What's good this week at the movies?
Keira Knightley sings, Brendan O'Carroll dresses up, Hugo Weaving empathises and The Rock cooks up a strange comedic take on Hercules at Kiwi cinemas this weekend.
Begin Again (M, ★★★★)
Begin Again, much like writer/director John Carney's 2007 effort, Once, is going to polarise audiences. The grumps and the cynics will say it's a sappy load of old hoo-hah which only goes to prove that Carney is fatally afflicted with dewy-eyed romanticism and that his leading lady, Keira Knightley, has the acting chops and the intellectual gravitas of a concussed rabbit. But then there are those - and I like to include myself in this second group - of a sunnier disposition, who will see in Begin Again a simple, sweet natured and altogether agreeable romantic-musical drama. Light as a feather it may be, and relentlessly optimistic about the human animal, but Begin Again never quite strays into pure hokum, and not once does it fail to be a well made, economically written and charmingly performed film. GT
Healing (M, 119 mins, ★★1/2)
In this contemporary Australian prison drama, minimum security prisoners are offered redemption through the tending to and freeing of wounded game birds. Broken men find compassion; relationships with the outside world are restored (are you getting the metaphor?). It could be enough to make you cry. But while it's hard not to be cynical about the story's transparent message, it is the astute casting of an avuncular Hugo Weaving which ought to score Healing some sort of audience. Taking under his wing the enigmatic Viktor (Don Hany) whose 16-year sentence is drawing to a close, Weaving's caring case worker provides stability in a sea of supporting players who otherwise lend the film a TV movie sensibility. SW
Hercules (M, 98mins, **1/2)
Based on a 2008 graphic novel by former 2000AD and Marvel UK writer Steve Moore, this latest take on the fabled demigod is a surprisingly comedic trawl of action-movie tropes from the past two decades. More Sorbo than Schwarzenegger, a beefed-up Dwayne ''The Rock'' Johnson (The Scorpion King, Pain & Gain) cracks skulls and wise in equal measure as he delivers both inspiring speeches and general carnage with his usual amiable charisma. But like Paul W S Anderson's 2011 take on The Three Musketeers, it all feels just a bit too knockabout (perhaps not surprising given that director Brett Ratner is most famous for the Rush Hour trilogy), interested more in making sure the audience is showered with 3D detritus than keeping an eye on the growing amount of bathos. JC
Mrs Brown's Boys D'Movie (M, 95mins, ★★★1/2)
Personally, I haven't found a TV comedy series on New Zealand TV that I've really liked since Black Books finished, Mrs Brown's Boys included. So I didn't walk into D'Movie with any great expectations, but the Irish write comedy like the Kenyans run marathons, and you ignore them at your peril. Within 10 minutes I was grinning, and more than a few times I laughed out loud. Mrs Brown's Boys: D'Movie is affectionate, genuinely funny, well put together, and has enough flourish and flare about it to make it much more than just a 90-minute version of a 30 minute TV show. GT