Timberlake and Kunis are Friends with Benefits
Film Reviews – by Adam Vaughan
Film of the week:
Friends with Benefits (15)
A Lonely Place to Die (15)
Fright Night 3D (15)
Apollo 18 (15)
Rating key – ◊ Total turkey | ♥ Drooping hotdog | ♥♥ Pick n Mix | ♥♥♥ Bit of fizz | ♥♥♥♥ Popcorn-tastic | ♥♥♥♥♥ Not to be missed
Friends with Benefits (15) ♥♥♥
Who knew that there was such a niche market for romantic comedies about two friends who decide to sleep with each other without the commitment of a relationship, but soon realise that both of them want just that? Friends with Benefits is the second film this year to tread this narrative ground and you would be forgiven for thinking that it was a direct remake of the forgettable No Strings Attached released earlier this year which starred Ashton Kutcher and Natalie Portman.
Mila Kunis and Justin Timberlake making sweet music together
It’s Portman’s Black Swan co-star, Mila Kunis, who gets familiar with Justin Timberlake this time though as she head-hunts Timberlake’s Dylan to NYC to work as the art director for GQ magazine. Following some awkward bed scenes, failed attempts at seeing other people and the obligatory bit of slapstick (on the Hollywood sign here) and it’s so far so romcom, despite the film’s protests that it isn’t. Kunis’ Jamie chastises Katherine Heigl for being a false romcom prophet after she’s dumped by ‘boyf’ Andy Samberg and the pair bemoan the genre’s naff music that tells the viewer exactly how to feel. In the end, however, even if the film constantly acknowledges its Hollywood clichés, it still ends up being just as contrived and predictable as the mock film, ‘I Love New York, I Love You’ starring Jason Segel that the duo watch prior to taking their relationship to the next level.
That said, it’s funnier, with more well-rounded characters than No Strings even if it does botch the compulsory ‘serious’ midsection involving Dylan’s Dad (played by Richard Jenkins) who is coping with Alzheimer’s. Patricia Clarkson as Jamie’s hippy ‘Mom’ and Woody Harrelson as GQ’s gay sports editor keep the laughs flowing in a script that is often quick-witted but ultimately unoriginal.
A Lonely Place to Die (15) ♥♥
New Brit-film A Lonely Place to Die, directed by Julian Gilbey (Rise of the Foot soldier) suffers from an identity crisis. On the one hand, its plot involving a group of mountain climbers in the Scottish highlands who stumble across a young girl being held captive underground has the high stakes tension of Touching the Void, but their subsequent rescue attempt and escape from the sniper-wielding captors is a bloodbath.
Moments in the film’s first half impress with some well-choreographed nail-biting scenes as Melissa Georges’ gutsy mountaineer attempts to negotiate a rock face as the hunters hurl boulders at her. But, by the last half an hour, Gilbey loses the courage of his convictions and opts instead for mindless violence which is a lot less interesting.
Fright Night 3D (15) ♥♥
The problem with Fright Night, a remake of the 1985 comedy-horror directed by Tom Holland, is that it’s neither funny nor scary.
Stressed teen, Charlie Brewster (Anton Yelchin) discovers that his new neighbour, Jerry (Colin Farrell), despite his unconvincing name, is a vampire hungry for his Mother (Toni Collette) and girlfriend Amy’s (Imogen Poots) blood. What ensues is a game of cat and mouse and vampire movie clichés with utterly redundant 3D (in a film that, as its title suggests, is dark enough as it is without the reduced colour saturation the technology creates), but with some occasional funny gags.
Most of the laughs are provided by David Tennant as Van Helsing-meets-Russell Brand illusionist Peter Vincent (an amalgamation of horror legends Peter Cushing and Vincent Price), but his heroics aren’t enough to rescue the film from its horror/comedy/teen-pic conundrum.
Apollo 18 (15) ♥♥
With the runaway success of ‘found footage’ horrors in recent years – including Paranormal Activity, Cloverfield and zombie godfather George A. Romero’s Diary of the Dead – it was perhaps only a matter of time before the handheld horror cam ventured to the moon. Unfortunately, it isn’t so much Blair Witch on the moon as a watered down Alien.
The film centres on the secret 18th Apollo mission to the moon, abandoned by NASA revealing the reason America has never returned to the moon. After a lot of faffing about readying for take-off, the two astronauts land tasked with setting up satellite systems and collecting rock samples. But when they come across strange footprints and a destroyed Russian landing pod, they smell a conspiracy.
What ensues is typical horror-doc fare with strange noises and bumps in the night but without enough sustained scares. The fact that said bumps are happening on the moon is the film’s only novelty.