Review: This week's new films
When TV comedy powerhouses Steve Carrell and Tina Fey join forces for a big screen adventure, you can't help but expect magic, but does Date Night deliver? Plus: Centurian, The Joneses, It's A Wonderful Afterlife.
DATE NIGHT (15)
When two TV comedy powerhouses join forces for a big screen adventure, you can't help but expect magic.
That's not the case with Date Night - which brings together Steve Carrell, the star of America's version of The Office, with 30 Rock's Tina Fey - although the results are never less than chucklesome fun.
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The pair play a couple who attempt to relight their romantic fires by going out on a swanky date but - wouldn't you know it - end up on the run from crooked cops.
Arriving without a reservation, when another couple fails to turn up they pretend to be them only to be on the receiving end attention from two heavies demanding the return of a stolen flash drive. As the misunderstanding continue they become embroiled in a life or death race around the city involving a violent gangster, a disgraced Mayor and a surveillance expert.
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Fey and Carrell's chemistry is a joy to watch as they pull gags out of thin air but director Shawn Levy (better known for the Night at the Museum movies) seems intent on smothering their good work in the trappings of a slapdash action thriller. You don't need a city-wide conspiracy for a date to go amusingly sour - and our two stars certainly don't need it to be funny.
Director Neil Marshall atones for the sins of his poor Doomsday film with this fast, frantic and typically gory chase through second century Britain.
While it can't match the delights of his horror The Descent, fans of Marshall's high-octane blood-letting are sure to get a kick out of it.
After surviving a raid on his fort, Roman soldier Quintus (Michael Fassbender) finds his way to the legendary Ninth Legion and joins them on a mission to destroy the savage Picts. Things don't go well, leaving Quintus to command a handful of soldiers as they fight to recover their kidnapped general (Dominic West).
West and Fassbender add a level of class and depth to what is a fairly routine plot but Marshall directs with breathless intensity and the near non-stop stream of brutal action sequences are a hell of a lot of fun.
THE JONESES (15)
Attempting to do for rampant commercialism what The Truman Show did for reality TV, The Joneses is a satire with a great idea that never quite has the courage to take it all the way.
Demi Moore and David Duchovny star as two 'stealth marketers' pretending to be the perfect married couple so they can move into a wealthy neighbour and sell the locals all the latest must-have products. Even their 'kids' are in on the act.
Taking solid swipes at shallow materialism, the film is solid fun with a few decent gags.
However writer-director Derrick Borte seems unable to decide whether this is a quirky, unpredictable satire (with swearing and nudity) or a warm-hearted morality tale.
Performances are strong but as things focus on the character's struggles with love and their own consciences, Borte gives into his sweet tooth as we're left with a disappointingly obvious finale.
IT'S A WONDERFUL AFTERLIFE (12A)
Sometimes you can excuse a bad film for at least having a good idea at it's heart. Not so this British comedy.
Director Gurinder Chadha's latest has an apocalyptically awful premise - and no amount of breezy acting from the fine cast can save it.
Shabana Azmi plays Mrs Sethi, a widow who turns to murder when daughter Roopi (Goldy Notay) is continually turned down by prospective husbands. Haunted by the ghosts of her victims, Mrs Sethi agrees to die for her crimes (so the ghosts can be reincarnated) but only after Roopi gets hitched.
Insulting, cheap-looking and painfully unfunny - jokes stretch no further than taunts about Roopi's weight - the film aims for wacky comedy-horror but feels like a substandard kids show.
The performances are spirited but you can't suppress the feeling that you must have done something really bad in a past life to end up watching this.