Critical tidbits for the Easter Bank Holiday!
Here Comes the Boom (2012) - C+
Generic but appreciatively likable comedy delivers enough cheeky giggles and warmheartedness to render it serviceable. Kevin James gives one of the better performances of his short career here, allowing Frank Coraci to hang the formulaic fare around a pleasant schlub. There are small moments of directorial flair during the MMA fight scenes, but generally "Here Comes the Boom" adheres to the bright and cheerful aesthetic of most Happy Madison productions. Forgettable, but when assessed against its limited ambitions the movie is the right side of average.
Side Effects (2013) - B+
Clever genre fare which toys subtly with audience expectations for the first half, before undergoing a rather deliberate and engaging identity crisis of its own. Soderbergh handles the tonal jumps evident in Scott Z. Burns screenplay with aplomb, especially toward the end, where the film-makers concoct something evocative of a 70s procedural noir, as opposed to the mental health thriller advertised. Stylistically its more assured than some of the director's more recent work and boasts a solid leading performance by Jude Law and an outstanding one from the ever excellent Rooney Mara. Not the movie I was expecting, but far richer and more satisfying for so skillfully manipulating audience preconceptions. Gripping stuff that should hold up on repeat inspection
Safety Not Guaranteed (2012) - B-
Affable Sundance darling which has established importance in the light of its green director being given the reins of the "Jurassic Park" franchise. Colin Trevorrow's film wraps itself up in sci-fi pretensions, but is ultimately a piece about people reconnecting with their pasts and embracing the potential of the future. "Safety Not Guaranteed" has a likable supporting cast and soft touch (namely emanating from a kooky Mark Duplass.) and is rarely betrayed by its tight budget That being said, Aubrey Plaza makes for an uninspired and frustratingly cold lead. She should stick to sarcastic fringe parts - her comic timing can't redeem a lack of screen presence in larger roles. It's a clever conceit handled with balance and humanity by the film-makers, but it's no ground-shaker. Adept but forgettable.
Reviews by Daniel Kelly, 2013