What To Expect When You’re Expecting * * *
Cert 12A, 110mins
Taking a self-help book and conveying its salient points through a cast of interweaving characters worked pretty well for the 2009 romcom He’s Just Not That Into You.
So now comes this movie very loosely based on a 1884 bestselling pregnancy guide, a bible in America voted one of USA Today’s 25 Most Influential Books of the past 25 years.
It features a pretty good cast playing parents-to-be, whose stories sometimes overlap in a Love, Actually or Valentine’s Day way. Cameron Diaz is TV fitness guru Jules, who takes part in a talent show which looks very much like Strictly Come Dancing. Look out for Cheryl Cole as one of the judges – she’s playing herself and is barely on screen, so the jury is still out about whether she can act.
Jules falls for her dance partner Evan (Matthew Morrison) and falls pregnant. While her news comes as a shock, Wendy (Elizabeth Banks) has been trying for a baby for two years and is delighted to finally conceive with husband Gary (Ben Falcone). Wendy is well-prepared, as she’s the author of a book, Milk It, about breastfeeding and the owner of a pregnancy shop called – wait for it – The Breast Choice.
Some of the more amusing scenes come between Wendy and Gary and his father Ramsey (Dennis Quaid), who is expecting twins with his much younger wife Skyler (Brooklyn Decker), for whom everything is impossibly easy.
Then there’s photographer Holly (Jennifer Lopez) who is trying to adopt with hubby Alex (Rodrigo Santoro), and youngsters Marco (Chace Crawford) and Rosie (Anna Kendrick), thrust together by a surprise pregnancy. Chris Rock also puts in a decently funny appearance as the leader of a Dudes’ Club of dads, trying to prepare Alex with advice such as “There’s no such thing as ready, you just jump on a moving train and try not to die”. The script is just average, failing to really make us care for the characters and at times being horribly unsubtle – like when Diaz eats a banana while discussing circumcision.
There are too many schmaltzy moments and it’s ridiculous that they should all into labour at exactly the same time.
On the plus side, men get to see J-Lo in a bikini and hotpants, and women can admire Joe Manganiello’s chest.
So, while it’s not better than you might expect, it passes the time entertainingly enough. RL
Being Elmo - A Puppeteer’s Journey * * * *
Cert U, 76mins
There are two ways of looking at ‘how do they do that’ shows. One is that they will spoil your imagination by removing a sense of mystique. The other is to think: ‘I could do that!’.
When it comes to creating a puppet like Elmo, all you would really need are a few things off the rag market in central Birmingham, the ability to stitch and mend as appropriate and hours and hours of patience as you experiment between different behavioural styles.
The real skill then comes with developing a voice, movement and sense of purpose once you put a hand up your creation.
Easy when you know how, but still difficult to perfect.
In The Muppets, Fozzie was based on ‘a vaudeville comedian’, Miss Piggy ‘on a truck driver who wanted to be a woman’. Elmo, on the other hand – literally – was created by an outsider, Kevin Clash.
As a child watching Sesame Street, he could never have truly believed that he really could end up working with his idols like Jim Henson and Frank Oz.
But he persisted, trying different fabrics and wondering why, with his own puppets, he could always see the join. And then he learned that Henson’s ‘darkest’ material was... fleece! Showing at the Electric Cinema, Station Street from Friday to Sunday, Being Elmo is a wonderfully warm-hearted journey into how adults can spend a lifetime tapping back into a child’s world. For Clash, his eureka moment came when he decided to make Elmo a pure symbol of love and watching a terminally-ill child being comforted by the Muppet is pure joy.
Not everything worked out in the end for Clash. His need to be here, there and everywhere with Elmo cost him his marriage.
But we see him crying at his own daughter’s 16th birthday and, like any artist confident in his own craft, he enjoys being truly open with young followers of fashion.
“Jim (Henson) and I were becoming friends, and I never thought that would happen,” says Clash of an all-too-brief moment just months before the genius died suddenly aged just 53 in September, 1990.
“Someone will always say it doesn’t work or won’t make money... but all those things will go away if just focus on what makes you happy,” Clash advises. When I’m teaching a child who is interested in what I do, I become one of them.”
Whoopi Goldberg adds: “The thing that people love about Elmo is he needs them and that’s why little kids love Elmo, because he needs them, too. They can do anything as long as they’ve got their Elmo with them.” GY
Iron Sky * * *
Cert 15, 93mins
If you want to see a film about political ideology, the inherent hypocrisy within and a bucket load of unnecessary sex gags, then head for Paramount’s expensively-marketed release The Dictator. Offering much less salacious fun is Iron Sky, a refreshingly oddball, off-kilter comedy science-fiction film with the promise that ‘this year the battle for Earth is gonna get Nazi’. Had it not suddenly been validated in a contemporary sense by Sacha Baron Cohen’s higher profile film, Iron Sky would have had a distinctly retro feel.
The plot features American astronaut James Washington (Christopher Kirby) landing on the dark side of the moon and discovering a post-1945 Nazi city.
Before too long, thanks to Moon Führer (Udo Kier) and two Nazi officers – the ruthless Klaus Adler (Götz Otto) and the idealistic Renate Richter (Julia Dietze) – we’re back in modern New York, a city where havoc has already recently been wreaked in other recent mayhem movies like Marvel Avengers Assemble. Lines such as ‘I love sauerkraut and Volkswagen... where we come from we speak German, too’, ‘the fugitive is a male negro, unarmed but possibly angry’ and ‘either I’m black or you’re blind’ frequently suggest that Finnish director Timo Vuorensola has more of a sense of humour than some of Hollywood’s suits.
Cohen was clearly influenced by Charlie Chaplin’s 1940 film The Great Dictator. Stylishly made with some terrific effects, Iron Sky also draws on everything from Star Wars to Dr Strangelove, Raiders of the Lost Ark, and a Sarah Palin-style US President in Stephanie Paul who declares: ‘All American presidents who start a war in their first term get re-elected’.
Showing at Coventry Showcase, Iron Sky’s limited release perhaps means that it’s destined to become a cult classic in the way that the wider cinema release of Judge Dredd neutered Sylvester Stallone’s 1995 thriller.
It would be a shame if the only viewpoint of a dictatorship that most cinema-goers get this year is from Sacha Baron Cohen’s smutty mind and not from this Finnish-German-Australian co-production. GY
Moonrise Kingdom * * *
Cert 12A, 94mins
Anyone would think that the latest film from the director of indie hits like Rushmore, The Royal Tenenbaums and The Darjeeling Limited was as highly-prized as the new Batman film. Such is the way of the world these days, the distributors of Moonrise Kingdom sent two security guards to keep tabs on me through night vision lenses while I watched their precious film. Moonrise is a typical Wes Anderson production, quirky to the point of becoming irritating.
After the Fantastic Mr Fox animation in 2009, his return to live action is a story set New England, 1965.
A young boy scout elopes with a girl and his fellow scouts try to find him. All is well until they do so surprisingly quickly. Thereafter the film doesn’t really have any place to go except round and round in circles.
Big names like Bruce Willis (not acting as himself for once), Ed Norton, Bill Murray, Jason Schwartzman, Frances McDormand, Tilda Swinton and the now 73-year-old Harvey Keitel inexplicably make this one of the most star-studded features of the year.
But they all play second fiddle to Kara Hayward (Suzy) and Sam (fellow debut actor Jared Gilman) who are quite sweet in the lead roles. The emotionally damaged Sam talks as if he’s only half his 12 years, but his diction isn’t easy to follow. Offering various shades of Britain’s own Son of Rambow, Clint Eastwood’s A Perfect World, Bridge to Terabithia and The Last Mimzy, Moonrise is engaging to a point.
But its sexual content means that it’s much more suitable for over 15s to look back on their early teenage years than it would be for junior school children to be getting ahead of themselves. GY