Reviews: New films also showing (28/12/2012)


Midnight’s Children (12A)

Deepa Mehta, 146mins

Starring: Satya Bhabha, Shahana Goswami


There’s a school of thought that authors whose books have been groomed for a screen adaptation should back off and let the people who know about movie-making get on with it. Salman Rushdie does not belong to that school. Far from it, his fingerprints are all over this film of his 1980 Booker-winning novel, executive-producing, screenwriting, even narrating the damn thing in a wry, knowing voice that teeters close to insufferable. Director Deepa Mehta, whose credits include the fine elements trilogy Fire, Earth and Water, perhaps coped better than we know with the author shepherding his novel about like a farmer with his prize cow, but she has ended up all the same with a woefully inert and sluggish movie. A nation’s agony is refracted through a tale of two boys, one rich, one poor, who shortly after their birth at the midnight moment – 15th August 1947 – of India’s freedom from English rule, are swapped by a meddling nanny. What follows is more Jeffrey Archer than Mark Twain. The progress of these changelings is regularly gauged via hallucinatory meetings of children who also share that fateful birthday, parking the film in an awkward halfway house between magic and realism. Violence and romance are crunched together in the screenplay’s whimsical-portentous tone, characters magically disappear and the years grind by. (It stretches to a bum-numbing 148 minutes). And still there’s the Rushdie voice-over, commenting, explaining and killing any possible suspense the story might have hatched. It’s meant to be a film of wonders, but the only wonder is that the writer-narrator-exec-producer didn’t star in it, too.

Safety Not  Guaranteed (15)

Colin Trevorrow, 86mins

Starring: Aubrey Plaza, Mark Duplass


Here’s a smart, off-the-wall comedy ostensibly about time travel but really bound up with loneliness and the search for love. It takes off from a bizarre advert placed in a classifieds column: “WANTED: Someone to go back in time with me. This is not a joke. You’ll get paid after we get back. Must bring your own weapons. Safety not guaranteed”. A staff reporter (Jake Johnson) recruits a couple of interns to help track down the ad’s author in Ocean View, Washington, though for him it’s just a pretext to hook up with an old flame from his high school days. One of the interns, however, a snarky college grad named Darius (Aubrey Plaza), takes the assignment seriously and does indeed find the guy behind the ad, a grocery-store clerk named Kenneth (Mark Duplass). He’s a solemn-faced and somewhat paranoid loner who thinks Darius might have what it takes to be a fellow time-traveller (“I haven’t brought a candidate this far into the training process”). First time film-makers Colin Trevorrow (director) and Derek Connolly (writer) juggle the tone between indie eccentricity and wistful romance, and keep us guessing as to what the hell Kenneth is building in his hideaway shack. Plaza and Duplass are hugely likeable as sorcerer and apprentice, so that even when the plot flies off the rails you’re still rooting for them to reach safety – which, as we know, is not guaranteed.

Parental Guidance (U)

Andy Fickman, 104mins

Starring: Billy Crystal, Bette Midler


They left it late, but the makers of Parental Guidance may just have clinched the palm for Worst Family Entertainment of 2012. It’s the story of a generational clash in methods of parenting as ageing couple Artie and Diane (Billy Crystal and Bette Midler) are required to babysit their three grandchildren while super mum Marisa Tomei is on holiday with her husband. The comedy gets off to a dreadful start as Artie, a baseball commentator, homes in on a couple in the crowd who’ve announced their engagement – and gratuitously mocks the lady’s appearance. This from Billy Crystal, whose own face looks like it’s been hand-peeled with a fruit knife. Then try to laugh along as he wrangles his three unlovely grandkids (called, for no comic reason, Harper, Turner and Barker) and the script takes desperate recourse to poo and vomit gags. On the plus side Marisa Tomei is what she always is – adorable – without being given anything to help her. Gone are the days when Crystal could hold it together with his nice-guy impersonations – now he can’t even move his features to indicate that a joke is in progress.

Grabbers (15)

Jon Wright, 94mins

Starring: Richard Coyle, Ruth Bradley


Like Shaun of the Dead, this Irish horror comedy strikes a nifty balance between laughs and scares, and trusts the remainder to charm. Ciaran (Richard Coyle), a sottish Garda on a remote island off the Irish coast, is falling for bright-eyed colleague Lisa (Ruth Bradley) who’s on a two-week secondment from Dublin. But romance must take a back seat when a tentacular alien lifeform starts picking off the islanders (“It’s no feckin’ lobster”, as someone observes) and growing larger by the hour. Also like Shaun the movie sites its big setpiece in a pub, where the locals  hide out once it’s established that the monster cannot digest human blood that’s been mingled with alcohol. The solution: to get royally plastered. Kevin Lehane’s script serves up some droll lines to go with the bibulous atmosphere, and the playing, by Ruth Bradley in particular, raises the spirits in every sense.

Zaytoun (15)

Eran Riklis, 110mins

Starring: Stephen Dorff, Alice Taglioni


Great things were expected of this Middle-Eastern road movie following director Eran Riklis’s poignant Lemon Tree, but sadly it’s much less exciting than it ought to be. Opening in Beirut on the eve of the Israeli invasion of 1982, it concerns the fate of an Israeli pilot (Stephen Dorff) who’s shot down and taken prisoner by a cadre of PLO insurgents. One of his young guards is an orphaned Palestinian street kid, Fahed (Abdallah El Akal), who strikes a deal with the captive: in return for his freedom he must take him to find the village of his late parents in Lebanon’s south borders. Working from a didactic script by first-timer Nader Rizq, Riklis never quite gets the pace out of second-gear, despite the journey being spiked with perils – hostile patrols, a minefield, a dodgy motor. The humane characterisation of two natural-born foes is enhanced by Dorff and El Akal, whose darkly soulful eyes carry its burden of anguish. But its movement is terribly slow and unconvincing, particularly when so much feels at stake.

Arts and Entertainment
Stewart Lee (Gavin Evans)


Arts and Entertainment
No half measures: ‘The Secret Life of the Pub’

Grace Dent on TV The Secret Life of the Pub is sexist, ageist and a breath of fresh air

Arts and Entertainment
Art on their sleeves: before downloads and streaming, enthusiasts used to flick through racks of albums in their local record shops
musicFor Lois Pryce, working in a record shop was a dream job - until the bean counters ruined it
Arts and Entertainment
Serial suspect: the property heir charged with first-degree murder, Robert Durst
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Igarashi in her

Art Megumi Igarashi criticises Japan's 'backwards' attitude to women's sexual expression

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

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
It's all in the genes: John Simm working in tandem with David Threlfall in 'Code of a Killer'

TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Far Right and Proud: Reggies Yates' Extreme Russia

TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Kanye West was mobbed in Armenia after jumping into a lake

Arts and Entertainment
The show suffers from its own appeal, being so good as to create an appetite in its viewers that is difficult to sate in a ten episode series

Game of Thrones reviewFirst look at season five contains some spoilers
Arts and Entertainment
Judi Dench and Kevin Spacey on the Red Carpet for 2015's Olivier Awards

Ray Davies' Sunny Afternoon scoops the most awards

Arts and Entertainment
Proving his metal: Ross Poldark (played by Aidan Turner in the BBC series) epitomises the risk-taking spirit of 18th-century mine owners

Poldark review
Arts and Entertainment
Eddie Redmayne is reportedly favourite to play Newt Scamander in Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

Arts and Entertainment
Tom Hardy stars in dystopian action thriller Mad Max: Fury Road

Arts and Entertainment
Josh, 22, made his first million from the game MinoMonsters

Grace Dent

Channel 4 show proves there's no app for happiness
Disgraced Top Gear presenter Jeremy Clarkson
Arts and Entertainment
Game face: Zoë Kravitz, Bruce Greenwood and Ethan Hawke in ‘Good Kill’

film review

Arts and Entertainment
Living like there’s no tomorrow: Jon Hamm as Don Draper in the final season of ‘Mad Men’

TV review

Arts and Entertainment
Yaphett Kotto with Julius W Harris and Jane Seymour in 1973 Bond movie Live and Let Die

Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

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

    NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

    Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

    A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
    Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

    Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

    The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
    How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

    How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

    Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
    From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

    The wars that come back to haunt us

    David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
    Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

    Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

    A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders
    Heston Blumenthal to cook up a spice odyssey for British astronaut manning the International Space Station

    UK's Major Tum to blast off on a spice odyssey

    Nothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
    John Harrison's 'longitude' clock sets new record - 300 years on

    ‘Longitude’ clock sets new record - 300 years on

    Greenwich horologists celebrate as it keeps to within a second of real time over a 100-day test
    Fears in the US of being outgunned in the vital propaganda wars by Russia, China - and even Isis - have prompted a rethink on overseas broadcasters

    Let the propaganda wars begin - again

    'Accurate, objective, comprehensive': that was Voice of America's creed, but now its masters want it to promote US policy, reports Rupert Cornwell
    Why Japan's incredible long-distance runners will never win the London Marathon

    Japan's incredible long-distance runners

    Every year, Japanese long-distance runners post some of the world's fastest times – yet, come next weekend, not a single elite competitor from the country will be at the London Marathon
    Why does Tom Drury remain the greatest writer you've never heard of?

    Tom Drury: The quiet American

    His debut was considered one of the finest novels of the past 50 years, and he is every bit the equal of his contemporaries, Jonathan Franzen, Dave Eggers and David Foster Wallace
    You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

    You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

    Dave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
    Beige is back: The drab car colours of the 1970s are proving popular again

    Beige to the future

    Flares and flounce are back on catwalks but a revival in ’70s car paintjobs was a stack-heeled step too far – until now
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's dishes highlight the delicate essence of fresh cheeses

    Bill Granger cooks with fresh cheeses

    More delicate on the palate, milder, fresh cheeses can also be kinder to the waistline
    Aston Villa vs Liverpool: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful,' says veteran Shay Given

    Shay Given: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful'

    The Villa keeper has been overlooked for a long time and has unhappy memories of the national stadium – but he is savouring his chance to play at Wembley
    Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own - Michael Calvin

    Michael Calvin's Last Word

    Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own