Review: This week's new films
PUBLISHED: 17:02 20 May 2010 | UPDATED: 16:40 01 July 2010
Take the original Pirates of the Caribbean movie, remove the wit, the fun, the sense of adventure, and Johnny Depp's scenery-chewing performance, and you've got Prince of Persia: Sands of Time. Plus: Bad Lieutenant, Streetdance 3D, Eyes Wide Open.
PRINCE OF PERSIA: SANDS OF TIME (12A)
Take the original Pirates of the Caribbean movie, now remove the wit, the fun, the sense of adventure, Johnny Depp's scenery-chewing performance... oh, and all the water. There, you've got Prince Of Persia.
Essentially what the Pirates movie would have been if you left it out in the sun for a month, this wrinkly adaptation of the hit computer game series is ridiculously confused and disappointingly dull.
There is a plot but no one bothers much about that as things seem to happen here for no particular reason - although the basic premise involves a roguish prince (Jake Gyllenhaal) and a mysterious princess (Gemma Arterton) fighting to keep a magical time travelling dagger from the hands of a bunch of villains.
The presence of Ben Kingsley in the cast (Hollywood's go-to guy for villains in awful movies) means the shock reveal of the bad guy is anything but, while Gyllenhaal's washboard stomach impresses more than his struggle to energise the laughable script. Only Alfred Molina, as the comic relief, comes out of this with any dignity in tact. And the action sequences never rouse the film out of its permanent snooze, leaving you wishing you could go back in time and remove the last two hours from existence.
BAD LIEUTENANT (18)
We're living in historic times. The last few weeks have seen the return of once forgotten power - of course, we're talking about the re-emergence of Nicolas Cage as a fiery acting force.
If you thought the unpredictable Cage was dead and gone, Bad Lieutenant is a welcome reminder that the Oscar-winning actor can still do crazy with the best of them.
After his amusing turn in Kick-Ass, Cage steps things up a gear here to play Terence McDonagh, a rogue detective in post-Katrina New Orleans who divides his time between nabbing criminals and taking vast quantities of drugs.
The entire film plays like one big trip and director Werner Herzog (no stranger to oddball film-making) walks that fine line between silly and twisted genius, capturing something of McDonagh's deranged mindset in the film's off-kilter tone. From seedy sex scenes to the bizarre iguana-themed tangents, the film is absolutely bonkers but brilliant with Cage at its centre, totally transforming himself into a manic ball of energy that insults old ladies and steals marijuana from crime scenes.
Weird, wild and full of hilarious dialogue, the film might be a bit on the messy side but it's unquestionably the most fun you'll have at the cinema this week.
STREETDANCE 3D (PG)
As Britain's first ever 3D dance movie, this didn't have to do much to be described as the best of its kind.
The standard issue plot suggests a lack of effort, but buoyed by eye-popping dance routines - with turns from reality TV stars George Sampson and dance groups Diversity and Flawless - it's hard not to get caught up in the energetic fun.
When her boyfriend Jay leaves their dance crew, Carly (Nichola Burley) is left to get the group ready for the UK Street Dance Championships. With most of her dancers dropping out, a desperate Carly finds salvation in ballet teacher Helena who agrees to share her students in the hope that the urban experience can put the fire back in their bellies.
It's not hard to spot where things are going as culture clashes, slow burning romance and double booked performances threaten to scupper Carly's dream - but the film works, and there's an undeniable warmth and energy that can't help but win you over.
Charlotte Rampling adds class as the elegant ballet teacher but for the most part, the cast are dancers first and actors second. The choreograhpy is certainly the film's focus, but when the 3D routines are as frequently impressive as this, who cares.
AMERICAN: THE BILL HICKS STORY (15)
Up until his death, aged 32, from pancreatic cancer, Bill Hicks trawled the comedy circuit in relative obscurity with a finely-honed act that was an audience battering mixture of anger and idealism. It subsequently transpires that everyone thought he was the best stand-up ever.
Hicks would finally find mass acceptance in Britain. But he was a pure American creature, this black-clad monster hectoring an audience about peace and enlightenment. He was of that pure radical libertarian tradition, part-Hendrix, part-Unabomber.
This documentary is a relatively straightforward affair. It starts when he is a child, the son of Southern Baptists, raised in Austin, Texas, who snuck out to work comedy clubs when he was 13.
From there, it simply works through the story in chronological order. The only people we hear from are family, colleagues and acquaintances; no talking heads pop up to offer their analysis. Between the performance and home movie footage, the directors have created some photo animation to tell the story. This often looks a bit basic but is effective, which pretty much goes for the film in general.
EYES WIDE OPEN (12A)
Talk about a hard sell. A melancholy drama about two ultra-orthodox Jews embarking on a homosexual affair in Israel probably isn't going to get many people rushing out to their nearest multiplex - but if you're after a brave, nuanced and slowing burning drama, this could be just what you're looking for.
First-time director Haim Tabakman keeps the focus on the details in this fascinating insight into another culture as butcher Aaron (Zohar Shtrauss), grieving the recent loss of his father, finds an outlet for his repressed passions when he hires hunky apprentice Ezri (Ran Danker).
Think of it as a Jewish Brokeback Mountain. It mirrors that film's slow pace and artful restraint, although the majestic visuals of the American countryside have been replaced here by the more down-to-earth location of a run-down butcher's shop in Jerusalem.
The overall experience feels much grander though, and things truly spark into life thanks to delicate performances from Strauss and Danker who tease out some powerful emotional currents flowing beneath the surface of conflicted glances as the local "morality police" look on.