Cert 15, 98 mins
After the pomp, ceremony, prizes, dresses and speeches at the 84th Academy Awards, it’s time now for... The Leftovers.
In other words, just the kind of typical spring movies that would never be in with a sniff of a nomination, even if entries for 2013 closed tomorrow.
The 11,066,447 admissions last March represented such a severe drop from February’s 17.2 million viewers that it was the year’s worst month, well adrift of August’s
21.4 million peak during a year in which attendances topped 170 million for only the fourth time in four decades.
So here these pitiful movies come.
In society’s terms, they are like the homeless or, if football’s your bag, players who don’t even make the subs’ bench.
Top of the bill is one J Aniston. The former Friends’ star has made 21 movies since 1996, give or take the odd one that you may or may not have heard of.
But the number is immaterial, really.
Just eight months after last summer’s infantile Horrible Bosses, the emphasis is still on quantity before quality with every attempted comedy drama.
The funny thing is, I quite like Jennifer A. I admire her tenacity to keep going when others (Demi Moore?) would have virtually given up the, er, ghost by now.
I don’t object to her face being blown up bigger than a double decker bus.
And I’m fascinated by her barnet, which looks as good in this movie – particularly at the beginning – as it has probably ever done.
But her characters? Well, ever since The Good Girl (2002), in which she went dowdy, they have just left soooooo much to be desired.
Here, she plays Laura, opposite Paul Rudd’s George. The couple finally decide it’s time to buy a little pad, only to lose their jobs.
And, guess what, the estate agent tells them the bottom has dropped out of the market for exactly the type of place she’d just persuaded them to buy.
It’s the sharpest bit of script J A has had for a while and it even feels socially relevant, rather like an Up In The Air or its little seen, recently Oscar-nominated job-loss equivalent, Margin Call.
But no, this is a film directed by David Wain (Role Models, 2008). And, after four years, he’s neither improved as a director nor found a script that has anything but sawdust for brains.
Laura and George, not unreasonably, decide to leave New York and to enjoy life. Only to end up driving into a commune called Elysium where Wayne (Joe Lo Truglio) is wandering about naked and clearly feels that it’s perfectly acceptable to approach an unfamiliar woman when nothing is left to her imagination.
Elysium, we learn from Carvin (Alan Alda), was founded with a large group of friends whose names he would repeat on a loop if anyone would put in a special request.
When you’ll see what Alda has been reduced to here, you’ll probably want to cry, so thank heavens, then, that Laura and George are soon back on the road.
Except they only go to his brother Rick’s (Ken Marino) for a predictable falling out.
Now that all options are suddenly open again, can director and co-writer Wain save the entire movie?
Laura and George should be glad to see the back of Rick at this point. And, with the whole of the USA at their mercy, they ought to be taking us on a magical journey across all sorts of different cinematic landscapes.
But Wain, sadly, isn’t interested in such niceties, preferring to show us Rudd mouthing all sorts of sexual obscenities to himself in the mirror instead.
Yes, we’re going back to Elysium (coincidentally the title of a 2013 movie starring Jodie Foster and Matt Damon) ready to feel as if the film is 130 minutes long.
To additionally evoke painful memories of anything and everything from Jack Black’s Margot At The Wedding to Adam Sandler’s Grown Ups and Natalie Portman’s Your Highness is not a work of ensemble genius.
It’s the final insult.
This Means War *
Cert 12A, 97 mins
Pity the young man with a date to entertain this weekend.
If he’s not mature enough to realise that watching Judi Dench and her group of golden oldies in The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel might teach the pair of them a few life-affirming things, he might suggest Wanderlust instead.
Only to be hugely embarrassed by the size of Wayne’s endowment package.
So how about This Means War, then?
The bad news is that this ‘action comedy romance’ has been made by “McG”, the monicker-man behind Charlie’s Angels (2000) and the equally awful Terminator Salvation (2009).
Here, two CIA agents with bankers’ brains fall for the same woman. And then use all of their resources to try to scupper each other’s chance of sleeping with Lauren (Reese Witherspoon).
FDR Foster is played by Chris Pine, who was Kirk in the far superior 2009 Star Trek reboot, with Warrior’s British star Tom Hardy offering stiff opposition as rival love hunter Tuck.
On another set for a different film altogether, Pine and Hardy might have been a decent pairing.
Here, they’re just rather lonesome.
The only outward emotion you’ll experience will be if someone chokes on a piece of popcorn in a nearby seat.
Neither men come out of this with any great credit thanks to McG’s emphasis on ludicrous stunts and an implausibility factor which could not be more pronounced if Rowan Atkinson’s Mr Bean was put on the starting line next to sprint champ Usain Bolt at London 2012.
For the second time this year, the script includes the very antiquated British word, “spaz”. Most odd.
Throw in some crude comedy from Lauren’s mother Trish (Chelsea Handler, worth a film on her own judging by girls’ laughter at my audience screening) and McG is giving the punters what they want, right?
Maybe so. But sometimes, as the late Steve Jobs at Apple proved with his early-days support for Pixar, the real ART of success is to try to give people what they don’t know want until they’ve seen it.
One For The Money *
Cert 12A, 91 mins
The distributors of this movie offered no previews prior to its release last Friday.
So, when I queued up at AMC Broadway Plaza ready to hand over my hard-earned cash, it was with an eagerness that I might be able to dish some proper dirt.
And so it proved.
Apart from the three girls behind me constantly shifting their legs so that it made my otherwise empty row feel as if I was in an earthquake, One For The Money is an utterly lifeless, joyless experience.
But since said girls were fully tooled with buckets of food and drink, their determination to enjoy themselves was actually quite endearing, given that the paucity of what we were watching only provoked two minor half-laughs between them.
Either that or they were telling each other their own jokes and trying to be more respectful towards me than I was giving them credit for.
One For The Money is billed as a ‘comedy drama’ with Katherine Heigl – doubtless paid extra for being co-executive producer/architect of her own downfall – as a women who begins working for her cousin’s bail bond business.
A police officer with whom she once had a relationship is her main target so she inevitably gets to practise shooting a gun. One For The Money has the sort of script that even Bounty Hunter stars Gerard Butler and Jennifer Aniston would have turned down. Yes, it’s that bad.
Black Gold * *
Cert 12A, 130 mins
And finally, in this week of weeks, we come to a film that is disappearing after today, Thursday, so hurry, hurry, hurry landscape action lovers.
Yes, after just seven days on release, this “historical drama” is about to ride off into its own sunset.
The action is set on the Arabian Peninsula in the 1930s.
Two warring leaders agree to create an area of no man’s land, and handing over a couple of sons as collateral will help to keep the peace.
But once the Americans start to drill for oil, it doesn’t take a student of the so-called Arab Spring to work out that things will soon change.
The cast includes Antonio Banderas (acting in camel territory, but still sounding like Puss In Boots) and Mark Strong (no doubt sniffing the money).
Of much greater interest though, is the fact that this is a rare film directed by the now 68-year-old Frenchman Jean-Jacques Annaud, who made Sean Connery’s finest post-007 movie The Name Of The Rose way back in 1986.
At 130 minutes, Black Gold does outstay its welcome with too many confused or aborted storylines.
But there are some stunning landscapes and impressive action sequences if you like everything from Anthony Quinn’s Lion Of The Desert (1981) to Heath Ledger’s The Four Feathers (2002).
And it is, by some distance, the pick of this week’s wild, but very bad, bunch.