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New release movie reviews - 8 May
THE FIVE-YEAR ENGAGEMENT
*** (124 minutes) MA
Fresh from his triumph with The Muppets, the lanky, likeable Jason Segel teams up with the ubiquitous Emily Blunt (Salmon Fishing in the Yemen) for a rambling romantic comedy about a wedding date that keeps getting thrown on the back burner. Segel plays a successful chef who chooses to downshift his career so fiance Blunt can pursue her academic opportunities. More about professional envy than fear of commitment, director Nick Stoller (with whom Segel did the neo-classic guy flick Forgetting Sarah Marshall) keeps the laugh meter ticking over nicely, though some scenes seem to run on forever. Being a comedy from the Judd Apatow school (40 Year Old Virgin; Knocked Up) there's lots of improvisation and comic detours. Veteran Aussie actress Jacki Weaver puts in a funny supporting role as a nagging relative.
W.E. *** (119 minutes) MA
Shocking as it may sound, fiftysomething songstress Madonna proves herself a fine director with her sumptuous, lavish-looking romantic drama about the history-changing relationship between England's pre-war King Edward (James D'Arcy) and his American lover Wallis Simpson (Andrea Riseborough). An unhappy, upper-class New York woman Wally Winthrop (Australian Abbie Cornish in another impressive performance) seeks refuge from her deeply troubled marriage by obsessing over the romance. Performances are strong and Madonna's occasional stylistic excesses are tempered by an overall deftness and attention to emotional detail. Barely released, the film has been a commercial disaster and volcanically slammed by critics, yet W.E. could turn out to be one of the year's most underrated films.
IRVINE WELSH'S ECSTASY *** (100 minutes) MA
No responsible film about the alleged joys of drug use can ignore the cataclysmic downside, and this brutal, unsanitised adaptation of Irvine Welsh's short story The Undefeated leaves you in no doubt of the price involved in getting high. Heather (Kristin Kreuk) and Lloyd (Adam Sinclair) are the attractive party-loving couple who get sucked into a violent swirl of drug smuggling and unpayable debts. While Danny Boyle's Trainspotting (1996) was seen as glorifying the drug scene, here director Rob Heydon keeps the focus on the gruesome grit.
TRISHNA *** (113 minutes) MA
Hoping to support her financially desperate family, a beautiful young Indian woman Trishna (Freida Pinto from Slumdog Millionaire) leaves home to work in a hotel run by the wealthy Jay (Riz Ahmed), who has eyes for her. Her innocence leads to a troubled romance that slowly spirals out of control, despite her best efforts. Very loosely based on Thomas Hardy's Tess of the D'Urbervilles, versatile British director Michael Winterbottom (Jude; A Mighty Heart; The Trip) brings an affecting naturalism to his tragic tale of love and abuse, with Ahmed especially good as a man torn between genuine affection and his cultural values.
SAFE *** (94 minutes) MA
On the verge of suicide, a depressed cage fighter (Jason Statham) finds purpose in life by protecting a girl genius (Catherine Chan) from rival gangs of Asian and Russian hoodlums. Wearing his signature stone-faced expression, Statham blasts his way through his biggest body count in this satisfying, one-note action film designed very specifically for Statham fans who know his acting limits as well as he does.
IRON SKY **1/2 (92 minutes) M
In this crazy, B-grade lark, a race of high-tech Nazis who have been hiding on the moon since 1945 launch an invasion of earth. The visual effects are very impressive as giant inter-planetary zeppelins wreak havoc on cities; the cheesy story, however, simply lacks the over-the-top quality required by such a premise. A German-Finnish-Australian co-production, the film raised part of its budget from online fans, who also contributed ideas to the story. Known as "crowdsourcing", it certainly gives Iron Sky curio value, though it remains to be seen whether this new-age method of movie making turns out to be a game changer or just another fad.