New films reviewed by Graham Young and Roz Laws.
Cert 12A, 88mins
It’s hard to believe that it will be 14 years this December since the release of Dick King-Smith’s talking pig movie, Babe.
Three months later it had seven Oscar nominations, losing to Braveheart as best picture but the four-man team walking off with the award for special effects.
In their wake, G-Force required a ten-strong team of special effects experts, 50 people in the art department and more than 150 on visual effects to convince us you don’t need James Bond if a crack team of guinea pigs will do.
Such is the price of trying to outdo what has been done before.
But it’s thanks to the on-screen success of Babe that 3D movies like G-Force are now coming along which have such amazing lip-synched animals.
We’ve already had Beverly Hills Chihuahua and Hotel for Dogs in 2009 and now here’s a story about guinea pigs trying to stop a billionaire from taking over the world.
The would-be heroes must rely on a blend of gadgets and gizmos to pull off a sting of fur-brained stunts and their antics will be a big hit with children.
There’s a neat twist towards the end but, until then, it almost feels like the rather harsh-sounding, ageing vocal cast of Nicolas Cage (Speckles), Sam Rockwell (Darwin), Jon Favreau (Hurley), Steve Buscemi (Bucky) and Penelope Cruz (Juarez) are in a different movie to the one we’re watching.
With five credits on the screenplay (including former Pebble Mill writer Tim Firth), it’s perhaps no surprise that debut director Hoyt Yeatman has trouble keeping a grip after a career in visual effects on movies from ET to Gremlins. The biggest shame about G-Force is that the score by Trevor Rabin is ineffectual, as if he only got the job on June 1. Where’s a killer James Bond or Mission: Impossible theme when you need one?
The taking of Pelham 123 ****
Cert 15, 106 mins
John Godey’s bestseller was originally a fast-paced thriller with Walther Matthau and Robert Shaw in 1974, but it was the late Martin Balsam who won a best supporting actor BAFTA nomination.
One minute longer, this flashier remake has another headline-grabbing duo – John Travolta and Denzel Washington.
You might think that our pilot friend would be averse to illustrating how easy it would be to take over the cab of a subway train.
But no. As the bad boy retitled Ryder (Shaw’s character was called Blue), he’s merciless here.
Meanwhile, Denzel is playing more laid back – and fatter – than usual.
For him, the name of Walter Garber has been retained. But, instead of being a cop, he’s now an ordinary Joe in charge of a system which looks just as complicated as air traffic control when it’s displayed as a hi-tech graphic.
Cue phonecall from JT to do exactly what he says with regard to his expensive, time-sensitive ransom demand or the passengers pay the highest price.
Directed with typical brio by Britain’s own Tony Scott, The Taking of Pelham 123 will be a nerve-jangling experience for anyone who finds confined spaces like the London Underground remotely claustrophobic.
For everyone else, it’s just another flashy, mega-stunt thriller to go with the likes of Deja Vu, one of four Scott-Washington combinations along with Man on Fire and the superior Crimson Tide.
While one computer link is too much of a red herring in Pelham 123, the real fun comes from wondering how Travolta will get away with his heist when he appears trapped underground.
As for Scott, the headier days of hits like True Romance and even Enemy of the State seem to have gone for good now.Rather like Godey, who died just three years ago at the grand old age of 93.
Coco before Chanel ***
Cert 12A, 110 mins
If you’re a woman who loves clothes and the way the fashion industry works, then you’ll probably enjoy this rather laboured story illustrating the rise of French fashion queen Coco Chanel.
Add Audrey Tautou (Amelie) to the mix, and you might even be able to tempt your man to follow you down to Birmingham’s Electric Cinema where the unique viewing experience should help you both to feel rather French for the day.
Born in 1883, Coco earned her nickname as a singer around the cabaret circuit. It was part of her ladder-climbing experience from her early years growing up in an orphanage where her work as a seamstress would sew the seeds of her own glittering future.
Though poor and uneducated, Chanel has the skill, vision and tenacity to become the 20th Century’s leading queen of haute couture.
We’ll never know if today’s mass market benefits culture would have enhanced or hindered her development.Director Anne Fontaine ensures Tautou is a captivating presence, but the depiction of her private life is missing the same kind of energy.
Coco Before Chanel is a sumptuous visual experience, but the story lacks purpose and clarity to help it rival Keira Knightley’s The Duchess, this year’s Oscar-winning best costume drama.
Land of the lost **
Cert 12A, 101 mins
It’s hard to see where the $60million budget went on this remake of the kitsch 1970s TV series – certainly not on the cheesy special effects or the lamentable, puerile script.
Will Ferrell plays annoying scientist Dr Rick Marshall who studies time warps and invents a machine to take him, and Cambridge graduate Holly (Anna Friel) who thinks he’s a genius, to another dimension full of ape men, dinosaurs and alien creatures.
I may have chuckled a couple of times, but the laughs soon dry up when jokes like Friel having her breasts groped are done to death.