Robots, apes and...er...postmen take over our cinema screens
Time Out staff
Tammy Director: Ben Falcone Stars: Melissa McCarthy, Susan Sarandon, Kathy Bates
Her day starts bad when she runs over a deer, and only gets worse as she loses her job and discovers her husband is cheating with a neighbour. Not that Tammy (Melissa McCarthy) has much of a dream life to begin with – as this tonally scattershot but still bracingly sour comedy is quick to point out. Bad luck runs in Tammy’s family, especially in her acidic grandma, Pearl (Susan Sarandon), who always has a drink at the ready to drown her sorrows and wash down her medicine. Tammy’s latest setback inspires the duo to take a road trip to Niagara Falls, though it isn’t long before the insults fly.
As is the case with many tart-tongued Hollywood comedies these days, sentiment lies in wait. Yet the life lessons are wedded to a much more idiosyncratic story than you might think. McCarthy’s star power – solidified by the foul-mouthed farces Bridesmaids (2011) and The Heat (2013) – have earned her carte blanche to do as she wishes with this passion project, which she and husband-director Ben Falcone nurtured over several years, co-writing the script together.
They have little feel for the technical side of filmmaking. The imagery is flat and the editing amateurish. Nonetheless, McCarthy and Falcone’s attempts to make Tammy more flesh-and-blood than a figure of fun are often poignant, as in a scene in which our heroine gets a tough talking-to from guest star Kathy Bates. For all its failings and flailings, there’s plenty to admire in this oddball star vehicle. Keith Uhlich
Planes: Fire & Rescue Director: Roberts Gannaway Stars: Dane Cook, Ed Harris, Julie Bowen
Displaying a weird lack of memorable or endearing characters, this animated effort feels more like a direct-to-video job from the 1990s than a fully-fledged John Lasseter-exec-produced theatrical release. After Frozen, it’s a huge step back for Disney, both in terms of simply telling an engaging story for kids, and its underlying social messages. The first three female characters with dialogue are a killjoy mechanic who informs hero Dusty (Dane Cook) that he can’t race anymore for health reasons, a waitress with a single line, and a pink sports car who’s hit on by – groan – a pickup truck.
The boys don’t fare much better: the main story arc is about an antiquated model of plane struggling to cope with obsolescence in his chosen job market. It’s difficult to imagine how this parable of middle age will resonate with eight-year-olds. Of course, you could say the same of something like Pixar’s grumpy-old-man odyssey Up, but that was a triumph of characterisation and charm over a bare-bones narrative. Sadly, the closest this lacklustre outing comes to wittiness is making forced puns about how Dusty ‘kicked Aston Martin’. The rockin’ MOR soundtrack also deserves special mention for Nickelback-esque services to dreariness. Catherine Bray
Transformers: Age of Extinction Director: Michael Bay Stars: Mark Wahlberg, Nicola Peltz, Jack Reynor
Michael Bay, a filmmaker whose style is better known than that of any other working artist on the planet, tried to make a real movie in 2013: the underrated Pain & Gain, a Miami crime comedy with actual performances and a satirical bite. He got mocked for it. So it feels like Bay has returned to his normal beat – big robots, and explosions. The problem (or maybe it’s a virtue) with an uninhibited Michael Bay and Transformers: Age of Extinction, the fourth in the series, is that, despite deadening our senses with spectacle, it’s impossible for a director this committed to visual fireworks not to pull off a megablast once in a while. The action is cut cleaner here than in any other picture Bay’s done. And as his king Autobot, Optimus Prime whirls down highways in a blaze of metal or sends puny humans tumbling through the air only to be caught at the last second, Bay is often coming up with genius shots, perhaps at the expense of logic.
We could tell you a bunch of boring plot stuff, about how Shia LaBeouf is gone, making way for Mark Wahlberg’s struggling Texas inventor, Cade Yeager, a widower with a teenage daughter (Nicola Peltz). Or about how the evil CEO of an Apple-like tech giant (Stanley Tucci) has plans to make his own robots. Or that most of the destruction takes place in China, a country with a financial stake in the movie. But what matters to Bay are fluttering American flags, sentimental sunsets and actors rappelling across the Chicago skyline as mechanical dogs chase them. Joshua Rothkopf
Dawn of the Planet of the Apes Director: Matt Reeves Stars: Gary Oldman, Keri Russell, Andy Serkis
Let’s face it, high-minded ideas are all very well, but can they compete with a chimp on horseback firing an Uzi?
2010’s Rise of the Planet of the Apes was as smart as modern sci-fi gets, ditching the 1960s-born franchise’s gritty dystopian roots for a slick, high-minded story of scientific over ambition (with a few explosions chucked in for good measure). This first sequel, however, plunges us straight into the post-apocalyptic pressure cooker, a world of burgeoning ape civilisation and fading human dominance, as the survivors of a devastating epidemic huddle in the ruins of old San Francisco. It may lack its predecessor’s lofty ambitions, but once the bullets, spears and hairy fists start flying you’ll be too wrapped up to care.
Among the apes, the heroic Caesar (Andy Serkis) has retained clan control, leading his simian family through a decade of growth and prosperity. But for the humans it’s a whole different story, as desperate leaders Malcolm (Jason Clarke) and Dreyfus (Gary Oldman) debate different strategies for dealing both with an impending power shortage and the encroaching threat of the apes.
The effects are nothing short of jaw dropping: rarely has CGI been employed with such dexterity and depth. Caesar and his followers are complete characters, rendered flawlessly down to each wrinkle and back hair. Cloverfield director Matt Reeves marshals his action sequences superbly – a ferocious central battle is a triumph. Tom Huddleston
Step Up All In Director: Trish Sie Stars: Alyson Stoner, Briana Evigan, Ryan Guzman
Eight years after the original, All In is the fifth incarnation of the Step Up franchise. Model-turned-actor Ryan Guzman picks up where he left off in Step Up Revolution as Sean Asa, once again starring opposite Briana Evigan who reignites her role as Andie West. Against a backdrop of the glitz and glamour of Las Vegas, All In sees the embattled crew head to a national competition in the pursuit of their dreams in the face of adversity. Sound familiar? If we’ve learned anything at all from the first four in the Step Up series it’s that there’s likely to be plenty of romantic tension and concentrated dance faces. Time Out staff
Postman Pat: The Movie Director: Mike Disa Stars: Jim Broadbent, Jane Carr, Robin Atkin Downes
Finally, the movie we’ve all been waiting for. Well, not exactly. But while the thought of a feature-length story about that friendly neighbourhood postie and his black and white cat doesn’t exactly get us excited, it doesn’t sound like a chore either – one for the toddlers, a nice bit of old-school animated whimsy. The appearance of Jim Broadbent, Rupert Grint and Stephen Mangan in voice roles gives us hope that there may even be enough of a plot here for a few of the parents too. Time Out staff
The Purge: Anarchy Director: James DeMonaco Stars: Frank Grillo, Carmen Ejogo, Zach Gilford
Here’s a sequel to last summer’s satirical home invasion horror The Purge. That was set in 2222, where America has wiped out crime and anti-social behaviour with Purge Night – for 12 hours once a year all crime is legal and hospitals and police stations are shut down. This time we’re back in LA where a husband and wife (candidates for America’s thickest couple) run out of petrol as they drive home just as the Purge is about to start. The original was a gimmicky, uninspired film wrapped around one good idea, with not a huge amount to say about violence. Here’s hoping the filmmakers have put their thinking caps on since. Time Out staff