Damon Smith and Susan Griffin give their verdict on this week’s latest film releases
THE WEDDING VIDEO (15)Starring: Rufus Hound, Robert Webb, Lucy Punch, Harriet Walter, Miriam Margolyes. Director: Nigel Cole. Duration: 94 mins.
BILLY CONNOLLY famously surmised, “Marriage is a wonderful invention. Then again, so is a bicycle repair kit.”
His cynical words would certainly strike a chord with the church-bound characters in The Wedding Video, an uproarious comedy of appalling manners that witnesses a relationship come apart at the seams through the lens of the best man’s omnipresent camera.
Nigel Cole’s film amuses and charms in equal measure, relying on the excellent comic timing of the ensemble British cast led by Rufus Hound, who makes his big screen debut.
Scriptwriter Tim Firth, who previously penned Calendar Girls, spares the characters few blushes as excitement and expectation turns to anguish and despair, laced with tender romance.
Despite assurances to the groom that there will be “no swearing and no nudity”, Hound dances naked on a river bank, swears like a trooper and gets very friendly with an expensive throw rug.
He’s an appealing narrator, who responds to one girl’s compliment about him being a good listener by confiding, “Compassion is nature’s way of helping ugly men find a partner.”
Shambolic oaf Raif (Hound) decides to make a video of his estranged brother’s forthcoming nuptials as a present to the bride and groom.
“Buy a camera, press button, shoot wedding. It all sounded so simple,” Raif confides in voiceover.
The laconic best man turns up at the door of his brother Tim (Robert Webb), determined to immortalise every aspect of the preparations.
The first surprise comes when Raif learns that Tim is engaged to Saskia (Lucy Punch), a booze-swigging wild child who was the scourge of their school.
Saskia has been polished into a refined, young lady by her well-to-do mother, Alex (Harriet Walter), a doyenne of the Cheshire social set, who is determined that the big day will dazzle like her other soirees.
As he spends more time with the soon-to-wed couple, Raif glimpses tiny cracks in their relationship.
“I think it’s important we document some of the speed bumps on the path to the happy day,“ he assures Tim and Saskia.
The Wedding Video captures the frenzied whirl in the weeks leading up to the “I do”, when even the tiniest setback can tip the bride or groom over the edge.
Belly laughs walk down the aisle with touching sentiment and while there’s a certain inevitability to the climactic emotional devastation, it’s a bow to convention we merrily toast.
THE BOURNE LEGACY (12A)Starring: Jeremy Renner, Rachel Weisz, Edward Norton, Joan Allen, David Strathairn, Scott Glenn, Stacy Keach. Director: Tony Gilroy. Duration: 135 mins.
GIVEN that Matt Damon and director Paul Greengrass decided to bid adieu to the massively successful Bourne franchise after The Bourne Ultimatum, the question on everyone’s lips was could the espionage series continue?
The money men, they said yes, and so here we have The Bourne Legacy, directed by Tony Gilroy (who wrote the three previous Bourne films and co-wrote this with his brother Dan).
Damon has been replaced by Jeremy Renner, the two-time Oscar nominee for The Hurt Locker and The Town, in the lead role.
Only he doesn’t play Jason Bourne – as Renner has been very keen to stress from the moment his name was attached, despite the rest of the script being shrouded in secrecy.
Renner plays super-soldier/spy Aaron Cross, who unlike Bourne is fully aware of who he is and what’s required of him.
We meet him as he embarks on a solo training mission in the snowy Alaskan wilderness and it’s plain to see Cross can shoot, jump and climb as good as Bourne.
In addition, this agent can brave freezing waters bare-chested and fight wolves with his bare hands.
But to be able to do this he has to pop a couple of pills a day, one to enhance his brain, and another his brawn.
In an inspired move, the beginning of the film overlaps with the final chapter of The Bourne Ultimatum and the moment Bourne goes public about the government’s intelligence programmes.
At this point, Cross’s own clandestine organisation, known as Outcome, is deemed “infected” and everybody associated with it has to be extinguished.
Most of them successfully are, apart from Cross and Dr Marta Shearing (Rachel Weisz), a genetic scientist who was involved with the development of the drugs.
With Cross requiring more “meds” and Shearing needing his help to stay alive, the pair embark on a global adventure in an attempt to outrun the bad guys.
Despite little back story, Renner gives a strong performance and is a competent, if less charismatic, successor to Damon.
But unfortunately there’s little chemistry between him and his leading lady, to the point that you’re left feeling indifferent as to whether they make it to the credits.
Norton is reassuringly confident in a complex role and that’s despite being responsible for much of the film’s exposition in dialogue so dense and quickly-fired, it will take numerous viewings to fully appreciate what on earth’s going on.
THE EXPENDABLES 2 (15)Starring: Sylvester Stallone, Jason Statham, Jet Li, Dolph Lundgren, Chuck Norris, Terry Crews, Randy Couture, Liam Hemsworth, Jean-Claude Van Dame, Bruce Willis, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Yu Nan. Director: Simon West. Duration: 102 mins.
EARLIER this year the New York Times Magazine declared the all-American action hero an “endangered species” but Sylvester Stallone and his posse of eighties action stars are back to prove otherwise.
The Expendables 2 comes off the success of the first instalment back in 2010, which Stallone wrote and directed.
This time the man formerly known as Rocky has decided to hand over directing duties to Simon West of Con Air and Lara Croft: Tomb Raider fame.
It’s a rip-roaring, machine gun-toting, cameo-fuelled spectacle that’s biggest challenge for the cinema-goer is clocking up the famous movie quotes that get a nod.
Take Schwarzenegger and his famous Terminator line: “I’ll be back”. In this he says: “I’m back”, “I will be back”, “I’m sure to be back soon”. At least that’s what it feels like. You get the picture.
But The Expendables 2 is a lot of fun – and pretty camp in its own violent way.
Stallone returns as Barney Ross, the goateed head honcho of a band of mercenary veterans that includes Gunner Jensen (Dolph Lundgren), Lee Christmas (Jason Statham), Yin Yang (Jet Li) and newest members Billy the Kid (Liam Hemsworth) and Maggie (Yu Nan).
They’re brought together when Mr Church (Bruce Willis) enlists them for a seemingly simple job but things go awry and they are compelled to seek revenge in what’s described as “hostile territory”.
To be honest, who knows what’s going on with the plot?
It’s something to do with plutonium but plot isn’t the main priority in this old-school romp.
It’s really just an excuse to fit as many gun fights and explosions in as possible. Clearly West really likes the blood splatter effect as uncredited extras are gunned down in their hundreds.
Fans of the eighties action movies are going to love it as star after star makes an appearance.
There’s also a hand-to-hand fight between Stallone and Jean-Claude Van Damme, who revels as the film’s arch villain Jean Vilain, while Schwarzenegger and Willis zoom around in a Smart car and martial arts legend Chuck Norris turns up for inexplicable reasons.
If you’re looking for the meaning of life, then The Expendables 2 won’t be for you, but then it never promises to offer anything other than bad-ass action. And there’s plenty of that.