Tepid and nonsensical
May 20 2015 11:38 PM

By Roger Moore

FILM: Mortdecai
CAST: Johnny Depp, Gwyneth Paltrow, Paul Bettany, Ewan McGregor, Jeff Goldblum
DIRECTION: David Koepp

Charlie Mortdecai (Johnny Depp) is an English lord, an inbred art dealer, tax dodger and, by his own admission, “a rogue, a scoundrel”. But when the Crown calls on him to find a missing Goya painting that was stolen when an art restorer was murdered, duty calls. That, and he owes $8mn in taxes and his bullying beauty of a wife (Gwyneth Paltrow) might leave him if they’re broke.
Ewan McGregor plays a former Oxford classmate, now an MI-5 agent who wants this painting back and who pines for Mortdecai’s wife. Paul Bettany is Jock, the Kato to Depp’s Clouseau-like klutz.
The movie rather pointlessly jets from London to Moscow, Hong Kong to Los Angeles. Others want the painting, a colourless lot of Russians, Chinese and an American. Jeff Goldblum has too little to play to give the film a decent comic foil and a much-needed arch villain.
What director David Koepp was shooting for was something on the order of those Peter Sellers Pink Panther movies, unlikely over-the-top adventures endured by a reluctant anti-hero goofball. What he settled for is Depp twitching and mugging, in close-up, enduring an endless parade of moustache jokes.
Depp’s English accent makes an amusing setting for his scripted one-liners.
The story is nonsensical and the action tepid. So if you don’t find the Brit-quips funny, there’s not much for you in Mortdecai, just vintage British motorcars, foppish gibberish and Depp curling and re-curling that moustache, punctuating every line with “Right!” or “Quite!”.- TNS

An old-fashioned thrill ride

By Kristin Tillotson

FILM: Black Sea
CAST: Jude Law, Scoot McNairy, Bobby Schofield, Ben Mendelsohn
DIRECTION: Kevin Macdonald

Black Sea is a white-knuckle ride through treacherous waters and even more dangerous betrayals.
Too often, moviegoers must choose between character-driven drama and edge-of-your-seat action. Black Sea has both, with a gripping performance by Jude Law as their nexus.
Law plays Captain Robinson, a veteran Scottish seaman who is brusquely laid off by his corporate employer, Agora. After hearing from an old buddy about a World War II submarine, rumoured to be packed with tens of millions’ worth of plundered gold bars, lying sunken off the Georgian coast, he connects with a rich backer and assembles a rough-and-tumble crew of experienced hands. Half are British guys he knows and trusts, and half are Russians he doesn’t, because they can run the 70-year-old Soviet sub that will be their transport to their destination 200 meters down.
After an artful half-hour setup, just long enough to make us care about Capt Robinson, director Kevin Macdonald accelerates the pace and the drama.
Besides Law, who imbues Robinson with an understated authority that erupts into idealistic passion, the superb Aussie character actor Ben Mendelsohn stands out as always. As Fraser, the divemaster whose primary function is leading the ocean-floor expedition to retrieve the loot, he’s an antagonist who stirs it up immediately and becomes more unhinged by the hour.
Black Sea represents its genre well. This is good old-fashioned suspense that needs no gimmickry to sustain intrigue.-Star Tribune/TNS

DVDs courtesy:
Saqr Entertainment Stores, Doha

Powerful performances

FILM: The Gambler
CAST: Mark Wahlberg, Michael Kenneth Williams, Jessica Lange, John Goodman, Brie Larson, Anthony Kelley, George Kennedy
DIRECTION:  Rupert Wyatt

Listen to professional hunk Mark Wahlberg utter words like “apotheosis” and “obstreperous” without guffawing, and he’s already won his riskiest bet in The Gambler — playing a literature professor.
This remake of the 1974 film starring James Caan and written as quasi-autobiography by James Toback bears little resemblance to the original, and wisely so. Forty years on, any attempt to emulate the gritty ‘70s urban-realism trend would come off as dated if not downright camp. But high style, artful mood-setting and strong acting all around are offset by what ultimately becomes more like a stream of music-video excerpts than a cohesive story.
Wahlberg plays world-weary, wisecracking teacher and high-stakes blackjack addict Jim Bennett, whose wealthy grandfather (hey there, 89-year-old George Kennedy, nice to briefly see you) announces on his deathbed that he’s leaving zippo to his grandson.
Jim’s double life is witnessed by one of his students, casino waitress Amy (Brie Larson). After he turns on the charm in class, she quite improbably falls for him and serves as adorable sidekick/lover for the duration.
Jim, whom one observant casino denizen dubs “the kind of guy who likes to lose”, keeps trading on the momentary psychological highs of big wins to dig himself into the deep dirt by borrowing hundreds of thousands from a United Colours of Benetton array of baddies.
These include a Korean casino owner; a loan shark and black-posse leader, Neville (the effortlessly entertaining Michael Kenneth Williams); and Frank (John Goodman) a money-lending gangster, spitting out curse-laden one-liners like a talking machine gun.
The action grows increasingly fragmented, dissipating the suspense over Jim’s final gamble on his own life. The ending goes disappointingly Hollywood, complete with a groaner of a triumphant Rocky-style running scene. But a string of powerful performances, particularly Wahlberg’s, and a killer soundtrack redeem a middling entertainment gambit.-  Star Tribune/TNS

A family film with several messages

By Troy Ribeiro  

Film: Paddington
CAST: Hugh Bonneville, Sally Hawkins, Samuel Joslin, Madeleine Harris, Nicole Kidman, Jim Broadbent, Julie Walters. Voiceovers by: Ben Whishaw, Michael Gambon and Imelda Staunton;

Paddington is a light-hearted adventure film for children with engaging twists and turns. It is based on the long-running children’s book series from renowned author Michael Bond, which was first published in 1958. With a cleverly embellished back story which in fact is an acknowledged, immigration allegory, director Paul King has skilfully updated the tale while remaining faithful to the original book. Paddington is the story of a young orphan, stowaway, bear on a boat from “Darkest Peru” who lands up in London seeking to be adopted by a home, carrying a suitcase and a label round his neck.
While at the railway station, he discovers that London and its people are not what he had imagined to be. He is initially taken aback with their indifference. He soon finds the Brown family who is willing to take him in and look after him, albeit for just a little while. The kind-hearted Mrs Brown (Sally Hawkins), a children’s book illustrator who has a soft corner for the bear, names him after the station.
She coaxes Mr Brown (Hugh Bonneville), her concerned insurance-assessor husband and kids, the sulky teen Judy (Madeleine Harris) and tween geek Jonathan (Samuel Joslin), to let Paddington move in with them and their elderly relative Mrs Bird (Julie Walters) until he finds an alternate accommodation. This is when everyone’s adventure begins.
The film caters to children and would be enjoyed by adults alike. It is a family film with several messages and one of the messages is that families are not just made up by the people who are related to us, but friends and even animals can be a part of our family.- IANS

DVDs courtesy: Kings Electronics, Doha

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