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New movie release reviews - 29 May
WHAT TO EXPECT WHEN YOU'RE EXPECTING *** (110 minutes) M
The highs, lows, unexpected joys and totally expected pains of pregnancy get a comprehensive going over in this consistently funny, warm-hearted ensemble comedy. Following the tales of five women at once is a tough task, and British director Kirk Jones (Waking Ned Devine; Nanny McPhee) has some trouble sustaining comic energy, though the multiple story strands ensure there's always something good to cut to. And the lead cast certainly deliver: Cameron Diaz shines as the suddenly preggers celebrity fitness instructor; Elizabeth Banks adds salt to charm as the sweet baby store owner who suffers a reality check; Jennifer Lopez is the striving wannabe mom; but the real treat is Anna Kendrick (so good in Up in the Air) as the young woman whose one-night-stand lifestyle starts grinding against her emerging desire for a real relationship with womaniser Chace Crawford (Gossip Girl). Parenthood advocate Chris Rock puts in funny support as head of a dad's group while former model Brooklyn Decker proves a scene stealer as the not-as-vapid-as-she-looks Southern trophy wife to Dennis Quaid's self-satisfied retired racing car driver. They make a wonderfully daffy, over-the-top duo. Opens Thursday.
DECLARATION OF WAR ***1/2 (100 minutes; subtitled) M
A beautifully made, raw-nerve drama based on the real-life experience of director Valerie Donzella and her partner Jeremie Elkaim, whose son suffered from a brain tumour. Without resorting to mawkish sentiment or easy answers, the couple (who also co-wrote the screenplay) endure the struggle of maintaining hope in the face of increasingly dire medical announcements. Touching, balanced and honest, the film imparts a life-affirming message about endurance, love and life's sudden gear shifts. Opens Thursday.
GET THE GRINGO ** (95 minutes) MA
With a corrugated face now deep-etched with hard-earned character lines, an energetic Mel Gibson plays a gruff crim fighting to survive in a Mexican prison with a difference. After crashing his car through the Mexican border he is thrown into a free-wheeling, corrupt correctional facility that is more like a shambolic shopping mall than a jail. Shambolic, too, is the gnarled plot involving (of all things) a liver transplant (!), which Gibson co-wrote with director Adrian Grunberg (his first assistant director on the brilliant Apocalypto). Full of violence and blood-spattered gunplay, it's a visually grotty film buoyed mainly by Gibson's never-say-die performance. Whatever his off-screen troubles, Mel seems determined to keep his on-screen profile very much alive. Opens Thursday.
BEL AMI *** (102 minutes) MA
Adrift in the boisterous Paris of the late 1800s, penniless, talentless ex-soldier Georges Duroy (Robert Pattinson from the Twilight franchise) discovers a loophole in the class system: seems the quickest way into money and better society is to bed the women of influential men. A trio of pampered, pulchritudinous lasses - Christina Ricci, Uma Thurman and Kristen Scott Thomas - all oblige to varying degrees, though their services definitely come with emotional strings attached. Though he's been widely and unfairly derided by critics, Pattinson (impressive in Water for Elephants) acquits himself perfectly well as a sneering scoundrel opposite the solid performances of three terrific actresses. Visually, the film is ornate and very attractive while the story, based on the 1885 novel by Guy de Maupassant, is essentially a pulpy morality tale about the perils of taking short cuts through life. A very satisfying, rough-edged period drama. Now Screening.
EMPIRE OF SILVER *1/2 (113 minutes; subtitled) M
Set in the tumultuous China of the late-1800s and early 1900s, this convoluted, confusing snoozefest tries telling of the impact banking had on the giant nation during the Boxer Rebellion through several personal stories. Unfortunately, none are of much interest without the aid of angry digital wolves, who turn up to liven things up momentarily. Made in 2009, the film is unlikely to be of much interest to anyone without a pre-existing interest in either Chinese history or the career of Jennifer Tilly (Bride of Chucky), who is half-Chinese and turns up in a small English-speaking role. Nova.