THIS IS 40 (15) *

Spiteful, indulgent and unbearable, so when it comes to comedy...

JUDD APATOW'S This Is 40 is a quasi-sequel to his 2007 comedy, Knocked Up, featuring two of the supporting characters from that likeable hit, Pete and Debbie (Paul Rudd and Leslie Mann).

Married for 15 years and both about to turn 40, they're not handling this fact, or each other, very well. What this means for the poor watching audience is that a movie camera has been dropped into their bitter and spiteful relationship as they lie and bait each other, with all the lack of appeal that suggests.

They're both horrendous people, fine as back-up in small doses in Knocked Up, but a whole movie of their problems is too much to stand. They are bullies and liars, in denial about how unpleasant they each are, Debbie reducing a child to tears and Pete managing to insult an Asian man's accent.

They have issues with their respective fathers (Albert Brooks and John Lithgow) and their daughters scream at them and each other constantly, so it's multi-generational misery.

They're also struggling financially, with Pete's record label and Debbie's shop going through tough times, although not so much that they can't afford a BMW and a Lexus and expensive hotel get-aways, making it ever more difficult to sympathise with them when they appear to be swimming in loot.

Subplots that add little other than minutes to the running time actually become a welcome diversion after a while, with the few moments of relief coming from extended cameos by the likes of Jason Segel and Chris O'Dowd.

It's certainly not without truthful observations, nor however is it exactly saying anything new. So it can be as realistic and as frank as it likes, but it doesn't mean you'd want to watch it.

And it doesn't mean it's funny.

It's a shapeless meander towards a resolution that turns up, not through character growth or change, but because we've sailed past the two hour mark and it has to end at some point.

And yet much of that could be overlooked if the film were simply funnier or more entertaining. But This Is 40 features some of the most indulgent and unbearable attempts at comedy you'll see this year, and it's a big ask of an audience to spend so long in the company of these people without the reward of a few chuckles.

Any brief scene in Modern Family simply blows it out of the water in terms of insight, charm and laughs. When the only two amusing moments both involve Megan Fox, you know you've got problems.

Director: Judd Apatow

Running time: 133mins


The 'next Twilight' does enough

to keep its target audience happy

THE quest to be the next Twilight continues apace with this surprisingly intelligent but ultimately doomed teen fantasy that uses witches as its supernatural vehicle of choice.

It starts, like most high school dramas, with clever student Ethan (Alden Ehrenreich) standing out among his class of standard issue clichés, until newcomer Lena (Alice Englert), a member of the mysterious, much-gossiped-about Duchannes family, shakes things up and the two start to fall for each other.

But the Duchannes are witches, with Lena's uncle (Jeremy Irons) doing his best to keep Ethan away until she turns into either a good or bad witch on her 16th birthday, part of a mythology that can be rewarding but is often hokey and confused.

The Deep South setting is atmospheric, though the special effects aren't great, as it seesaws between a smart and edgy first half and a badly underwritten second, with a weak finale that comes close to derailing the whole thing.

But what has come before, though there's far too much of it, is sufficiently romantic and angsty to keep the target audience ticking over.


Richard LaGravenese

Running time: 124 mins


Has no business in the cinema

THE worst crime wrought by this grubby, Belgian-made animated sequel is the constant way it calls to mind that it's not Finding Nemo, no matter how badly it wants to be.

Extremely underpowered underwater adventures ensue as turtle Sammy and his pal, caught by fishermen, find themselves trapped in a Dubai aquarium, while their newly-hatched grandchildren face the dangers of the open water.

The design is brown and ugly, the voices lifeless to match the facial animation, and amid a barrage of misguided messages, the worst seems to be that only evil fish eat other sea creatures, and that there's something wrong with humans who eat crustaceans.

If you have a three-year-old who needs distracted for 90 minutes, it will still barely past muster on DVD, and has no business whatsoever on cinema screens.

Directors: Vincent Kesteloot, Ben Stassen

Running time: 92mins


BERNIE **** (12A, 104 mins)

Jack Black may have found his perfect role in this delightful and offbeat comedy drama, in which he gets to sing and dance as well as act, playing small town mortician Bernie, who is accused of murdering Shirley MacLaine's spiteful widow. Full of warm humour, eccentric characters and blessed with a well-judged mock-documentary structure, this is a treat from indie darling Richard Linklater.

:: Cineworld, Friday 15th, 15.45; Saturday 16th, 20.45

WE ARE NORTHERN LIGHTS **** (12A, 94 mins)

Members of the public were asked to film their concept of life in Scotland, and pointed their cameras into most every corner of society and culture, in a brilliantly edited collage that's infinitely more rewarding than the idea suggests. In moments that are daft and deep, funny and touching, these homegrown movie-makers have distilled the very essence of Scotland and bottled it, and the result is very special indeed. Unmissable.

:: GFT, Saturday 16th, 15.15

ARBITRAGE **** (15, 107 mins)

Working as both a polished thriller and a savage indictment of the abuse of power of the rich and privileged, this riveting drama stars Richard Gere as a business mogul trying to juggle financial meltdown and a police investigation. It's topical, multi-layered and gripping, and Gere has quite simply never been better.

l GFT Monday 18th, 18.15; Tuesday 19th, 13.30

GOOD VIBRATIONS *** (15, 103 mins)

The true story of how record shop owner Terri Hooley bridged the religious divide in 1970s Belfast and helped launch the careers of several punk greats is brought to the screen in charming, easy-going style. It's not the most dynamic or surprising movie in the world, but Richard Dormer is wonderful as Hooley and the power of the music remains undimmed.

:: Cineworld, Monday 18th, 21.15; Tuesday 19th, 13.30

BROKEN **** (15, 90 mins)

Newcomer Eloise Laurence delivers a performance of exquisite depth and naturalism as a young girl living with her father (Tim Roth) next to some – to say the least – interesting neighbours in an expertly constructed coming-of-age tale. Offering scenes both tender and brutal, this a rare gem of British cinema in which the fractured time-frame allows for moments of heart-stopping drama.

:: GFT, Tuesday 19th, 20.45; Wednesday 20th, 13.30

THE THIEVES **** (15, 135 mins)

From Korea, this action caper is a bold attempt to marry the glitz of an Ocean's Eleven-style heist with the dizzying stunts of a Mission: Impossible. It makes a fairly successful stab at it, and even though loaded with a few too many characters, each with a surfeit of backstory, and more double-crosses than you can imagine, it's consistently deft and slick.

:: Cineworld, Wednesday 20th, 13.30; Thursday 21st, 18.00