Friday’s Film Reviews

This week, Robert Downey Jr stars in courtroom drama The Judge, live-action fantasy Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and high-school sweethearts get a second chance at love in The Best of Me.

Friday’s Film Reviews

This week, Robert Downey Jr stars in courtroom drama The Judge, live-action fantasy Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and high-school sweethearts get a second chance at love in The Best of Me.

The Judge

The law is an ass, along with the people who administer in David Dobkin’s courtroom drama about an estranged family reunited under the testing conditions of a murder trial.

The Judge takes its sweet time going through the legal motions, grafting on a superfluous romantic subplot to the revelations in the dock.

Thankfully, lead actors Robert Downey Jr and Robert Duvall sink their teeth into their broadly sketched characters and energise the dysfunctional father-son relationship that provides the film with its conflict and heart-tugging emotion.

Both men relish the verbal sparring, galvanized by screen chemistry that convinces us they are chips from the same unmovable block.

The lead role of a smarmy big city lawyer, who proudly proclaims, “Innocent people can’t afford me”, is a snug fit for Downey Jr.

Like Tony Stark in the Iron Man films, this slick operator has arrogance and wise-cracks to spare, yet, beneath the impeccably tailored suits and designer shades, there beats the fragile heart of a man terrified of losing the people he loves.

Downey Jr and Duvall are both excellent and D’Onofrio and Jeremy Strong offer sterling support as siblings in crisis.

Unfortunately, Vera Farmiga is short-changed as the token love interest, who gives Hank a flimsy reason to stay in town.

Nick Schenk and Bill Dubuque’s script doesn’t conceal any narrative aces up its sleeve but does play fair, methodically resolving issues within the Palmer family as the court case reaches a suitably tense resolution.

Star Rating:3/5 Rating: 47%

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

The adventures of turtle brothers Donatello, Leonardo, Michelangelo and Raphael began life in the mid 1980s as an irreverent comic book and rapidly spawned an animated TV series, a trilogy of films and a dizzying array of merchandise.

Turtle power has endured to the present day, including a computer-animated series on Nickelodeon.

It’s no surprise then that Jonathan Liebesman, director of Wrath Of The Titans, has resurrected the heroes in a half shell for the big screen.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is an outlandish, action-heavy romp that remains faithful to earlier incarnations, condensing the characters’ back-story into a snazzy comic book-style opening sequence.

Die-hard fans will enjoy the heavy whiff of nostalgia, but if Liebesman was hoping to indoctrinate a new generation, he has cowabungled it.

His film is incredibly violent, albeit bloodless, reducing two very young boys in my screening to distressed screams.

The lack of spilt blood is preposterous, especially when the turtles face chief villain Shredder, who sports armour festooned with blades.

Razor sharp projectiles scythe through the air but miraculously don’t nick flesh.

Shredder by name but not by nefarious nature.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles updates the characters for the modern era.

Thus Mikey has a penchant for cat videos on the internet and the three scriptwriters shoe-horn verbal references to films and TV shows with abandon: “Maybe she’s a Jedi,” whispers Mikey after April reveals she knows Splinter’s name without an introduction.

The turtles are rendered through motion-capture performances and look rather creepy, but they somersault to perfection in action set pieces including a tumble down a snow-laden mountainside.

Alas, the hefty budget hasn’t stretched to remedying basic continuity errors like when Fox’s plastic heroine emerges from a downpour with dry, flowing hair.

Believe that and you’ll lap up this bland turtle soup.

Star Rating:2/5 Rating: 20%

The Best of Me

Nicholas Sparks’ hopelessly romantic fictions are catnip to Hollywood.

Just as fast as the bestselling American novelist can churn out another heart-tugging tale of love lost and found (and lost again), film-makers immortalise the yearning and heartache with as much gloss as they can muster.

Two years ago, Zac Efron flexed in a tight-fitting vest opposite Taylor Schilling for The Lucky One.

Last year, Josh Duhamel’s hunky widower protected Julianne Hough’s battered beauty in Safe Haven.

Now, James Marsden and Michelle Monaghan stare dreamily into each other’s twinkling eyes for this swoonsome yarn about two childhood sweethearts gifted a second chance at happiness when they least expect it.

Sparks has been writing to a predictable, winning formula for years and director Michael Hoffman keeps to the same well-trodden path signposted with regret and guilt as he cuts between timeframes two decades apart.

It’s the kind of film in which the handsome and chiselled hero proclaims his undying devotion and the heroine replies, all dewy-eyed and glossy-lipped: “You want me to fall back in love with you? How can I do that if I never stopped?”

How indeed...

The Best Of Me is gooey and emotionally manipulative, building to the inevitable moment when the central characters must decide their fates.

Marsden and Monaghan are a good-looking pairing. So too are Luke Bracey and Liana Liberato’s younger incarnations although he looks too old to convincingly pass for 18.

Someone at the high school should check Dawson’s birth certificate.

Screenwriters Will Fetters and J Mills Goodloe regurgitate dialogue from the book with due reverence.

Love is a many-splendoured, yet unapologetically clichéd, thing.

Star Rating: Rating: N/A

In Selected Cinemas…


Northern Soul

Director Elaine Constantine steps back to the 1970s for this drama about two friends who encounter a burgeoning youth culture that changes a generation and influences numerous songwriters, producers, DJs and designers.

John Clark (Elliot James Langridge) is a loner in his northern community, one step out of time with the other young people and his parents (Christian McKay, Lisa Stansfield), until he meets Matt (Josh Whitehouse), who introduces John to the electrifying sounds and moves of Northern Soul.

The young men are swept up by this cultural movement and cannot resist the pull of the drugs and booze that are rife in the dancehalls. Friendships are tested to breaking point but the music plays on. Constantine’s film is released simultaneously on DVD and Blu-ray. Rating:


United We Fall

The beautiful game is a source of humour in Gary Sinyor’s potty-mouthed spoof of Class Of ’92, about a group of Manchester United football players who reunite to recall one calamitous year in their careers.

Centre forward Kwasi ’Modo’ Amoako (Matthew Avery), winger Stevo Fallis (James Rastall), midfielder Olly Hunter (Jack Donnelly), right back Danny Keegan (Ryan Pope) and German goalkeeper Kurt ’Kurtzie’ Kurtz (Jonathan Broke) were part of the Red Devils team in 2010, which stood on the brink of a historic treble.

All the team had to do was beat Burley in the last match of the Premier League season, Cardiff City in the FA Cup Final and Bayern Munich in the UEFA Champions League Final to claim all three trophies.

This mockumentary relives the moment that these five friends and their teammates snatched defeat from the jaws of victory, with additional comments from fans and officials including Prime Minister Rt Hon David Anthony (Robert Portal) and FIFA representative Farhad ’Frank’ Farougi (Dana Haqjoo). Rating: N/A.

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