GI Joe: The Rise of Cobra, Stephen Sommers, 107 mins, (12A)
The Ugly Truth, Robert Luketic, 96 mins, (15)
Adam, Max Mayer, 101 mins, (12A)
Sienna Miller stars in a summer blockbuster which is an 11-year-old boy's fantasy
Sunday 09 August 2009
Before I proceed, let me state for the record that GI Joe: The Rise of Cobra is a summer blockbuster that exists to advertise a range of toys (Action Man's American cousins).
Both its heroes and villains are stupidly codenamed secret agents who use countless gadgets to flatten every building in the vicinity, pausing only to engage in frenetic hand-to-hand combat. It's louder than the average earthquake; it incorporates more CGI than the average video game, and it hurtles along so speedily that if you sneeze while watching it you'll miss the obliteration of four major landmarks. In short, it may not be the sort of film you want to go to see.
With all that in mind, it would be remiss of me not to concede that GI Joe is a tremendous feat of logistics. The plot is insanely complicated, and yet somehow, within its own fictional universe, it all fits together. Similarly, there's a colossal number of characters, and yet Dennis Quaid, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Sienna Miller and others have fun with the roles. They're given a couple of good lines each, and some of them even get flashbacks to their previous adventures. You have to be impressed by the film-makers' ability to keep so many plates spinning at once. Watching the action sequences is like fast-forwarding through a Bond movie while your house is being demolished, but they flow in a more or less logical fashion.
These days, that's rare. In the past year, blockbusters as prestigious as the last James Bond and Harry Potter instalments have collapsed into incoherence, while Transformers 2 – also based on a range of Hasbro action figures – was a muddle, and even such relatively sophisticated entertainments as Star Trek and Terminator Salvation were peppered with plot holes. In contrast, GI Joe is tosh, yes – but highly skilled tosh, and if you're an 11-year-old male it could be the best film you've ever seen.
The Ugly Truth is a romantic comedy so charmless and laboured that it might as well star Kate Hudson and Matthew McConaughey. In fact – and it's barely an improvement – it stars Katherine Heigl and Gerard Butler. Heigl is a buttoned-up local TV producer. Butler is her least favourite colleague, a neanderthal agony uncle who peddles the philosophy that all men are sexist pigs. None the less, Heigl agrees to let him advise her on how to hook the hunky doctor who's just moved into her building – because a glamorous, upbeat beauty queen like her would really need help getting a date. And what's the arcane advice that only Butler can impart? It's that Heigl should wear sexy clothes, laugh at her beau's jokes, and try not to criticise him. Genius. No wonder she couldn't have thought of it herself.
I have a hunch, dear reader, that you may know how it's all going to turn out. The only novelty is that the script is larded with ill-judged scatological banter in an attempt to fool you that it's daring and adult, as opposed to facile and false. Ugly is the word.
Adam isn't much better, but at least it means well. It's a saccharine romance starring Hugh Dancy as an electronics whiz with Asperger's syndrome, and Rose Byrne as his new neighbour. His condition could have made for an intriguing relationship if the characters had lived on Earth, and not the planet Romcom, but no: Byrne's primary school teacher is so sunny she's carcinogenic, while Dancy is a pixie-like being who takes her to see a family of wild raccoons in Central Park. Anything the film might have had to say about Asperger's, or anything else, is drowned out by all the soppy acoustic folk-pop on the soundtrack.
Also Showing: 09/08/2009
Orphan (123 mins, 15)
Vera Farmiga and Peter Sarsgaard adopt a nine-year-old girl from a local orphanage, forgetting that it's always a mistake to choose a creepy, Russian-accented prodigy who insists on wearing Victorian dresses, and whose previous adoptive family was frazzled in a house fire. This glossy cuckoo-in-the-nest thriller has an enjoyably daft Gothic twist ending, but it's a long time coming, with nothing but clichés to sit through beforehand.
The Yes Men Fix the World (90 mins, (12A)
A second documentary about America's anti-corporate pranksters, who scam their way into conferences and on to news programmes to make Swiftian announcements on behalf of some particularly unethical companies. A tonic, even if the world is left unfixed.
The Meerkats (93 mins, PG)
March of the Penguins, except with another of nature's cutest species. Paul Newman reads Alexander McCall Smith's narration.
Mega Shark vs Giant Octopus (90 mins, 15)
Nice title, shame about the film.
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