IoS film review 2: Celeste and Jesse Forever
The Man with the Iron Fists

What do you get when you mix hip hop and kung-fu? A Wu-Tang clanger

On paper, the characters in Celeste and Jesse Forever are romantic-comedy staples. Rashida Jones is an uptight career-woman with a gay confidant (Elijah Wood), while Andy Samberg is an unemployed man-child who's addicted to marijuana and surfing. But here's the thing. As run-of-the-mill as such characters may be, Jones and Samberg nonetheless seem to belong to the same species as the rest of us. Celeste and Jesse Forever is the third romcom this year, after The Five-Year Engagement and Your Sister's Sister, in which we have the satisfaction of watching fundamentally decent people behaving in a fundamentally reasonable manner. Unsurprisingly, none of these films star either Gerard Butler or Katherine Heigl.

Celeste and Jesse Forever has the advantage of a cracking premise, too. When the film starts, Jones and Samberg are separated, soon to be divorced, but they still spend all their free time together, sharing private jokes, and saying "I love you" before retiring to their adjacent houses each night. They've realised that while they didn't click as a couple, they're perfect as best friends. Or have they? Secretly, Samberg hopes that they might get back together, but Jones isn't interested ... at least, not until another woman threatens to take her place.

It's at this juncture that Samberg all but disappears from the film, taking most of the laughs with him. Jones goes into a tailspin of bitterness and belligerence, and a good-natured, laid-back indie comedy turns into a dark-ish drama, just as it was starting to look like a 21st-century answer to When Harry Met Sally. Unfortunately, it's not much fun watching someone sulking for half a film. Jones's long, downward spiral squanders the piquant question of whether it's possible to stay friends with an ex, and also the zingy chemistry that bubbles between her and Samberg. Jones – who co-wrote the screenplay – is still eminently watchable on her own. But she's far better when she's bantering with her co-star.

One for the "Don't Give Up the Day Job" file, The Man with the Iron Fists is a splashy kung-fu movie directed and co-written by its star, RZA, the mastermind of the revered rap collective, the Wu-Tang Clan. There's a plot of sorts about rival gangs tussling over a shipment of gold in a 19th-century Chinese village, but the whole enterprise is really just an excuse for lots of acrobatic, blood-spurting fisticuffs, so it should be nice and simple – or nasty and simple, anyway. But RZA fills the gaps between the outrageous fight scenes with incomprehensible verbiage, and crowds them with too many characters we have no reason to care about. Jostling for space between a portly Russell Crowe, who swaggers around doing an Oliver Reed impression, and Lucy Liu, who's in much the same costume and setting as she was in Kill Bill, RZA's eponymous hero gets no more screen time than anyone else. And he doesn't even get his metal hands until the film is almost over.

To be fair, some of the shoddiness is no doubt deliberate. With its wobbly, scratchy opening titles, and its "Quentin Tarantino Presents" tag, The Man with the Iron Fists is a winking homage to RZA's favourite 1960s Shaw Brothers films, so maybe we can write off the silly wigs and mahogany performances as an inside joke. But, faced with both intentional badness and unintentional badness, the viewer has to be the man or woman with the iron constitution.

Critic's Choice

Climate-change sceptics beware: Chasing Ice, a prize winner at the 2012 Sundance Festival, captures the alarming rate of glacier-melt using time-lapse cameras across three continents. Best re-release of the week is Gabriel Axel's magical Babette's Feast (1987) about a cook working for a puritan household who prepares one last, sensual blow-out.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Gothic revival: artist Dave McKean’s poster for Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination
Exhibition
Arts and Entertainment
Diana Beard has left the Great British Bake Off 2014

TV
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Lisa Kudrow, Courtney Cox and Jennifer Anniston reunite for a mini Friends sketch on Jimmy Kimmel Live

TV
Arts and Entertainment
TVDessert week was full of the usual dramas as 'bingate' ensued
Arts and Entertainment
Clara and the twelfth Doctor embark on their first adventure together
TVThe regulator received six complaints on Saturday night
Arts and Entertainment
Vinyl demand: a factory making the old-style discs
musicManufacturers are struggling to keep up with the resurgence in vinyl
Arts and Entertainment
David Baddiel concedes his show takes its inspiration from the hit US series 'Modern Family'
comedyNew comedy festival out to show that there’s more to Jewish humour than rabbi jokes
Arts and Entertainment
Puff Daddy: One Direction may actually be able to use the outrage to boost their credibility

music
Arts and Entertainment
Suha Arraf’s film ‘Villa Touma’ (left) is set in Ramallah and all the actresses are Palestinian

film
Arts and Entertainment
Madame Vastra and Jenny Flint kiss in Doctor Who episode 'Deep Breath'

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Steve Carell in the poster for new film 'Foxcatcher'
filmExclusive: First look at comic actor in first major serious role
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Kingston Road in Stockton is being filmed for the second series of Benefits Street
arts + entsFilming for Channel 4 has begun despite local complaints
Arts and Entertainment
Led Zeppelin

music
Arts and Entertainment
Radio presenter Scott Mills will be hitting the Strictly Come Dancing ballroom
TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
The Doctor and Clara have their first real heart to heart since he regenerated in 'Deep Breath'
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Beyonce performs in front of a Feminist sign at the MTV VMAs 2014

music
Arts and Entertainment
Miley Cyrus has taken home the prize for Video of the Year at the MTV Video Music Awards 2014

music
Arts and Entertainment
Peter Paige and Scott Lowell in Queer as Folk (Season 5)
tvA batch of shows that 'wouldn't get past a US network' could give tofu sales an unexpected lift
Arts and Entertainment
books... but seller will be hoping for more
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
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.

    Ukraine crisis: The phoney war is over as Russian troops and armour pour across the border

    The phoney war is over

    Russian troops and armour pour into Ukraine
    Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

    Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

    The world’s entire food system is under attack - and Britain is most at risk, according to a new study
    Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

    Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

    Seoul's plastic surgery industry is booming thanks to the popularity of the K-Pop look
    From Mozart to Orson Welles: Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

    Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

    After the death of Sandy Wilson, 90, who wrote his only hit musical in his twenties, John Walsh wonders what it's like to peak too soon and go on to live a life more ordinary
    Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

    Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

    Fears are mounting that Vladimir Putin has instructed hackers to target banks like JP Morgan
    Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years

    Salomé: A head for seduction

    Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years. Now audiences can meet the Biblical femme fatale in two new stage and screen projects
    From Bram Stoker to Stanley Kubrick, the British Library's latest exhibition celebrates all things Gothic

    British Library celebrates all things Gothic

    Forthcoming exhibition Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination will be the UK's largest ever celebration of Gothic literature
    The Hard Rock Café's owners are embroiled in a bitter legal dispute - but is the restaurant chain worth fighting for?

    Is the Hard Rock Café worth fighting for?

    The restaurant chain's owners are currently embroiled in a bitter legal dispute
    Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival

    In search of Caribbean soul food

    Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival
    11 best face powders

    11 best face powders

    Sweep away shiny skin with our pick of the best pressed and loose powder bases
    England vs Norway: Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

    Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

    Lack of Englishmen at leading Premier League clubs leaves manager hamstrung
    Angel Di Maria and Cristiano Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

    Di Maria and Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

    They both inherited the iconic shirt at Old Trafford, but the £59.7m new boy is joining a club in a very different state
    Israel-Gaza conflict: No victory for Israel despite weeks of death and devastation

    Robert Fisk: No victory for Israel despite weeks of devastation

    Palestinians have won: they are still in Gaza, and Hamas is still there
    Mary Beard writes character reference for Twitter troll who called her a 'slut'

    Unlikely friends: Mary Beard and the troll who called her a ‘filthy old slut’

    The Cambridge University classicist even wrote the student a character reference
    America’s new apartheid: Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone

    America’s new apartheid

    Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone