GI Joe: The Rise Of Cobra * *
Cert 12A, 117 mins
When Transformers toys produced two hit blockbusters, Hollywood naturally started looking round for more playthings to turn into movies.
They came up with GI Joe, the American version of Action Man.
Not that that really has any relevance to this film. Instead of focusing on one soldier, GI Joe is the name of an elite fighting unit made up of the world’s best military men and women. Headed by General Hawk (Dennis Quaid), the unit’s mission is to retrieve a new type of high-tech nanobot warhead.
The weapons have been stolen by The Baroness (Sienna Miller) and Storm Shadow (Byung-hun Lee), who are working for arms manufacturer McCullen (Christopher Eccleston, hamming it up with an annoying Scottish accent).
On their tail are the GI Joes – Duke (Channing Tatum), Ripcord (Marlon Wayans), Scarlett (Rachel Nichols) and Snake Eyes (Ray Park).
It turns out Duke used to know The Baroness, back when she was blonde and called Ana. They knew each other so well they were engaged, until he managed to accidentally get her brother Rex (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) killed. Grief-stricken, she appeared to go over to the dark side.
If this sounds a bit complicated, that’s because it is – there are too many characters to keep track of.
But then this film isn’t aimed at audiences who like to look for deep meanings. They just want to sit back, eat popcorn and enjoy the slick visuals, fighting and explosions.
There are a couple of well-executed action scenes, but I began to find it rather dull. When the baddies destroy the Eiffel Tower and half of Paris, I couldn’t help remembering how Team America: World Police did that in far more entertaining style with puppets.
I laughed out loud when Ripcord is trying to shoot down a missile in a stolen plane and has to work out the correct voice activation command.
“McCullen is Scottish, let’s try Celtic!” says Scarlett. As if that’s actually a language.
There are plenty of good actors, particularly British ones like Jonathan Pryce, but they’re given such banal dialogue. There might appear to be sexual equality in GI Joe, as the women can fight as well as the men, but they have to fight wearing high heels and skintight, cleavage-enhancing uniforms.
The far-fetched gadgets become a little ludicrous and irritating – the characters have a habit of appearing as holograms, so we can’t tell who’s real and who isn’t.
You can see on screen where the £200 million budget has gone. It’s a shame more wasn’t spent on an exciting story, better script and characters we care about. Without those, the glossy computer-generated images are ultimately hollow, like the holograms.
The Ugly Truth * * *
Cert 15, 95 mins
Television producer Abby (Katherine Heigl) is beautiful but single, perhaps because she puts men off by over-preparing for dates. She types up talking points and does extensive background checks on suitors.
Mike (Scottish actor Gerard Butler, playing American) is a brash, outrageous broadcaster who hosts TV show The Ugly Truth, advising women to get a man by losing weight and wearing skimpy underwear.
She’s appalled when he’s hired by her Sacramento station to boost ratings, especially when he comes out with such awful lines as “I like a woman on top”.
It’s highly unlikely she would listen to anything he has to say, but she agrees to let him help her hook dishy doctor Colin (Eric Winter). His rules include never criticising, laughing at his jokes, never talking about your problems and wearing a push-up bra. He teaches her to be a “sexually teasing tornado”, with crude and rude dialogue.
We can predict what’s going to happen – Mike falls for her and she realises he’s an OK guy underneath.
It’s often ridiculous but sometimes very funny, with sparkling chemistry between Heigl and Butler. A shame, though, that the message – from three female scriptwriters, surprisingly – remains that to hook a man you have to be a bimbo who bites her lip and shows her cleavage.
The Meerkats * * * *
Cert PG, 83 mins
Meerkats are the adorable animal du jour, the stars of wildlife shows and adverts, who now make their cinematic debut in this documentary.
The photography is stunning, coming as it does from BBC wildlife filmmaker James Honeyborne. But despite this having the quality input of BBC Films, it also has Hollywood gloss, with narration from Paul Newman. In fact, this was his last film. He introduces us to Kolo when he’s just three weeks old. We watch him as he grows, facing dangers from snakes and lions to an eagle and other invading meerkats.
The Kalahari desert looks fantastic and at times the action is edge-of-the-seat thrilling. If you’re a fan of these cute creatures, it’s well worth catching on the big screen.
Adam * * * *
Cert 12A, 98 mins
Staffordshire actor Hugh Dancy takes the title role in this bittersweet, well-acted human drama which might be summed up as Rain Man gets a girlfriend.
Adam suffers from Asperger’s Syndrome, a form of autism which makes it hard for him to express emotions or pick up what others are feeling. His social skills are limited, especially as he tends to say whatever he’s thinking.
His new neighbour, teacher Beth (Rose Byrne), has been let down by cheating men, so she finds his honesty rather refreshing. Even when he blurts out “are you sexually excited?”
She helps him when he is fired from his job as an electronic engineer. However, he finds it harder to offer her support when her father Peter Gallagher is put on trial for accounting fraud.
The plot is a little flimsy, but this is still a charming, enjoyable tale.