Please Hollywood, no more robots

Cert: PG

RIGHT now Hollywood’s suffering a bit of a crisis – people are stopping going to see 3D films. If you ask me, this film sums up why. It’s an endless slog of CGI willy-waving. The climactic battle lasts a full hour – as ugly, interchangeable robots smash up Chicago and each other. It is dizzying, deafening and utterly deadening for mind and soul.

The story? Lord only knows. There’s a conspiracy thriller in there somewhere about the original moon landings being a mission to investigate a crashed alien craft; fratboy Shia Lebouef mooning about in the usual way, model Rosie Huntingdon-Whitely providing the eye candy (she certainly can’t act, and director Michael Bay doesn’t seem to require her to – the first view of her is a libidinous, protracted shot of her derriere), while scientists, soldiers, Autobots, Decepticons clatter about with neither rhyme nor reason. This is just $400m sprayed at the screen to see what sticks. The answer: pretty much nothing.

Timothy Barber

Cert: 12A

“Oh dear. Could this be really happening? Really? Please tell me no. No, no no…..Oh. My. God. It is.” These were the thoughts of the people in the screening room this week watching Larry Crown, a “feelgood” romantic comedy with Tom Hanks by Julia Roberts. Why either of them went anywhere near a film that resembles a poor high school play is a mystery.

Anyway. The story – though it’s more a weird gelatinous sprawl of random (mostly) jolly occurrences – begins when Hanks’s Larry is fired from his supermarket job. He’s canned, he’s told, for not having a college degree. So he enrols in two classes at the Community College, ditches his gas guzzler for a scooter, and gives his house back to the bank.

At the College, two major things happen. One: he meets a young and beautiful fellow scooter-rider who takes a bizarre amount of interest in his wellbeing – from his hairstyle (so not cool) to his furniture (so not feng shui). Two: he meets Julia Roberts, a world-weary teacher whom he charms with his good guyness. They snog. It’s weird. It’s like seeing your parents snog.

Don’t see this film. Unless you’re interested in a crash course on “how not to ever make a film” or “when Hollywood gets it incredibly wrong.”

Zoe Strimpel

Cert: 15

In his first directorial outing since 2007’s Lions for Lambs, Robert Redford tells the true story of Mary Surratt (Robin Wright) – the owner of a boarding house where Abraham Lincoln’s assassins conspired. When Surratt is charged with aiding them, it soon becomes clear that not only is she trying to protect her son who has absconded, but also that the government has its own reasons for wanting a swift guilty verdict from the trial.

James McAvoy plays Frederick Aiken, the army captain and lawyer who reluctantly accepts the task of defending Surratt before a military tribunal. He is supported by a cast of familiar faces including Kevin Kline and Tom Wilkinson, who manage to execute imposing yet understated performances while sporting Lincoln-style beards.

It’s a bit bland. On some levels it’s refreshing not to see the usual courtroom drama cliches, but it’s hard to really invest in the story, intriguing though its premise is. A classy production that’s less than the sum of its parts.

Hayley Wright

The Old Vic

SHAKESPEARE, for all that he stands alone, is not always easy to follow. His language is too rich, his jokes too subtle and layered, his wit too quick, his plots and complots too complex for modern minds and ears to naturally absorb.

So when you find yourself hanging on every word, hating small-time dukes and hoping for the demise of earls, laughing in real time along with a character’s quips or insults, then you know that you are at a very, very good Shakespeare production.

And that is exactly what Sam Mendes’s final transatlantic “Bridge Project” production, starring Kevin Spacey as Richard, absolutely is. Spacey is a good Richard, hunched and contorted with a leg brace, but with his doe eyes, big body and campish American-neutral accent, not my ideal pick for the part, nor the element that makes the play great.

It crackles in its forward rush, relentlessly hurtling towards catharsis. It shimmers and hums, pregnant with death and curses, foreboding and hell. Royal mothers are ravaged as their children are slaughtered by their uncles, men kill, lie and die quickly. Heads are delivered in boxes. Mendes’s production is not showy, but it picks its props and effects incredibly well.

The firecrackers at the heart of this sizzler are the three central women. Haydn Gwynne is mesmerisingly elegant as Queen Elizabeth even as she falls into grief and outrage. Her final tete a tete with Richard as he demands to marry her daughter is outrageously tense. Gemma Jones as the banished Queen Margaret is terrifying as she curses the kingdom and spits venomous truths. And Annabel Scholey as Lady Anne is electric, seemingly literally, as her hatred and grief turn to lust.

Zoe Strimpel

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