Greenberg, Noah Baumbach, 107 mins (15)
Black Death, Christopher Smith, 92 mins (15)
Brooklyn's Finest, Antoine Fuqua, 132 mins (18)

Another emotionally stunted male saved by a younger woman

Has Noah Baumbach gone soft? His last two comedies, The Squid and the Whale and Margot at the Wedding, had some phenomenally poisonous characters, and dialogue so lacerating it would be confiscated at customs. In contrast, the hero of Greenberg is merely brusque, self-involved and anti- social, which makes him one of Baumbach's more personable creations.

He's Roger Greenberg (Ben Stiller), the leader of a nearly-was indie band in the early 1990s who can't quite accept that he's now working as a carpenter in New York. Having just emerged from an institution, he flies to Los Angeles to house-sit for his holidaying brother. He meets up with a former bandmate (Rhys Ifans) who fixes computers for a living, and gets in touch with an old flame (Jennifer Jason Leigh, also the film's co-plotter, and Mrs Noah Baumbach). But the person he sees the most is his brother's dogged personal assistant, Florence (Greta Gerwig), a twentysomething whose smiley generosity masks the same self doubt as Roger's prickly misanthropy.

Gerwig is an alumna of the naturalistic, low budget "mumblecore" scene, and Baumbach seems to have taken his cues from her: Greenberg bobs around the place with an understated, plotless honesty which is refreshingly different from the contrivances of the standard Hollywood comedy. At its best, it's a sublimely unsparing dissection of a mid-life crisis, with Gerwig's gawky lounge singer updating the Diane Keaton of Annie Hall, and Stiller as an older incarnation of Dustin Hoffman in The Graduate. But at its worst, Greenberg has the fatal flaw of any mumblecore film: a belief that the faltering chat of underemployed middle-class neurotics is entertainment in itself.

Baumbach, of all people, could have skewered these characters' slacker narcissism, but he's ultimately too fond of them, and in its way, Greenberg is just another romantic comedy about an emotionally stunted male being redeemed by an angelic younger woman. Surprisingly, Rhys Ifans is more sympathetic than either of them. A gentle soul who is making his peace with a life that hasn't met his expectations, his character gets Greenberg's most touching moments. But maybe I'm going soft, too.

The same can't be said of Christopher Smith, a British horror director (Creep, Severance, Triangle) who doesn't stint on the grisly dismemberings in his latest film, Black Death. Set in 1348, it stars Eddie Redmayne as a novice monk who volunteers to guide Sean Bean's knight and his gang of yellow-toothed thugs through the forests where he grew up. They're on a mission from God (or one of His bishops, anyway) to investigate a village that has been left mysteriously untouched by the plague.

Black Death may be reminiscent of Monty Python and the Holy Grail, but it should find favour with fans of The Wicker Man, Witchfinder General, and any number of Hammer horror films. You've got to respect the blood and thunder of Dario Poloni's screenplay, as well as Smith's commitment to squelching, crunching nastiness. No instrument of torture is left unused.

Brooklyn's Finest is a doom-laden cop drama from the director of Training Day, but while it has that film's druggy, sweary toughness, it doesn't have the electrifying plot that went with it. Richard Gere, Ethan Hawke, and Don Cheadle star in three separate storylines which don't interweave so much as brush against each other in passing. One actor plays a whiskey-soaked NYPD veteran with a week to go before retirement, one is a hotshot detective who embezzles drug money, and the third is an undercover agent who wants his old life back. The characters are despondent at the start of the film, they're despondent all the way through, and the only question is exactly how despondent they're going to be at the end.

Also Showing: 13/06/2010

Letters to Juliet (104 mins, PG)

Amanda Seyfried's fledgling journalist drives around rural Italy with Vanessa Redgrave – who appears to be a few trees short of an olive grove – and her grandson (Christopher Egan – awful), hoping to reunite Redgrave with her long lost beau. A vacuous, nauseating rom-com that's more likely to inspire hate mail than love letters.

Shed Your Tears and Walk Away (88 mins, 15)

In Jez Lewis's disturbing, heartfelt documentary, he revisits his home town in West Yorkshire, the funky tourist mecca of Hebden Bridge, to ask why so many of his childhood friends are drinking and overdosing themselves to death. There are no easy answers.

H2Oil (76 mins, 12A)

H2Oil is the third documentary to be released about Alberta's tar sands in the past three months. And although the environmental damage wrought by the Canadian oil industry makes There Will Be Blood look like Bambi, I really do hope there isn't a fourth documentary still to come.

Next Week:

Andrew Johnson sees if Hollywood can raise a smile with the action spoofs MacGruber and Killers. Nicholas Barber is on holiday

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Mark, Katie and Sanjay in The Apprentice boardroom
TV
Arts and Entertainment

Film The critics but sneer but these unfashionable festive films are our favourites

Arts and Entertainment
Frances O'Connor and James Nesbitt in 'The Missing'

TV We're so close to knowing what happened to Oliver Hughes, but a last-minute bluff crushes expectations

Arts and Entertainment
Joey Essex will be hitting the slopes for series two of The Jump

TV

Who is taking the plunge?
Arts and Entertainment
Katy Perry as an Ancient Egyptian princess in her latest music video for 'Dark Horse'

music
Arts and Entertainment
Dame Judi Dench, as M in Skyfall

film
Arts and Entertainment
Morrissey, 1988

TV
Arts and Entertainment
William Pooley from Suffolk is flying out to Free Town, Sierra Leone, to continue working in health centres to fight Ebola after surviving the disease himself

music
Arts and Entertainment
The Newsroom creator Aaron Sorkin

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Matt Berry (centre), the star of Channel 4 sitcom 'Toast of London'

TVA disappointingly dull denouement
Arts and Entertainment
Tales from the cryptanalyst: Benedict Cumberbatch in 'The Imitation Game'

film
Arts and Entertainment
Pixie Lott has been voted off Strictly Come Dancing 2014

Strictly
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.

    Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

    Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

    Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
    Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

    Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

    The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
    Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

    Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

    The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
    Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

    The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

    Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas
    La Famille Bélier is being touted as this year's Amelie - so why are many in the deaf community outraged by it?

    Deaf community outraged by La Famille Bélier

    The new film tells the story of a deaf-mute farming family and is being touted as this year's Amelie
    10 best high-end laptops

    10 best high-end laptops

    From lightweight and zippy devices to gaming beasts, we test the latest in top-spec portable computers
    Michael Carberry: ‘After such a tough time, I’m not sure I will stay in the game’

    Michael Carberry: ‘After such a tough time, I’m not sure I will stay in the game’

    The batsman has grown disillusioned after England’s Ashes debacle and allegations linking him to the Pietersen affair
    Susie Wolff: A driving force in battle for equality behind the wheel

    Susie Wolff: A driving force in battle for equality behind the wheel

    The Williams driver has had plenty of doubters, but hopes she will be judged by her ability in the cockpit
    Adam Gemili interview: 'No abs Adam' plans to muscle in on Usain Bolt's turf

    'No abs Adam' plans to muscle in on Usain Bolt's turf

    After a year touched by tragedy, Adam Gemili wants to become the sixth Briton to run a sub-10sec 100m
    Calls for a military mental health 'quality mark'

    Homeless Veterans campaign

    Expert calls for military mental health 'quality mark'
    Racton Man: Analysis shows famous skeleton was a 6ft Bronze Age superman

    Meet Racton Man

    Analysis shows famous skeleton was a 6ft Bronze Age superman
    Garden Bridge: St Paul’s adds to £175m project’s troubled waters

    Garden Bridge

    St Paul’s adds to £175m project’s troubled waters
    Stuff your own Christmas mouse ornament: An evening class in taxidermy with a festive feel

    Stuff your own Christmas mouse ornament

    An evening class in taxidermy with a festive feel
    Joint Enterprise: The legal doctrine which critics say has caused hundreds of miscarriages of justice

    Joint Enterprise

    The legal doctrine which critics say has caused hundreds of miscarriages of justice
    Freud and Eros: Love, Lust and Longing at the Freud Museum: Objects of Desire

    Freud and Eros

    Love, Lust and Longing at the Freud Museum