THE KIDS ARE ALL RIGHT * * *
Cert 15, 106 mins
Joni and Laser are nice, well-adjusted kids, brought up in a modern family by lesbian couple Nic (Annette Bening) and Jules (Julianne Moore). Then Joni (Mia Wasikowska) hits 18 and decides to find out the identity of their sperm donor biological father.
He is quickly revealed to be restaurateur Paul (Mark Ruffalo), who is happy to meet the children he never knew he had.
Their mums are not quite so keen on him, especially when they discover he dropped out of college and rides a motorbike.
But while Nic resents his arrival in their lives, Jules is sexually attracted to him, which complicates matters when they end up in bed.
And that’s about it. There are good performances and a smart and occasionally funny script, plus some good observations about relationships, but you do wonder what the point is to it all.
And it’s perhaps hard to warm to characters who use words like ‘inauthenticity’ and ‘fecund’ in everyday conversation. RL
BURKE AND HARE * * *
Cert 15, 91 mins
The pedigree for this film is excellent. It’s directed by John Landis, who brought us classics like An American Werewolf in London.
He has assembled a superb cast, with people like Christopher Lee and Jenny Agutter popping by for cameos and fine actors like Tom Wilkinson and Hugh Bonneville taking bigger roles.
So it’s a grave (excuse the pun) disappointment that the sum is much less than its parts.
It is not a bad film exactly, and it’s worth continuing to watch to see which famous face will pop up next. Paul Whitehouse is brought in just to fall down some stairs.
But it’s not particularly funny, considering this is meant to be a comedy – about mass murderers.
Landis has turned graverobbers William Burke (Simon Pegg) and William Hare (Andy Serkis) into rather pleasant folk heroes, who are just supplying a demand from the medical profession for corpses.
Set in Edinburgh in 1828, the pair discover they can sell the recently-deceased to surgeon Robert Knox (Wilkinson).
To increase their business, they start seeing their ‘‘product’’ off themselves. Burke is reluctant at first, but he’s made out to be less a cold-blooded murderer and more a fool for love – he needs the money to impress actress Ginny (Isla Fisher).
So what if he killed 16 people? He advanced medical science and was decent underneath. Hmm. RL
EASY A * * * *
Cert 15, 92 mins
There’s a Hollywood trend for comedies to be as dumb as they come, but every rule has an exception.
So three high school cheers for Easy A which has more to say about adolescent human nature than a dozen Adam Sandler movies.
In a relatively erudite film for teenagers which references Nathaniel Hawthorne’s 19th century novel The Scarlet Letter (and Demi Moore’s appalling 1995 film), Emma Stone steps up from ensemble hits like Zombieland and The Rocker to taking the lead here in sparkling fashion.
As Olive, she tells a friend about a fake relationship to suggest her virginity has been lost. Soon boys are paying Olive to have their own reputations enhanced.
The set-up is ridiculous, but the overall message about self-respect is reassuringly old-fashioned – that it’s always better for people to decide for themselves who they want to be.
Now that’s real girl power.
Director Will Gluck is little known but he too has a bright future on this evidence.
Not only does he give his 21-year-old leading lady an outside chance of an Oscar nomination, but his use of a mature cast around her – parents Patricia Clarkson and Stanley Tucci and educationalists Lisa Kudrow and Thomas Haden Church – is very well judged.
There’s even a fun cameo for Malcolm McDowell, veteran star of A Clockwork Orange, as school principal. GY
PARANORMAL ACTIVITY 2 * *
Cert 15, 90 mins
The 2009 original was the most profitable film ever, produced for just $15,000 and earning more than $100 million.
It’s no wonder they rushed to make another, with a slightly bigger budget and cast but much the same set-up. There’s just one location, a suburban house, and we see everything though camcorders or CCTV.
In a kind of prequel, this features Kristi (Sprague Grayden), the sister of Kate (Katie Featherston), the girl haunted by a demon in the first film. Kristi lives with her husband Daniel (Brian Boland), his teenage daughter and their baby son. When they come home to find the place trashed, they install security cameras.
They capture loud noises, pots falling off hooks and doors that open on their own. Why is the dog barking and what is the baby looking at?
It’s far too slow and repetitive, lacking the tension and surprises of the original.
Although occasionally making us jump, we wait far too long for something to happen, so we’re more bored than scared. RL