Shadow Dancer is provocative, dramatic and brilliant while The Watch and The Three Stooges are unwatchable

Cert 15 | By Steve Dinneen

The canon of movies starring Ben Stiller and Vince Vaughn is turning into something of a machine-gun (I count at least five). In The Watch, the lovable goofballs form a neighbourhood watch scheme. But wait, get this... They find an alien! And it eats people’s skin (yeah, like in Men in Black)!

To say it is lowest common denominator stuff is unfair on the lowest common denominator. The “jokes” skate comfortably between misogyny and farts in a formula that was “perfected” more than a decade ago in American Pie.

A scene in which an alien corpse is abused by the protagonists is presented as gross-out humour but had the (presumably undesired) effect of bringing to mind the pictures of Iraqi prisoners being humiliated by US troops.

Stiller is a bit like Steve Carell on a bad day; he’s got the “down-trodden but essentially likable guy” thing, only with less of the likable.

It also stars Richard Ayoade from The IT Crowd, although it is probably more accurate to say it stars Richard Ayoade’s character from the IT Crowd; like a casting agent saw an episode and said “I want EXACTLY that guy, clothes and all”.

“Maybe kids will appreciate it,” I thought, until I realised there are far too many f***s and c***s and s***s and p****s and other words I have to put stars in for it to have been made for children. This is for adults. Very, very stupid adults.

Maybe I’m being unfair. Maybe you’ll cackle like a demented hyena at every mention of alien jizz or torn hymens. And that’s fine. Really, try not to worry about it. It’s not your fault. It’s not your fault.

Cert 15 | By Steve Dinneen

Shadow Dancer sounds like it might be a feel-good movie from the 80s, in which the central character is redeemed through the power of dance. Patrick Swayze could have starred in it, overcoming great adversity and getting the girl (you know, the one with the welding mask). It’s not, though. It’s the opposite film to that. If you’re hoping for pirouettes and power ballads, you’re going to be very, very disappointed.

It’s a grim, realist portrayal of the dog days of the Troubles in Northern Ireland, where life is tough and hope is all but extinct.

Clive Owen plays Mac, a cop who snares Colette McVeigh, the sister of two high-ranking IRA members, during a failed terror attack on the London Underground. Mac uses Colette’s young son as leverage to persuade her to inform on her family, which works out about as well as these things tend to.

Kevin Mulville, an IRA enforcer played with an understated menace by David Wilmot, is drafted in to smoke out the suspected rat, which he does with a terrifying lack of emotion. Andrea Riseborough is excellent as Colette, a hard but broken woman, trying to save her child from the life that has consumed her family. Owen, meanwhile, never a man to use two words when an anguished expression will suffice, is pitch perfect as Mac, who attempts to hold the entire rickey structure together despite his colleagues’ best attempts to mess everything up. There are no car chases and few bullets fired, with director James Marsh gradually increasing the heat until every movement, every sideways glance, becomes almost painfully uncomfortable.

The cinematography is, somewhat ironically, very British; all “it’s grim up north” shots of impoverished council estates and lonely, grassy fields blowing in the wind – similar to Marsh’s take on Red Riding. The attention to detail is remarkable, from the crudely daubed IRA graffiti covering the estates to the smoke-laden, wood-paneled working men’s clubs.

Shadow Dancer treads the political tightrope deftly, with Colette and her brothers – both cold, cool killers – bringing an uncomfortably human, even likable, face to the IRA. It’s provocative, dramatic, harrowing and rather brilliant.

The Three Stooges
Cert PG | By Albany Bell

The Three Stooges is the type of film you’d be embarrassed to admit you like. Luckily I don’t have that problem; every minute watched feels like a minute lost.

The new Farrelly brothers’ film begins with three orphaned new-borns being left at a nunnery, but any momentary sadness is gone when you realise what a nightmare they are. Ten minutes in you’ll be wishing you too could drive off with their clever parents, and the nuns soon realise that not even they have the spiritual patience to handle these boys. Simple in mind and ridiculous in appearance, these buffoons must find a way to save their orphanage, which becomes threatened with closure. Let loose into the real world Larry, Curly and Moe soon find themselves embroiled in a murder plot and a reality TV show, as they search for a way to rescue their home.

The stupidity and silliness of the three main characters is groan-inducing, with any spark of wit eclipsed buy slapstick violence and annoying “Stooge” sound effects. Noises so infuriating they will haunt you for days. The only points of interest are the appearance of nun Jennifer Hudson and Glee’s Jane Lynch as Mother Superior, why they agreed to this God only knows. Such is the simplicity of the film, only five year olds would find it funny, and even then it may be a stretch.

Whilst it was cartoon-like in humour, it was sadly not cartoon-like in length. Running for an excruciating 92 minutes, I would rather cut all my hair off than sit through it again. Normally an activity of enjoyment this cinematic experience feels more like a test of endurance: one you would not wish even your enemies to suffer. Any affection you felt for the classic 60’s TV series will be crushed by this dreadful remake.