Cinema

Current highlights from Barcelona's English-language cinema scene


The latest reviews

A Long Way Down

  • Rated as: 2/5

The novel ‘A Long Way Down’ is not-quite-vintage Nick Hornby. And this is a disappointing film version, a bit hokey and fake. The big problem is the book’s played-for-laughs concept: four suicidal Londoners planning to top themselves on New Year’s Eve choose the same skyscraper to jump off. Pierce Brosnan out-mockneys Jamie Oliver as a disgraced daytime telly presenter fresh out of prison after a sex scandal. Imogen Poots is terrific as a sarky, brattish politician’s daughter (‘it’s exciting to have a celebrity in our suicide midst’). Aaron Paul (Jesse from ‘Breaking Bad’) is a failed rocker working as a pizza delivery guy. And, in a weird bit of casting, Toni Collette (hilarious in ‘The United States of Tara’) drabs it up as a Home Counties single mum. (read more)

Muppets Most Wanted

  • Rated as: 3/5

‘Everybody knows that the sequel’s never quite as good,’ sing our furry friends during the opening number of a film with much to live up to after 2011’s terrific reboot, ‘The Muppets’. This self-deprecating gag proves to be self-fulfilling. The plot of ‘Muppets Most Wanted’ concerns a Muppet world tour run by new manager Dominic Badguy (Ricky Gervais), during which Kermit is replaced by an evil doppleganger called Constantine. Meanwhile, Kermit is mistaken for Constantine and imprisoned in a Russian prison camp run by Nadya (Tina Fey). A pair of Interpol agents (Ty Burrell and muppet Sam The Eagle) investigate. But, story aside, this is about the gags, songs and then more gags. On the upside, the jokes are great: the usual jolly mix of character humour, situation comedy, farce, satire and wordplay. (read more)

Rio 2

  • Rated as: 3/5

Carlos Saldanha is all heart. From the ‘Ice Age’ series, which the Brazilian co-directed, through to his new ‘Rio’ franchise, every movie he makes is stuffed with warmth, charm and simple but effective lessons about family, responsibility and friendship. Sure, they can tip over into sentimentality – there’s a lullaby scene in ‘Rio 2’ that’ll have cynics reaching for sick bags – but there’s no denying the integrity. ‘Rio 2’ finds our avian hero Blue (voiced by Jesse Eisenberg) living happily with his wife and chicks in Brazil. But when an entire flock of their rare species, the Spix’s Macaw, is discovered deep in the Amazon, Blue and his brood swoop off to investigate. (read more)

Enemy

  • Rated as: 3/5

All the way back to ‘Donnie Darko’, Jake Gyllenhaal has had a rough-and-ready sense of evolution about him, a tricky quality that better actors can’t pull off half as well. So it’s hard to say if splitting the star into two doppelgängers – Adam, a mousy college professor, and Anthony, a rising actor with a healthy ego – is the best dramatic plan. ‘Enemy’ goes for it, even though division isn’t Gyllenhaal’s strong suit. You wait for the counterparts to clash, to morph into each other and begin to blur (as in José Saramago’s original novel), but the movie is too literal and compartmentalised to take the psychological plunge it seems to constantly be intimating. (read more)

Night Train to Lisbon

  • Rated as: 1/5

Nothing exciting ever happens to Swiss professor Raimund Gregorius (Jeremy Irons). He spends his days droning on about language to disinterested students, and his nights playing solitary games of chess. Rinse, wash, repeat. Then one rainy morning, he saves a lady in red (Sarah Bühlmann) from taking a headfirst dive off a bridge. She leaves behind her coat, which contains an obscure book by Amadeu do Prado (Jack Huston), a Portuguese author who lived during the Salazar dictatorship, as well as a train ticket to Lisbon. Nothing ventured: off Gregorius goes to unravel the mystery of this enigmatic writer as well as to jump-start his own humdrum life. (read more)

Safety Not Guaranteed

  • Rated as: 3/5

Inspired by a 1997 classified ad in Backwoods Home magazine seeking a companion for a time-travel expedition, ‘Safety Not Guaranteed’ is a modest DIY hipster sci-fi comedy which coasts on a witty script and winning central turns. ‘Parks and Recreation’ star Aubrey Plaza plays Darius, a listless twentysomething intern for a Seattle lifestyle magazine who tracks down the crank who placed just such an ad, oddball amateur scientist Kenneth (mumblecore legend Mark Duplass). But if Kenneth is just crazy, why are there guys in black cars following him around? And what’s that strange noise emanating from his shed? (read more)

Stranger by the Lake

  • Rated as: 4/5

This mesmerising feature from French writer-director Alain Guiraudie is a mix of Hitchcockian potboiler and queer-culture study. Our lead is buff Franck (Pierre Deladonchamps), who struts with confidence around the lake that is the film’s only location. Franck becomes fast friends with lonely, obese Henri (Patrick d’Assumçao), but his libido is more tickled by ’70s-porn-moustache-sporting Michel (Christophe Paou). The problem? One evening, Franck sees Michel drowning a conquest – which does little to dampen his interest. Guiraudie has a keen eye for queer conduct: he spends most of the first half hour acclimating us to this Eden where gay men lie around nude and sneak off into the woods for sex, before offering a deeply unsettling exploration of infatuation. (read more)

Need for Speed

  • Rated as: 2/5

‘Breaking Bad’ fans will tell you that Aaron Paul is a talented actor, but it’s hard to believe watching this car-racing actioner inspired by the ‘Need for Speed’ video games. He looks visibly uncomfortable playing street car racer Tobey Marshall, who foolishly does business with leather-clad rival Dino Brewster (Dominic Cooper, with an American accent and channelling the cast of ‘Grease’). After a spell in prison, Tobey emerges with revenge on his mind and accepts a challenge to drive a multi-million-dollar Ford Mustang to San Francisco. There he will compete in a furrowed-browed race with the US’s best drivers. Mercifully, the plot requires a love interest, chatty Brit Julia (Imogen Poots), to come along for the ride. (read more)

More film reviews

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