VANTAGE POINT * *
Cert12A, 89 mins
Back in 1950, Akira Kurosawa had no idea what floodgates he was opening when he made Rashomon. Since then the single event/multi-perspective narrative has become a staple thriller device.
At least Kurosawa kept his film to four viewpoints whereas British TV director Pete Travis' feature debut juggles at least seven (there may be more, I lost count) in piecing together the truth behind the shooting of US President Ashton (William Hurt) during an international anti-terrorist summit in Spain.
Initially offering events as seen on monitors by TV news producer Brooks (Sigourney Weaver) as she and her team cover proceedings, the film then constantly rewinds to noon to show the same half hour from the perspective of another individual involved, each time revealing slightly more of the puzzle until everything finally slots into place for the complete picture.
Thus you have Thomas Barnes (Dennis Quaid), a secret service agent back in action for the first time after previously taking a bullet for the President.
Part of Ashton's personal security alongside partner Kent (Matthew Fox), it's the still jittery Barnes who sees a curtain fluttering at a window overlooking the square just before the shots ring out.
Then there's Lewis (Forest Whitaker), an American tourist whose camcorder footage has captured both the assassin and the person responsible for the subsequent bomb blast; Javier (Edgar Ramirez), the Spanish cop on security duty who may know those involved, Suarez (Said Taghmaoui), one of the plotters, and even Ashton himself whose part in proceedings is, like many others, not what it first appears.
There's also the little girl with an ice cream whom Lewis befriends and who will play a crucial role in the frankly ludicrous climax where terrorists willing to coldly kill dozens of innocents, shoot their own accomplices and cause mayhem turn out to be softies about harming kids.
It all starts well but, by the time it's rewound for the umpteenth time like a cross between 24 and Groundhog Day, the initial sense of urgency and intrigue has fallen victim to tedium and overly tangled, credibility stretching plotting that works overtime to false foot and frequently resorts to having characters whisper "oh my God" before immediately flipping back to the start.
The performances are decent enough, the politics kept to multiplex audience basics, and, while naturally defying all physical laws of bodily harm, the car chase is suitably exciting.
But with a flimsy back story reveal and its innocent in jeopardy cliché, it all falls apart in a risible finale more likely to prompt unintentional laughter than gasps of suspense and surprise. Not much of a view to a thrill, whichever way you look at it.
THE OTHER BOLEYN GIRL * *
Cert12A, 115 mins
As anyone who's read Philippa Gregory's Tudorbethan melodrama will know, the book's a page-turner tale of tension, political ambition and sexual intrigue at the court of Henry VIII. Unfortunately, very little of its frisson makes it to the screen in Bleak House director Justin Chadwick's feature debut.
Speculating from what few facts are known in addition to the historical record, what you get is a tale of patriarchal ambition, sibling rivalry and royal lust as, looking to take advantage of Henry's (a so-so Eric Bana) frustration now Katharine of Aragon (Ana Torrent) has passed child-bearing age without producing a male heir, Thomas Boleyn (Mark Rylance) and well-connected brother-in-law the Duke of Norfolk (David Morrissey) pressure Mary (Scarlett Johansson) and Anne (Natalie Portman) into inveigling themselves into the Royal bed.
Initially it's Anne they pimp forward but when she makes a faux pas, despite having just been married off to a merchant's son (Benedict Cumberbatch), Mary's quickly persuaded to do her bit to advance the family fortunes.
Then, when Henry starts to lose interest once she's pregnant and confined to quarters, a now more confident, more ambitious and certainly more manipulative Anne's summoned back to run damage limitation.
Which is where the focal drama kicks in with Mary resentful of being usurped in Henry's affections by her sister and Anne refusing to let him have his way until he agrees to divorce Katharine and marry her instead.
Relegating such matters as the break with Rome to a few throwaway lines, the plot swiftly slumps into a rather dreary trudge through the ensuing years (though there's little sense of time passing other than the nine months pregnancy that spawns Elizabeth) before, fearful of losing Henry's favour after miscarrying, Anne concocts a desperate plan to conceive again; one that will cost her and brother George (Jim Sturgess) their heads.
Johansson and Portman are spirited enough, Kristin Scott Thomas is reliably sturdy as their mother, despising the machinations but powerless to go against them, and Morrissey makes up for recent acting debacles with a nice line in single-minded power grabbing.
But, partly down to Chadwick's inexperience and some frankly ugly camerawork, the film never really ignites and its sudden rush to a conclusion and coda has the air of pages being torn from the script to save time and budget.
A DVD of the much more detailed and punchily written BBC adaptation starring Jodhi May and Natascha McElhone has just been released.
Those whose historical drama inclinations lean to A Man For All Seasons standards should seek that out. Fans of Elizabeth: The Golden Age will probably be happy enough with this.
EDGE OF HEAVEN * * *
Cert 15, 121 mins - subtitled
Having taken time out for his music documentary Crossing The Bridge, Fatih Akin, the German born Turkish director of Head-On, returns to the examination of the immigrant experiences, cultural conflicts, common experiences and misconceptions that divide and unite the two countries.
A septuagenarian widower, immigrant Ali installs Istanbul born Yeter in his Hamburg home as his personal prostitute.
Son Nejat (Baki Davrak), a professor of German literature is taken aback but slowly warms to her, particularly when she confesses she only went on the game to pay for her estranged 20-something daughter's education.
So when dad accidentally kills her and is sent to jail, he travels to Turkey to find Ayten (Nurgul Yesilcay), and put her through college.
While looking, he takes over a local bookshop unaware that, the country having become too hot for her political activism, she's gone to Germany to try to find mom. Here she hooks up with Lotte (Patrycia Ziolkowska), becomes her lover and moves in with her and disapproving mother Susanne (Hanna Schygulla). Then, to cut a long story short, when she's sent back to Turkey, Lotte follows to help, takes rooms with the unsuspecting Nejat, and winds up dead (I'm spoiling nothing, the film's first two chapter titles announce both women's deaths), which in turn prompts Susanne to travel to Istanbul, meet Nejat, reconcile with Ayten and learn that we're all human.
Akin stretches coincidence a little too far and overplays his metaphors, but, while two discussions about Turkey's entry into the European Union feel heavy-handedly forced, the film emerges as a finely acted, deeply moving and profoundly humanist fable.
THE GAME PLAN *
Cert U, 110 mins
It's not too long since the likes of Walking Tall and The Rundown suggested the ever affable Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson had a promising screen career.
He was certainly the best thing about Be Cool. But then came Doom, Southland Tales and, oh dear, The Gridiron Gang. And now this mind-bogglingly awful bucket of clichéd Disney saccharine.
Johnson is Joe Kingman, a fabulously wealthy superstar quarterback with an ego to match. For him, football and Joe Kingman are all that matter. He doesn't have any real friends, but he does have lots of videos of himself.
Then he finds a precocious eight-year-old Peyton (Madison Pettis) at his door informing him she's the daughter he never knew he had from his brief first and only marriage, and she's come to stay while her mom's working in Africa for a month.
Even before she asks dad what's the best thing that's ever happened to him, everything that follows is a foregone family values conclusion.
Well, maybe not the bit where the Rock gets involved doing a ballet show. But did we need that?
Johnson's shown he can do comedy, but here he simply resorts to oversized mugging and thick slices of ham that's painful to watch while Pettis pulls cute faces, delivers the sort of dialogue little girls only ever say in sitcoms written by 30-somethings and generally fails to convey either acting ability or screen presence. Frankly I'd rather sit through Mike Myers in The Cat In The Hat on a constant loop than endure this.
DIARY OF THE DEAD * * *
Cert18, 94 mins
Three years on from Land of the Dead, George A. Romero and his zombies are back. This time the budget's lower, the focus narrower and the social criticism message louder, and, taking inspiration from Haskell Wexler's 1969 media indicting Medium Cool, the result is one of his best films.
Cloverfield with zombies, it plays out as the video diary of an outbreak of the undead taken from the camcorder footage of a bunch of film school students who were making their graduation film, a mummy movie, at the time.
Realising that the version of events being presented through the media doesn't tally with what's actually happening, obsessive director Jason (Joshua Close) decides to keep his camera running, documenting events and editing and uploading to the web while he and his crew head for disgruntled girlfriend Debra's (Michelle Morgan) family home in a clapped out camper van.
Along the way, some will die, there'll be encounters with a dynamite toting deaf Amish farmer, not entirely friendly survivalists and, of course, any number of lurching reanimated corpses before a last stand at the fortress-like mansion of their horror movie's lead actor.
With the acquisition of a second camera allowing for alternative perspectives and the filming of the filmmakers, things tear along at an urgent lick, the no-nonsense Debra providing the running commentary for the film within the film documentary The Death of Death she's assembled from Jason's footage. She even confesses to adding music to crank up the scares.
It's not a masterclass in acting and admittedly, the script and dialogue aren't too subtle about making Romero's points about media distortion, government spin, the confusion between image and "truth" and, in a brutal coda, the propensity of mankind to follow its darker instincts.
However, utilising actuality footage from the Rwandan genocide, Katrina riots and other global civil unrest, they're also provocative and hard-hitting, delivering a commentary on post Iraq America that's as potent as anything in Rendition or In The Valley of Elah. And with a children's party zombie clown you really won't forget.