimer.
- Duration98 mins
- Official sitewww.wayf-movie.com
When it rains cinematic love letters to the electronic dance music (EDM) scene, it pours. We Are Your Friends arrives shortly after Eden, Mia Hansen-Love's autobiographical account of shattered dreams set against the backdrop of the 1990s French music scene.
While that film expertly mixed style and substance with a pulsating soundtrack from the era, director Max Roberts' present-day soap opera taps its foot to a more predictable beat in the sun-baked San Fernando Valley.
According to the film's narrator, this unfashionable stretch of Los Angeles County has a thriving pornography industry, airhead blondes and the best sushi in California. It's also a playground for dreamers - wannabe musicians, actors and DJs - who hope to be talent-spotted on the other side of the Hollywood sign and offered their one-way ticket to fame and fortune.
It's a pungent setting for Roberts and co-writer Meaghan Oppenheimer to explore the frailty of a get-rich-quick generation, obsessed with stories of twentysomethings, who invented an app or performed songs on a video sharing website and are now multi-millionaires.
We Are Your Friends has a smattering of grit, including scenes of drug-taking plus a senseless tragedy that is telegraphed in neon lettering, but the sweetness and sentimentality of this bro-mantic fairytale is overpowering. Consequently, Roberts can't resist a feel good coda to reset the film's moral compass.
Zac Efron plays Cole, a 23-year-old DJ who lives in the valley with buddies Mason (Jonny Weston), Ollie (Shiloh Fernandez) and Squirrel (Alex Shaffer). One night at a club, Cole meets EDM demi-god James Reed (Wes Bentley), who commands vast fees for his sets.
James takes the twinkly-eyed upstart under his wing and grants Cole 24-hour access to his recording studio. As the newcomer hones his craft, he kindles an attraction with James' younger girlfriend, Sophie (Emily Ratajkowski), which threatens to spark a full-blown affair.
We Are Your Friends starts promisingly, bombarding the screen with snazzy visuals and captions as Cole delivers an idiot's guide to the Valley and EDM. A PCP-induced trip in an art gallery catalyses a terrific animated sequence.
After this initial rush of blood to the head, Roberts tempers the directorial brio and reveals the deeply conventional heart beneath the film's shiny exterior. Efron plies his usual boyish good looks and charm as a counterpoint to Bentley's world-weary EDM veteran. "You used to be good. Now you're just a sell-out collecting a cheque," Cole defiantly informs James during one exchange.
Ratajkowski looks ravishing in pouty close-up, but has little to do besides drive a wedge between her two suitors. Big name DJs including Alesso, Posso and Nicky Romero enjoy cameos to lend authenticity to a film that ultimately doesn't have the courage of its convictions.