NEW FILMS

ARMAGEDDON

(12) HH

Director: Michael Bay

Starring: Bruce Willis, Ben Affleck, Liv Tyler, Billy Bob Thornton

This deeply stupid film purports to be a tender love story, a meaty action-adventure and a global disaster movie. Quite bafflingly, it often struggles to be all of these things at once, with almost every moment carefully engineered to include something for all the family.

Dad will enjoy the gruff camaraderie of the deep-core drillers dispatched to sabotage the course of a meteor which is heading for Earth. The love of the chief driller, Harry Stamper (Bruce Willis), for his daughter, Grace (Liv Tyler), should please Mum, while the candy-coated exchanges between Grace and her fiance, AJ (Ben Affleck), will keep Big Sister quiet. Kid Brother is sure to be thrilled whenever a burning car sails through the air, and there's even a treat for Fido when a chunk of flaming rock transforms the centre of New York into a charred crater, but cannot silence a yapping dog.

No one involved in Armageddon seems to have realised that trying to satisfy the demands of every appetite can only result in a jumble of tones and tastes. Consuming the film can be like eating an entire three-course meal pureed into a single serving - one mouthful yields a pungent collision of incompatible flavours.

Director Michael Bay's picture has a problem with the complexities of identity, and not only in terms of its audience profile. In Armageddon, the world's countries are acknowledged - which at least marks an advance on Deep Impact, in which the end of the world apparently only posed a threat to a stretch of motorway and some desirable beachfront properties. But is being represented by crude picture-postcard tableaux any better than not being represented at all? Armageddon gives us a crowd at prayer before the Taj Mahal; wise old sages at a Shanghai soup stall; and hip young things crowded around a Parisian cafe table.

The film does have some fun with its heroes, an assembly of misfits and sociopaths who have spent their lives on oil rigs. "Talk about the Wrong Stuff," one character remarks as the team convene for that traditional

slow-motion walk toward the camera, looking for all the world like a space-age Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band.

One of America's favourite self-defining symbols is the lantern-jawed cowboy, a figure who is resurrected in Armageddon after spending most of this decade on the subs' bench. As Bruce Willis plays him, Harry could eat John Wayne as an hors d'oeuvre, if real men ate hors d'oeuvres, that is. He is straight-talking and fiercely macho; his face is as craggy and impervious as the meteor that he is trying to destroy.

This whole end-of-the-world nonsense turns out to simply be a preamble to Grace and AJ's wedding, though in all the excitement, everyone seems to have forgotten the small matter of France being wiped out in the final reel. We are supposed to be soothed by the fact that AJ has survived. I am not being ungrateful: he has a cheeky smile and an adorable way of cocking his head and batting his eyelids when he is trying to be sincere. But as a substitution for 2,000 years of culture and history, I am not sure he really cuts it.

THE ADVENTURES OF ROBIN HOOD

(U) HHHH

Director: Michael Curtiz

Starring: Errol Flynn, Olivia de Havilland, Basil Rathbone

A perfect antidote to the bombast of Armageddon can be found in Curtiz's merry and inventive romp, one of the greatest swashbucklers ever made. Graceful fighting sequences, Erich Wolfgang Korngold's Oscar-winning soundtrack, jazzy pacing and a general air of joie de vivre make it the most enticing family film on show this summer.

TO HAVE AND TO HOLD

(18) HH

Director: John Hillcoat

Starring: Tcheky Karyo, Rachel Griffiths

Nick Cave was one of the musical consultants on this heady melodrama, and indeed the whole film feels like one of his own murder ballads stretched out for two hours. Actually, it's the work of John Hillcoat, who made the intense prison drama, Ghosts... of the Civil Dead, but here throws together too many over-heated cliches to form a kind of low-rent Vertigo, with Tcheky Karyo remaking his lover, Rachel Griffiths, in the image of his former wife. See Wide Angle, p16

ZERO EFFECT

(15) HHH

Director: Jake Kasdan

Starring: Bill Pullman, Ben Stiller, Ryan O'Neal

Jake Kasdan is a 22-year-old following in the footsteps of his writer-director father, Lawrence (The Big Chill, Grand Canyon), demonstrating some of the same flaws as Dad (incongruous use of symbols, over-reliance on irony), but generally pulling off an impressive debut. Pullman is excellent as Daryl Zero, the world's greatest private investigator, a drop-out who subsists on tuna fish, Tab and amphetamines, pulling on reserves of wit and ingenuity when the time comes to crack a new case. And when Pullman gets to play scenes with Stiller, who plays Zero's well-groomed go-between, it is like watching a fireworks display - this pair crackles. Ultimately, the film feels a little shallow and self-conscious, but it puts a smile on your face for most of its duration.

Ryan Gilbey

Life and Style
Small winemakers say the restriction makes it hard to sell overseas
food + drink
Arts and Entertainment
A comedy show alumni who has gone on to be a big star, Jon Stewart
tvRival television sketch shows vie for influential alumni
Arts and Entertainment
Carrie Hope Fletcher
booksFirst video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books
News
Clare Balding
peopleClare Balding on how women's football is shaking up sport
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Arts and Entertainment
Damien Hirst
artCoalition's anti-culture policy and cuts in local authority spending to blame, says academic
Sport
premier leagueMatch report: Arsenal 1 Man United 2
Arts and Entertainment
Kirk Cameron is begging his Facebook fans to give him positive reviews
film
News
i100
Sport
Jonny May scores for England
rugby unionEngland 28 Samoa 9: Wing scores twice to help England record their first win in six
Life and Style
fashionThe Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?
Arts and Entertainment
Jason goes on a special mission for the queen
tvReview: Everyone loves a CGI Cyclops and the BBC's Saturday night charmer is getting epic
Arts and Entertainment
Jerry Hall (Hand out press photograph provided by jackstanley@theambassadors.com)
theatre
Sport
Tony Bellew (left) and Nathan Cleverly clash at the Echo Arena in Liverpool
boxingLate surge sees Liverpudlian move into world title contention
Voices
Neil Findlay
voicesThe vilification of the potential Scottish Labour leader Neil Findlay shows how one-note politics is today, says DJ Taylor
Life and Style
food + drinkMeat-free recipes and food scandals help one growing sector
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Reach Volunteering: Financial Trustee and Company Secretary

    Voluntary Only - Expenses Reimbursed: Reach Volunteering: A trustee (company d...

    Recruitment Genius: Senior Project Manager

    £45000 - £65000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

    Recruitment Genius: Shopfitter

    Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join a successful an...

    Recruitment Genius: Digital Sales Account Manager

    £25000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Digital Sales Account Manager...

    Day In a Page

    Mau Mau uprising: Kenyans still waiting for justice join class action over Britain's role in the emergency

    Kenyans still waiting for justice over Mau Mau uprising

    Thousands join class action over Britain's role in the emergency
    Isis in Iraq: The trauma of the last six months has overwhelmed the remaining Christians in the country

    The last Christians in Iraq

    After 2,000 years, a community will try anything – including pretending to convert to Islam – to avoid losing everything, says Patrick Cockburn
    Black Friday: Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

    Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

    Britain braced for Black Friday
    Bill Cosby's persona goes from America's dad to date-rape drugs

    From America's dad to date-rape drugs

    Stories of Bill Cosby's alleged sexual assaults may have circulated widely in Hollywood, but they came as a shock to fans, says Rupert Cornwell
    Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

    Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

    As fans flock to see England women's Wembley debut against Germany, the TV presenter on an exciting 'sea change'
    Oh come, all ye multi-faithful: The Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?

    Oh come, all ye multi-faithful

    The Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?
    Dr Charles Heatley: The GP off to do battle in the war against Ebola

    The GP off to do battle in the war against Ebola

    Dr Charles Heatley on joining the NHS volunteers' team bound for Sierra Leone
    Flogging vlogging: First video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books

    Flogging vlogging

    First video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books
    Saturday Night Live vs The Daily Show: US channels wage comedy star wars

    Saturday Night Live vs The Daily Show

    US channels wage comedy star wars
    When is a wine made in Piedmont not a Piemonte wine? When EU rules make Italian vineyards invisible

    When is a wine made in Piedmont not a Piemonte wine?

    When EU rules make Italian vineyards invisible
    Look what's mushrooming now! Meat-free recipes and food scandals help one growing sector

    Look what's mushrooming now!

    Meat-free recipes and food scandals help one growing sector
    Neil Findlay is more a pink shrimp than a red firebrand

    More a pink shrimp than a red firebrand

    The vilification of the potential Scottish Labour leader Neil Findlay shows how one-note politics is today, says DJ Taylor
    Bill Granger recipes: Tenderstem broccoli omelette; Fried eggs with Mexican-style tomato and chilli sauce; Pan-fried cavolo nero with soft-boiled egg

    Oeuf quake

    Bill Granger's cracking egg recipes
    Terry Venables: Wayne Rooney is roaring again and the world knows that England are back

    Terry Venables column

    Wayne Rooney is roaring again and the world knows that England are back
    Michael Calvin: Abject leadership is allowing football’s age-old sores to fester

    Abject leadership is allowing football’s age-old sores to fester

    Those at the top are allowing the same issues to go unchallenged, says Michael Calvin