The Greatest Movie Ever Sold, Morgan Spurlock, 90 mins (12A)
Real Steel, Shawn Levy, 127 mins (12A)
The Three Musketeers, Paul W S Anderson, 110 mins (12A)

The 'Super Size Me' director turns his acerbic eye on product placement in cinema – but this time it's more bun than burger

The best thing about Morgan Spurlock's first film, Super Size Me, was the way he personalised America's fast-food addiction by subjecting himself to a McDonald's-only diet.

The worst thing about the film was that it convinced Spurlock to build all his subsequent documentaries around similar, but inferior stunts. The upshot is that when he came to make a documentary about product placement in the movies, he set himself the challenge of funding it entirely via product placement, and then showing us the boardroom negotiations that went into the process. In effect, The Greatest Movie Ever Sold functions as its own behind-the-scenes DVD extra. And its full title is actually Pom Wonderful Presents: The Greatest Movie Ever Sold, because a pomegranate juice company paid Spurlock a million dollars for the privilege.

This Postmodern gimmickry is entertaining for a while. Spurlock is so engagingly cheery that it's fun to watch him persuading corporate suits that his documentary could be the next Iron Man. But his fundraising mission isn't nearly as compelling as the broader questions to be asked about product placement: how much cash changes hands, and how much influence the paymasters have over what's on screen. Frustratingly, Spurlock does ask these questions, but doesn't stick around for the answers. He's gathered some gob-smacking clips of the most blatant product placement, and some heavyweight pundits to discuss them. But Quentin Tarantino and Noam Chomsky, and the issues they might illuminate, get a line or two each before the film returns to Spurlock schmoozing potential investors.

The Greatest Movie Ever Sold is a diverting comedy and a valuable conversation starter, but it's annoyingly sketchy journalism. Spurlock's last word is an offhand: "Best I can do is just show you it's out there." Is that really the best he can do?

There's product placement aplenty in Real Steel, a sci-fi sports movie set in a near-future where boxing matches are fought not by humans but by remote-controlled robots. Sounds exciting, doesn't it? It isn't. The film's fatal flaw is that the computer-generated pugilists have all the grace and athleticism of washing machines, and not as much personality.

Perhaps that's why Real Steel tries every tactic under the sun to get us rooting for its heroes. It has Hugh Jackman as a washed-up, hard-drinking ex-boxer – even if he looks like a clean-cut matinee idol – who's reduced to taking his battered old robot around county fairs. Still, if by some million-to-one chance he can get his rustbucket off the scrapheap, and into a title fight with an undefeated robo-Tyson, then he could turn his life around. But that's not all. The bout would also save the gym owned by his beautiful childhood friend, Evangeline Lilly. And it would help him to reconnect with his 11-year-old son (yes, Steven Spielberg is a producer). And the baddie robot is owned by a cold-hearted Russian heiress and a sneering Japanese scientist, for double hissability. I didn't think any film could fit in more underdog movie clichés than last month's Warrior, but after the all-crying, all-hugging finale of Real Steel, I realised it had met its match. It's shameless, but audiences will still be left as emotionless as any of Jackman's metal co-stars.

The Three Musketeers is another film that throws in everything it can, devoting much of its time to the zeppelins, flame-throwers, and booby-trapped Venetian vaults which are overlooked in many adaptations of Dumas' novel, and devoting the rest to shots of Milla Jovovich – the director's wife – posing in a variety of corsets. I can't say I object: there have been so many Musketeer films that there's no harm in making one that's an extravagantly silly steam-punk comic strip, and in 3D to boot. But for all its pandering to our inner 12-year-olds, The Three Musketeers is strangely uninvolving, the characters crowded out by explosions and airship battles. Christoph Waltz and Mads Mikkelson are under-used as the villains; the Musketeers themselves barely register; and D'Artagnan (Logan Lerman) is such a brat that he deserves to be stabbed at the earliest opportunity.

Next Week:

Nicholas Barber sees the disease thriller, Contagion, health permitting

Film Choice

Peter Mullan and a revelatory Olivia Colman are unlikely allies in a grim world, in Tyrannosaur, a compelling directing debut from Brit favourite Paddy Considine...while Owen Wilson hangs out with Scott, Zelda, and other 1920s bohemians in Midnight in Paris, in which Woody Allen regains some of his sparkle. The Buñuel gag is good, at least.

Also Showing: 16/10/2011

Everything Must Go (97 mins, 15)

A salesman (Will Ferrell) camps on his front lawn when his wife locks him out of their house. This witty Raymond Carver adaptation has a pleasantly mellow wooziness – maybe too mellow considering that its hero is meant to be a desperate alcoholic.

Retreat (86 mins, 15)

On a remote Hebridean island, a holidaying couple (Thandie Newton and Cillian Murphy) encounter a blood-streaked soldier (Jamie Bell) who claims that the mainland has been decimated by a virus. A resourceful indie chamber piece with a cunning twist.

Hell and Back Again (88 mins, 15)

This upsetting documentary cuts between a US Marine's tour of duty in Afghanistan and his agonising recuperation back home.

Albatross (88 mins, 15)

A free-spirited teenage girl shakes up the staff of a seaside boarding house. When I say "free-spirited", I mean obnoxious.

First Night (116 mins, 15)

A tycoon (Richard E Grant) stages an opera in his stately home. Jolly, but incompetent.

Texas Killing Fields (104 mins, 15)

"Michael Mann Presents" a joyless cop drama directed by his daughter.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
The Great British Bake Off contestants line-up behind Sue and Mel in the Bake Off tent

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Mitch Winehouse is releasing a new album

music
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Beast would strip to his underpants and take to the stage with a slogan scrawled on his bare chest whilst fans shouted “you fat bastard” at him

music
Arts and Entertainment
On set of the Secret Cinema's Back to the Future event

film
Arts and Entertainment
Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman

film
Arts and Entertainment
Pedro Pascal gives a weird look at the camera in the blooper reel

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Public vote: Art Everywhere poster in a bus shelter featuring John Hoyland
art
Arts and Entertainment
Peter Griffin holds forth in The Simpsons Family Guy crossover episode

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Judd Apatow’s make-it-up-as-you-go-along approach is ideal for comedies about stoners and slackers slouching towards adulthood
filmWith comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on
Arts and Entertainment
booksForget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks
Arts and Entertainment
Off set: Bab El Hara
tvTV series are being filmed outside the country, but the influence of the regime is still being felt
Arts and Entertainment
Red Bastard: Where self-realisation is delivered through monstrous clowning and audience interaction
comedy
Arts and Entertainment
O'Shaughnessy pictured at the Unicorn Theatre in London
tvFiona O'Shaughnessy explains where she ends and her strange and wonderful character begins
Arts and Entertainment
The new characters were announced yesterday at San Diego Comic Con

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Rhino Doodle by Jim Carter (Downton Abbey)

TV
Arts and Entertainment
No Devotion's Geoff Rickly and Stuart Richardson
musicReview: No Devotion, O2 Academy Islington, London
Arts and Entertainment
Christian Grey cradles Ana in the Fifty Shades of Grey film

film
Arts and Entertainment
Comedian 'Weird Al' Yankovic

Is the comedy album making a comeback?

comedy
Arts and Entertainment
While many films were released, few managed to match the success of James Bond blockbuster 'Skyfall'
film
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
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.

    Save the tiger: The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

    The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

    With only six per cent of the US population of these amazing big cats held in zoos, the Zanesville incident in 2011 was inevitable
    Samuel Beckett's biographer reveals secrets of the writer's time as a French Resistance spy

    How Samuel Beckett became a French Resistance spy

    As this year's Samuel Beckett festival opens in Enniskillen, James Knowlson, recalls how the Irish writer risked his life for liberty and narrowly escaped capture by the Gestapo
    Star Wars Episode VII is being shot on film - and now Kodak is launching a last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

    Kodak's last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

    Director J J Abrams and a few digital refuseniks shoot movies on film. Simon Usborne wonders what the fuss is about
    Once stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover

    Acting in video games gets a makeover

    David Crookes meets two of the genre's most popular voices
    Could our smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases via Health Kit and Google Fit?

    Could smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases?

    Health Kit and Google Fit have been described as "the beginning of a health revolution"
    Ryanair has turned on the 'charm offensive' but can we learn to love the cut-price carrier again?

    Can we learn to love Ryanair again?

    Four recent travellers give their verdicts on the carrier's improved customer service
    Billionaire founder of Spanx launches range of jeans that offers

    Spanx launches range of jeans

    The jeans come in two styles, multiple cuts and three washes and will go on sale in the UK in October
    10 best over-ear headphones

    Aural pleasure: 10 best over-ear headphones

    Listen to your favourite tracks with this selection, offering everything from lambskin earmuffs to stainless steel
    Commonwealth Games 2014: David Millar ready to serve up gold for his beloved Scotland in the end

    Commonwealth Games

    David Millar ready to serve up gold for his beloved Scotland in the end
    UCI Mountain Bike World Cup 2014: Downhill all the way to the top for the Atherton siblings

    UCI Mountain Bike World Cup

    Downhill all the way to the top for the Atherton siblings
    Save the tiger: The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

    The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

    The big cats kept in captivity to perform for paying audiences and then, when dead, their bodies used to fortify wine
    A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery all included in top 50 hidden spots in the UK

    A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery

    Introducing the top 50 hidden spots in Britain
    Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

    Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

    How a disease that has claimed fewer than 2,000 victims in its history has earned a place in the darkest corner of the public's imagination
    Chris Pratt: From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

    From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

    He was homeless in Hawaii when he got his big break. Now the comic actor Chris Pratt is Hollywood's new favourite action star
    How live cinema screenings can boost arts audiences

    How live cinema screenings can boost arts audiences

    Broadcasting plays and exhibitions to cinemas is a sure-fire box office smash