Cemetery Junction, Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant, 95 mins, (15)
The Market, Ben Hopkins, 93 mins, (15)

No love lost in a smirking spoof that's just a sitcom writ large

Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant spent two series of Extras scoffing at Hollywood clichés and sitcom banalities, and at the start of the first film they've written and directed together, Cemetery Junction, it appears that they're carrying on where Extras left off.

We open on an olde English village street straight from a chocolate tin: half-timbered shops, a bobby on the beat, Vaughan Williams on the soundtrack. We then cut to a factory where men in overalls hunch over their lathes. One is Gervais, putting on a serious face. Another is a chiselled male model who looks as if he's about to strip off for his Diet Coke break.

As you watch this Hovis-advert Britain, you're waiting for the smirking moment when Gervais and Merchant reveal that it's all a dream sequence. But soon you realise with a jolt that they actually mean it, and that the whole film is going to clang with the same ring of falsehood.

Cemetery Junction is set in a 1970s Reading where The Best Glam Rock Album In The World ... Ever! is always playing, where the clothes are all new and the vintage cars suspiciously shiny, and where the dialogue is a string of catchphrases and Significant Speeches: "Travel? No one from around here does that." Gervais and Merchant have taken Extras' spoof sitcom-within-a-sitcom and made it into a film.

Unlike the recognisable human beings who worked in The Office, Cemetery Junction features three friends in their early 20s, two of them unfeasibly handsome (Christian Cooke, Tom Hughes), and one of them unfeasibly stupid (Jack Doolan). Life for them is all about drinking, flirting and fighting on a Saturday night (guess the Elton John track), until Cooke gets a job selling life insurance, which means – to his friends' disgust – wearing a suit and showing some ambition. It also means working for Ralph Fiennes and his sidekick, Matthew Goode, both exquisitely vile. The good news for Cooke is that Fiennes' daughter is the winsome Felicity Jones. The bad news is that she's engaged to Goode.

Basically, it's the Tim/Dawn/Lee love triangle from The Office without any of the nuances or doubts about how it might be resolved. Ask yourself, who is Jones going to choose, the sensitive hunk who compliments her whenever he sees her, or the condescending slimeball who dismisses her plan to be a professional photographer as "just one of those silly phases women go through"? Considering how much affection Gervais and Merchant had for all of their characters, up to and including David Brent, it's dispiriting to see how contemptuous they are of everyone in Cemetery Junction who isn't the hero or heroine. The message is, you're a nice person as long as you're young, beautiful, and you hate your home town. Otherwise, you're no more than a grotesque mouthpiece for one of Gervais's trademark Jim-Davidson-plus-irony riffs on black, gay and disabled people. The best you can say is it might have made a decent sitcom.

Fear not, though. If you're in the market for a bittersweet British comedy with the warmth, pathos, authenticity, and jokes that Cemetery Junction lacks, then The Market is it. Written and directed by Ben Hopkins, it's a classic, post-Ealing caper about a good-hearted chancer who's hoping to make a quick killing ... except with one slight difference: it was shot in Turkey with a local cast and crew.

Set in the mid-1990s, it introduces a small-time black-market trader (Tayanc Ayaydin) who is asked to acquire some medicine for a provincial hospital. He reckons he might be able to make enough money on the side to set up his own mobile phone shop, but only if he relies on his marvellously grouchy uncle, and defies some gangsters who know what being a successful businessman really entails. A Turkish delight – or a British delight, depending on how you look at it.

Next Week:

Nicholas Barber hopes for better luck with the star of America's The Office, Steve Carell, in Date Night

Also Showing: 18/04/2010

Repo Men (111 mins, 18)

Potty, high-concept sci-fi thriller starring Jude Law and Forest Whitaker as two hardmen who repossess hire-purchased artificial organs by slicing them right out of defaulters' bodies. It drifts this way and that, without ever knowing what to do with its iffy premise, but the black humour and blood-spurting action sequences could earn it a cult following.

Dear John (109 mins, (12A)

Channing Tatum and Amanda Seyfried are a beefcake soldier and silken-tressed student who fall in love during his fortnight's leave. With a story of charity work, autism, cancer, 9/11, and the Afghanistan war, Lasse Hallstrom's melodrama holds nothing back, but it's so insipid that the tears remain unjerked.

Crying with Laughter (87 mins, 18)

This low-budget Scottish drama is a game of two halves: a piquant, grimy portrait of a self-destructive stand-up comic (Stephen McCole) with a tacky thriller plot bolted on.

Give Me Your Hand (87 mins, 18)

Atmospheric road movie about identical twin brothers hitch-hiking through France to their mother's funeral in Spain. Like so many brothers, they communicate with slaps around the head rather than words.

Boogie Woogie (94 mins, 15)

Embarrassingly inept "satire" of the Brit-Art scene. Various young actresses are leered at. Danny Huston, Stellan Skarsgard, and Gillian Anderson are among those old enough to have known better when they read the airheaded script.

The Heavy (94 mins, 18)

London-based hitman thriller – the second god-awful Britflick to have Christopher Lee in it this week. It's quite something when the best acting comes courtesy of singer Lee Ryan from Blue.

Beeswax (98 mins, TBA)

Andrew Bujalski's third "mumblecore" indie comedy is even more low-key and plotless than its predecessors.

Arts and Entertainment
Don’t send in the clowns: masks and make-up conceal true facial expressions, thwarting our instinct to read people’s minds through their faces, as seen in ‘It’
film
Arts and Entertainment
Go figure: Matt Parker, wearing the binary code scarf knitted by his mother
comedy Mathematician is using comedy nights to teach and preach sums
Arts and Entertainment
Ryan Gosling in 'Drive'
filmReview: Ryan Gosling is still there, but it's a very different film
Arts and Entertainment
Urban explorer: Rose Rouse has documented her walks around Harlesden, and the people that she’s encountered along the way
books Rouse's new book discusses her four-year tour of Harlesden
Arts and Entertainment
Shock of the news: Jake Gyllenhaal in ‘Nightcrawler’
film
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Orson Welles made Citizen Kane at 25, and battled with Hollywood film studios thereafter
film
Arts and Entertainment
A scene from Franco Zeffirelli's production of 'Aida' at Milan's famed La Scala opera house
operaLegendary opera director in battle with theatre over sale of one of his 'greatest' productions
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Juergen Wolf won the Young Masters Art Prize 2014 with his mixed media painting on wood, 'Untitled'
art
Arts and Entertainment
Iron Man and Captain America in a scene from
filmThe upcoming 'Black Panther' film will feature a solo black male lead, while a female superhero will take centre stage in 'Captain Marvel'
Arts and Entertainment
The Imperial War Museum, pictured, has campaigned to display copyrighted works during the First World War centenary
art
Arts and Entertainment
American Horror Story veteran Sarah Paulson plays conjoined twins Dot and Bette Tattler
tvReview: Yes, it’s depraved for the most part but strangely enough it has heart to it
Arts and Entertainment
The mind behind Game of Thrones George R. R. Martin
books

Will explain back story to fictional kingdom Westeros

Arts and Entertainment
Dorothy in Return to Oz

film Unintentionally terrifying children's movies to get you howling (in fear, tears or laughter)
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment

film
Arts and Entertainment
Robert James-Collier as under-butler Thomas

TVLady Edith and Thomas show sad signs of the time
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
The Dad's Army cast hit the big screen

film
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
JK Rowling is releasing a new Harry Potter story about Dolores Umbridge

books
Arts and Entertainment
On The Apprentice, “serious” left the room many moons ago and yet still we watch

TV
Arts and Entertainment
The Doctor finds himself in a forest version of London in Doctor Who episode 'In the Forest of the Night'
TVReview: Is the Doctor ever going stop frowning?
Arts and Entertainment
A scene from David Ayer's 'Fury'

film
Arts and Entertainment
Taylor Swift performs at the 2014 iHeart Radio Music Festival
music review
Arts and Entertainment
Paul Anderson plays Arthur Shelby in Peaky Blinders series two
tvReview: Arthur Shelby Jr seems to be losing his mind as his younger brother lets him run riot in London
Arts and Entertainment
Miranda Hart has called time on her award-winning BBC sitcom, Miranda
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Sir Nicholas Serota has been a feature in the Power 100 top ten since its 2002 launch
art
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    The drugs revolution starts now as MPs agree its high time for change

    The drugs revolution starts now as MPs agree its high time for change

    Commons debate highlights growing cross-party consensus on softening UK drugs legislation, unchanged for 43 years
    The camera is turned on tabloid editors in Richard Peppiatt's 'One Rogue Reporter'

    Gotcha! The camera is turned on tabloid editors

    Hugh Grant says Richard Peppiatt's 'One Rogue Reporter' documentary will highlight issues raised by Leveson
    Fall of the Berlin Wall: It was thanks to Mikhail Gorbachev that this symbol of division fell

    Fall of the Berlin Wall

    It was thanks to Gorbachev that this symbol of division fell
    Halloween 2014: What makes Ouija boards, demon dolls, and evil clowns so frightening?

    What makes ouija boards and demon dolls scary?

    Ouija boards, demon dolls, evil children and clowns are all classic tropes of horror, and this year’s Halloween releases feature them all. What makes them so frightening, decade after decade?
    A safari in modern Britain: Rose Rouse reveals how her four-year tour of Harlesden taught her as much about the UK as it did about NW10

    Rose Rouse's safari in modern Britain

    Rouse decided to walk and talk with as many different people as possible in her neighbourhood of Harlesden and her experiences have been published in a new book
    Welcome to my world of no smell and odd tastes: How a bike accident left one woman living with unwanted food mash-ups

    'My world of no smell and odd tastes'

    A head injury from a bicycle accident had the surprising effect of robbing Nell Frizzell of two of her senses

    Matt Parker is proud of his square roots

    The "stand-up mathematician" is using comedy nights to preach maths to big audiences
    Paul Scholes column: Beating Manchester City is vital part of life at Manchester United. This is first major test for Luke Shaw, Angel Di Maria and Radamel Falcao – it’s not a game to lose

    Paul Scholes column

    Beating City is vital part of life at United. This is first major test for Shaw, Di Maria and Falcao – it’s not a game to lose
    Frank Warren: Call me an old git, but I just can't see that there's a place for women’s boxing

    Frank Warren column

    Call me an old git, but I just can't see that there's a place for women’s boxing
    Adrian Heath interview: Former Everton striker prepares his Orlando City side for the MLS - and having Kaka in the dressing room

    Adrian Heath's American dream...

    Former Everton striker prepares his Orlando City side for the MLS - and having Kaka in the dressing room
    Simon Hart: Manchester City will rise again but they need to change their attitude

    Manchester City will rise again but they need to change their attitude

    Manuel Pellegrini’s side are too good to fail and derby allows them to start again, says Simon Hart
    Isis in Syria: A general reveals the lack of communication with the US - and his country's awkward relationship with their allies-by-default

    A Syrian general speaks

    A senior officer of Bashar al-Assad’s regime talks to Robert Fisk about his army’s brutal struggle with Isis, in a dirty war whose challenges include widespread atrocities
    ‘A bit of a shock...’ Cambridge economist with Glasgow roots becomes Zambia’s acting President

    ‘A bit of a shock...’ Economist with Glasgow roots becomes Zambia’s acting President

    Guy Scott's predecessor, Michael Sata, died in a London hospital this week after a lengthy illness
    Fall of the Berlin Wall: History catches up with Erich Honecker - the East German leader who praised the Iron Curtain and claimed it prevented a Third World War

    Fall of the Berlin Wall

    History catches up with Erich Honecker - the East German leader who praised the Iron Curtain and claimed it prevented a Third World War
    How to turn your mobile phone into easy money

    Turn your mobile phone into easy money

    There are 90 million unused mobiles in the UK, which would be worth £7bn if we cashed them in, says David Crookes