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
Arts and Entertainment
The Secret Cinema performance of Back to the Future has been cancelled again
filmReview: Sometimes the immersive experience was so good it blurred the line between fiction and reality
Arts and Entertainment
Sydney and Melbourne are locked in a row over giant milk crates
art
Arts and Entertainment
Crowd control: institutions like New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art are packed

Art
Arts and Entertainment
Cillian Murphy stars as Tommy Shelby in Peaky Blinders

TV
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
The cast of The Big Bang Theory in a still from the show

TV
Arts and Entertainment

art
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
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.

    Dress the Gaza situation up all you like, but the truth hurts

    Robert Fisk on Gaza conflict

    Dress the situation up all you like, but the truth hurts
    Save the tiger: Tiger, tiger burning less brightly as numbers plummet

    Tiger, tiger burning less brightly

    When William Blake wrote his famous poem there were probably more than 100,000 tigers in the wild. These days they probably number around 3,200
    5 News's Andy Bell retraces his grandfather's steps on the First World War battlefields

    In grandfather's footsteps

    5 News's political editor Andy Bell only knows his grandfather from the compelling diary he kept during WWI. But when he returned to the killing fields where Edwin Vaughan suffered so much, his ancestor came to life
    Lifestyle guru Martha Stewart reveals she has flying robot ... to take photos of her farm

    Martha Stewart has flying robot

    The lifestyle guru used the drone to get a bird's eye view her 153-acre farm in Bedford, New York
    Former Labour minister Meg Hillier has demanded 'pootling lanes' for women cyclists

    Do women cyclists need 'pootling lanes'?

    Simon Usborne (who's more of a hurtler) explains why winning the space race is key to happy riding
    A tale of two presidents: George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story

    A tale of two presidents

    George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story
    Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover

    The dining car makes a comeback

    Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover
    Gallery rage: How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?

    Gallery rage

    How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?
    Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players

    Eye on the prize

    Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players
    Women's rugby: Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup

    Women's rugby

    Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup
    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
    We will remember them: relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War

    We will remember them

    Relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War
    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