Reel appeal: the latest films reviewed

Click to follow
The Independent Online

Stay Alive

Director: William Brent Bell

Certificate: 15

Release: 16 June

Cast: Jon Foster, Samaire Armstrong, Frankie Muniz, Sophia Bush and Jimmi Simpson

Stay Alive started as a good idea and spawned into a weak movie. The blood-curdling concept is one where life mimics computer: when your character dies during the game, you end up dying the same horrific way in real life. And to make matters worse, the perpetrator is Elizabeth Bathory - the Countess considered to have inspired Bram Stoker's Dracula.

After the mysterious brutal death of an old friend, a group of teenagers - Hutch (Jon Foster) and four other gamers, Abigail (Samaire Armstrong), Swink (Frankie Muniz), October (Sophia Bush) and her brother Phineus (Jimmi Simpson) - find themselves in possession of a horror survival videogame. The only thing the gamers know about the game is that they're not supposed to have it. Their days are numbered the second they start playing the game: they soon start meeting their makers.

However, Stay Alive never realises it's potential. It's far more likely to make you sleep than scream.

Over The Hedge

Directors: Tim Johnson and Karey Kirkpatrick Certificate: PG

Release: 30 June

Cast: Bruce Willis, Garry Shandling, Steve Carell, William Shatner, Wanda Sykes and Nick Nolte

RJ the racoon (voiced by Bruce Willis) is a con artist, while Verne the turtle (Garry Shandling) is a sensitive soul. So when R.J., Verne and their friends emerge from hibernation to find a housing development encroaching on their home, they react in alarmingly different ways. Separated from big scary humans by nothing more than the film's eponymous hedge, Verne's instinct is to retreat into his shell and hide. RJ, meanwhile, spots an opportunity to make something good out of a bad situation: he's adamant that his new neighbours' rubbish can be the animals' treasure. And so, Verne and R.J. form an unlikely friendship.

DreamWorks have done well with this animation, which blends slapstick with a moral tale. Over the Hedge deals with issues of equality, honesty, trust and friendship with subtlety. The satire about consumer-driven economy is refreshing and intelligent. And all in all, it's an enjoyable cartoon which dodges the sludge and gets an eco-friendly message across.

An Unfinished Life

Director: Lasse Hallström

Certificate: 12A

Release: 16 June

Cast: Robert Redford, Jennifer Lopez, Morgan Freeman and Damian Lewis

An Unfinished Life was a surprising hit in America last year. It tells the tale of gruff rancher Einar Gilkyson (Robert Redford) who reluctantly takes his daughter-in-law Jean (Jennifer Lopez) and her pre-teen daughter under his wing to shelter them from Jean's abusive ex-boyfriend. He's a bitter and cold confidante and, as the film unfolds, we find out why. There begins his struggle to accept and forgive Jean for misdemeanors past and perceived.

An Unfinished Life boasts some flawless acting, with believable storylines and painfully accurate renderings of communication breakdowns. As Redford's character battles to overcome grudges, guilt, anger and bitterness, a beautiful relationship unfolds. Lopez responds with a great performance as a woman struggling to take care of herself and her child. But Morgan Freeman steals the show as sidekick Mitch.

Why Miramax delayed the release by two years is anyone's guess (but may well be linked to Lopez's yo-yoing popularity). It's a quiet and beautiful film about forgiveness and redemption.

The Break-Up

Director: Peyton Reed

Certificate: TBC

Release: 21 July

Cast: Jennifer Aniston and Vince Vaughn

Just as Hollywood's greatest love square starts to flatline, up pops The Break-Up: the movie that threw Jennifer Aniston and Vince Vaughn together after the evil Angelina tempted Brad away. Reality is akin to a movie itself - and the public have lapped it up. But don't be bored just yet: Aniston starring in a new film about a break-up is sure to give gossip-scouts fresh fodder.

Cynics might say it's a cruel marketing ploy, but The Break-Up is a decent little script with a rom-com-happy cast. The plot is simple: a co-habiting couple break up, but neither want to move out. Comedy ensues as they squabble over noise, mess, custody of the pool table etc. And then the romance kicks in as Brooke (Aniston) and Gary (Vaughn) realise that maybe the flat isn't really what they're fighting for as much as the relationhip. As every review will point out, it's a lot like Brangelina's Mr. & Mrs. Smith but without the violence. Vince Vaughn is great and Jennifer Aniston is a queen of soft comedy. It's an enjoyable watch, although nothing ground-breaking.

Comments