He was never going to make a slasher film, was he?
The Boat That Rocked
5/7 Dir Richard Curtis He was never going to make a slasher film, was he? Like it or not, Richard Curtis is a fine writer and at his best when dealing with gentle comic situations. He also does the whole Ealing (classic British film studio) thing well, which is what this essentially is: an Ealing-style comedy with an ensemble cast of mainly British actors and funnymen. The usual battle to get the good lines follows, and whether or not you like Bill Nighy’s often wearisome routine, it fits well.
The rest of the cast, including a frankly bizarre appearance by token American Phillip Seymour Hoffman (Curtis always has an eye on the US market), do well to hold their own. Whether the slightly parochial subject matter of the pirate British radio stations, which set up off the coast of England en masse in the mid-’60s, will appeal to a foreign audience remains to be seen. But if you go to see this film, you’re buying into the whole Richard Curtis universe of bumbling Englishmen, egos gone mad and a bit of romance; and Love Actually aside, that’s no bad thing. Tom Hoskison
State of Play
5/7 Dir Kevin McDonald After recent good turns in Body of Lies and American Gangster, Russell Crowe’s latest acting tour de force is Kevin McDonald’s (The Last King of Scotland) adaptation of the British BBC series of the same name. During a probe into a series of seemingly unrelated murders, Cal McCaffrey (Russell Crowe), an investigative journalist, finds himself tasked with solving the murder of a fast-rising congressman’s mistress, while becoming romantically involved with the congressman’s estranged wife (Robin Wright Penn).
Don’t let the presence of the always appalling Ben Affleck as the congressman put you off, the screenplay was written (in part) by Frost/Nixon writer Peter Morgan, and able support from the likes of Helen Mirren, Rachel McAdams and Jason Bateman adds gravitas. Of course, the original six-hour series has been condensed into two hours, and those who saw it will mourn the loss of the excellent John Simm, but this remains a palpable effort nonetheless. Tom Hoskison
X-Men Origins: Wolverine
5/7 Dir Gavin Hood Given that X-Men’s hugely underwhelming finale left many applauding the end of a franchise that had up until then excelled, it seems logical, or at least profitable (take, for example, Star Wars), to start again from the beginning. It’s something Star Trek will be doing next month with its latest instalment, and if it can raise that lumbering juggernaut of a franchise from the grave, then it is a model to be followed.
Origins reignites Wolverine’s rivalry with Sabretooth, or at least Victor Creed (Liev Shreiber), the man that becomes Sabretooth, whom he holds responsible for the death of his girlfriend; the result being that Logan (Hugh Jackman) joins the government’s Weapon X programme, and we all know what happens after that (snickety snick!). If you’re a fan of the series then you already know what’s going to happen anyway, so rebooting is hardly a problem. Jackman’s Logan was always the highlight of a franchise that too often relied upon mugging British hams, so a return to the blood and guts spirit of Wolverine seems like a surefire winner. Tom Hoskison