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.

Arts and Entertainment
Thomas carried Lady Edith over the flames in her bedroom in Downton Abbey series five

TV
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
Ben Affleck as Nick Dunne, seated next to a picture of his missing wife Amy, played by Rosamund Pike

film
Arts and Entertainment
Rachel, Chandler and Ross try to get Ross's sofa up the stairs in the famous 'Pivot!' scene

Friends 20th anniversary
Arts and Entertainment
Lena Dunham

books
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
A bit rich: Maggie Smith in Downton Abbey

There’s revolution in the air, but one lady’s not for turning

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Chloe-Jasmine Whicello impressed the judges and the audience at Wembley Arena with a sultry performance
TVReview: Who'd have known Simon was such a Roger Rabbit fan?
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Nick Frost will star in the Doctor Who 2014 Christmas special

TV
Arts and Entertainment
A spell in the sun: Emma Stone and Colin Firth star in ‘Magic in the Moonlight’
filmReview: Magic In The Moonlight
Arts and Entertainment
Friends is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year
TV
Arts and Entertainment
Ben Whishaw is replacing Colin Firth as the voice of Paddington Bear

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Actor and director Zach Braff

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Maisie Williams plays 'bad ass' Arya Stark in Game of Thrones

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Liam Neeson said he wouldn't

TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Meera Syal was a member of the team that created Goodness Gracious Me

TV
Arts and Entertainment
The former Doctor Who actor is to play a vicar is search of a wife

film
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
Pointless host Alexander Armstrong will voice Danger Mouse on CBBC

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell dismissed the controversy surrounding

music
Arts and Entertainment
Jack Huston is the new Ben-Hur

film
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Cara Delevingne modelling

film
Arts and Entertainment
Emma Thompson and Bryn Terfel are bringing Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street to the London Coliseum

theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Robin Thicke's video for 'Blurred Lines' has been criticised for condoning rape

Robin Thicke admits he didn't write 'Blurred Lines'

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

film
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.

    A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

    Not That Kind of Girl:

    A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
    London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

    London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

    In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
    Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

    Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

    Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
    Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

    Model mother

    Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
    Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

    Apple still the coolest brand

    Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
    Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

    Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

    Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
    Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

    Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

    The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
    The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

    Scrambled eggs and LSD

    Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
    'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

    'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

    Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
    Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

    New leading ladies of dance fight back

    How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
    Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

    A shot in the dark

    Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
    His life, the universe and everything

    His life, the universe and everything

    New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
    Reach for the skies

    Reach for the skies

    From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
    These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

    12 best hotel spas in the UK

    Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments