The Hangover Part II, Todd Phillips, 102 mins, 15
Heartbeats, Xavier Dolan, 100 mins, 15
Life, Above All, Oliver Schmitz, 105 mins, 12A

What's the last thing you need the morning after the night before? The hair of the dog...

Halfway through The Hangover Part II, one character wails: "I can't believe this is happening again!" I know how he feels.

The use of "Part II" in the title might imply that it's the second chapter of a continuing story, but in reality it's a scene-by-scene remake of 2009's hit comedy. Again, it's got the cocky Bradley Cooper, the buttoned-up Ed Helms, and the not-all-there Zach Galifianakis going on a stag night with a fourth friend. Again, it has them waking up with no memory of the previous 12 hours, and no idea where that fourth friend has gone. And again, they're on a Chandleresque odyssey around an unfamiliar city where they swear a lot, get hit in the face, and try to piece together what happened.

The only difference is that The Hangover Part II is set in Bangkok, which is represented as one of the less salubrious Circles of Hell. It's a change for the better. The first film was set in Las Vegas, the home of slot machines and Celine Dion concerts, so it hardly took the heroes out of their comfort zone. This time, their ordeal is so grim that the film threatens to stop being a comedy and become a dark thriller with a few genitalia jokes thrown in.

What it is of course is a blatant cash-in, but in some ways, The Hangover Part II is an exemplary sequel, in that it gives fans exactly what they enjoyed two years ago, but with a bigger budget. And it does have its funny moments, with enough left-field non sequiturs from Galifianakis and Ken Jeong to stop it being too predictable. It's only the insufferable, self-congratulatory finale that makes you pray that there won't be a Part III. Please, let The Hangover be over.

Heartbeats is the second film to be written and directed by Xavier Dolan, a 22-year-old French-Canadian. And if that weren't terrifying enough, Dolan is also one of the three stars, playing a gay man who falls madly in lust with the same tousled Adonis as his straight female best friend. Both of these friends are too self-conscious to admit how they feel, so they embark on stealth campaigns to impress the obscure object of their desire, while maintaining the pretence that they're as close and supportive as ever.

It's a piquant, low-budget comedy about under-employed twentysomethings, the kind of thing which is usually shot using horribly cheap video cameras, but Dolan and his team have made it look luxuriantly attractive: Heartbeats would be half an hour shorter if it weren't for all the slow-motion sequences of beautiful people sashaying to the strains of a Bach cello concerto. The perfume-ad aesthetic will put some viewers off, but the pretension is balanced by sharp, spare dialogue, and tenderly drawn, recognisable characters. Who knows what Dolan will be capable of when he's 23?

Life, Above All is a film about today's Africa, but it echoes John Steinbeck and Harper Lee in its depiction of rural hardship, small-town prejudice and lion-hearted courage. In a tremendously assured debut, Khomotso Manyaka stars as a village schoolgirl who fights to keep her family afloat following the death of her baby sister. Her stepfather is a drunk who spends the family's money on prostitutes, and her mother's health is deteriorating, but no one wants to put two and two together: the village is ruled so forcibly by rumour and superstition that its residents would rather waste away in private than go to hospital for an HIV/Aids test. It's a powerful, handsomely shot drama, but it feels as if the film-makers are listing a continent's problems rather than telling an individual's story.

Next Week:

Nicholas Barber sees what Keira Knightley and Sam Worthington got up to Last Night

Also Showing: 29/05/2011

Diary of a Wimpy Kid 2: Rodrick Rules (100 mins, U)

For what it's worth, this is a marked improvement on last year's Diary of a Wimpy Kid, which had such an unsympathetic hero it should have been called "Diary of an Obnoxious Brat". In the sequel, the Walter Mitty-ish narrator (Zachary Gordon, pictured) gets to be genuinely wimpy rather than cruel and self-centred, and there are enough knowing jokes about family life to keep accompanying grown-ups amused. If someone decides to make a third Wimpy Kid film, though, it would be nice if this time it had a plot, and not just a series of unrelated episodes glued together.

Angels of Evil (128 mins, 15)

Like 2009's Mesrine films, Angels Of Evil is a Seventies-set biopic of a European bank robber, Italy's Renato Vallanzasca (Kim Rossi Stuart). It's a brisk catalogue of shoot-outs and car chases, big sideburns and wide lapels, but it never pauses to establish why we should care about such an unstable thug, who has a habit of botching heists and shooting civilians. He's more evil than angelic.

Apocalypse Now (153 mins, 15)

Another opportunity to see Francis Ford Coppola's 1979 Vietnam epic on the big screen, and marvel at a golden age when war films had real helicopters and real crowds in them, not just CGI replicas.

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

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Feeling all at sea: Barbara's 18-year-old son came under the influence of a Canadian libertarian preacher – and she had to fight to win him back
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Living the high life: Anne Robinson enjoys some skip-surfed soup
TV review
Arts and Entertainment

Great British Bake Off
Arts and Entertainment
Doctor Who and Missy in the Doctor Who series 8 finale

TV
Arts and Entertainment

film
Arts and Entertainment
Chvrches lead singer Lauren Mayberry in the band's new video 'Leave a Trace'

music
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
Home on the raunch: George Bisset (Aneurin Barnard), Lady Seymour Worsley (Natalie Dormer) and Richard Worsley (Shaun Evans)

TV review
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Strictly Come Dancing was watched by 6.9m viewers

Strictly
Arts and Entertainment
NWA biopic Straight Outta Compton

film
Arts and Entertainment
Natalie Dormer as Margaery Tyrell and Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister in Game of Thrones

Game of Thrones
Arts and Entertainment
New book 'The Rabbit Who Wants To Fall Asleep' by Carl-Johan Forssen Ehrlin

books
Arts and Entertainment
Calvi is not afraid of exploring the deep stuff: loneliness, anxiety, identity, reinvention
music
Arts and Entertainment
Edinburgh solo performers Neil James and Jessica Sherr
comedy
Arts and Entertainment
If a deal to buy tBeats, founded by hip-hop star Dr Dre (pictured) and music producer Jimmy Iovine went through, it would be Apple’s biggest ever acquisition

album review
Arts and Entertainment
Paloma Faith is joining The Voice as a new coach

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Dowton Abbey has been pulling in 'telly tourists', who are visiting Highclere House in Berkshire

TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Patriot games: Vic Reeves featured in ‘Very British Problems’
TV review
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

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

    Migrant crisis: UN official Philippe Douste-Blazy reveals the harrowing sights he encountered among refugees arriving on Lampedusa

    ‘Can we really just turn away?’

    Dead bodies, men drowning, women miscarrying – a senior UN figure on the horrors he has witnessed among migrants arriving on Lampedusa, and urges politicians not to underestimate our caring nature
    Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger as Isis ravages centuries of history

    Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger...

    ... and not just because of Isis vandalism
    Girl on a Plane: An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack

    Girl on a Plane

    An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack
    Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

    Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

    The author of 'The Day of the Jackal' has revealed he spied for MI6 while a foreign correspondent
    Markus Persson: If being that rich is so bad, why not just give it all away?

    That's a bit rich

    The billionaire inventor of computer game Minecraft says he is bored, lonely and isolated by his vast wealth. If it’s that bad, says Simon Kelner, why not just give it all away?
    Euro 2016: Chris Coleman on course to end half a century of hurt for Wales

    Coleman on course to end half a century of hurt for Wales

    Wales last qualified for major tournament in 1958 but after several near misses the current crop can book place at Euro 2016 and end all the indifference
    Rugby World Cup 2015: The tournament's forgotten XV

    Forgotten XV of the rugby World Cup

    Now the squads are out, Chris Hewett picks a side of stars who missed the cut
    A groundbreaking study of 'Britain's Atlantis' long buried at the bottom of the North Sea could revolutionise how we see our prehistoric past

    Britain's Atlantis

    Scientific study beneath North Sea could revolutionise how we see the past
    The Queen has 'done and said nothing that anybody will remember,' says Starkey

    The Queen has 'done and said nothing that anybody will remember'

    David Starkey's assessment
    Oliver Sacks said his life has been 'an enormous privilege and adventure'

    'An enormous privilege and adventure'

    Oliver Sacks writing about his life
    'Gibraltar is British, and it is going to stay British forever'

    'Gibraltar is British, and it is going to stay British forever'

    The Rock's Chief Minister hits back at Spanish government's 'lies'
    Britain is still addicted to 'dirty coal'

    Britain still addicted to 'dirty' coal

    Biggest energy suppliers are more dependent on fossil fuel than a decade ago
    Orthorexia nervosa: How becoming obsessed with healthy eating can lead to malnutrition

    Orthorexia nervosa

    How becoming obsessed with healthy eating can lead to malnutrition
    Lady Chatterley is not obscene, says TV director

    Lady Chatterley’s Lover

    Director Jed Mercurio on why DH Lawrence's novel 'is not an obscene story'
    Farmers in tropical forests are training ants to kill off bigger pests

    Set a pest to catch a pest

    Farmers in tropical forests are training ants to kill off bigger pests