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Friday 15 December 2017

Webb spins old yarn

Hollywood's penchant for cannibalising and reviving successful properties continues unabated.

In a couple of months' time, a rebooted Total Recall will arrive, while there's also a new Superman in the works and a remake of Carrie, to name three.

However, The Amazing Spider-Man is surely taking recycling to cynical new levels, given that it's effectively a remake of Spider-Man, the Sam Raimi take on the Marvel superhero which appeared back in the mists of time all of, oh, 10 years ago. Just what is the point?

In fairness to (500) Days of Summer director Marc Webb, he does a decent job, with ridiculously familiar material.

He's helped by the fact that in Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone, as Peter Parker and Gwen Stacy, he has better actors to work with than Sam Raimi did with Tobey Maguire and Kirsten Dunst, while Rhys Ifans makes for a more nuanced villain than Willem Dafoe.

Other than that, it's treading over old ground as the orphaned Peter Parker is bitten by a mutant spider, discovers he's developed superpowers and tries to control them before setting out to fight crime.

There's a slightly darker motivation driving Parker in the first half of the film before the whole thing turns, as you knew it would, into a CGI stand-off between Spidey and his enemy which offers no real tension or excitement at all.

Naturally, it's in headache-inducing 3D and at the rate things are going you should probably expect a remake around 2018, by which stage Hollywood may have hit upon another gimmicky delivery system by which to earn new money flogging old rope.

Rating: HHHII

KILLER JOE Drama. Starring Matthew McConaughy, Emile Hirsch, Juno Temple, Thomas Haden Church, Gina Gershon. Directed by William Friedkin. Cert 16

As cinema fans know, plotting to have people murdered for the insurance money never really turns out too well and that's certainly the case in this tense trailer- trash thriller from William Friedkin, a long way from the heights of The French Connection and The Exorcist, but still displaying decent form.

When Chris (Emile Hirsch) finds his life threatened by a local gangster he hatches a scheme with his none-too-bright father Ansell (Thomas Haden Church) to kill the latter's ex-wife for the $50,000 policy money they believe is due to Ansell's young daughter Dottie (Juno Temple).

Enter corrupt detective Joe Cooper (Matthew McConaughy), a sinister and disturbingly mannerly man who happens to moonlight as a hitman. He agrees to take on the job but insists on Dottie being part of the deal as 'collateral', whereupon the film goes into some very dark territory.

Killer Joe is a powerful and at times emotionally brutal film featuring great performances all round.

The odds on you fancying a KFC after are pretty low. Rating: HHHHI

ICE AGE 4: CONTINENTAL DRIFT Animation. Starring the voices of Denis Leary, John Leguziamo, Ray Romano, Queen Latifah, Jennifer Lopez. Directed by Carlos Saldanha. Cert General

The return of the woolly mammoths, sabre-toothed tiger and sloth from the first three Ice Age films makes for undemanding but perfectly fine entertainment as the forming of the continents splits mammoth Manny from his wife Ellie and he and his companions have to find a way home.

Along the way there are monkey pirates, villainous rabbits and plucky, Braveheart-like chipmunks, all of which will make for 90 minutes relief for parents of small children on a wet day. Not that there are too many wet days this year, thank God. Rating: HHHII

CLOCLO Biopic. Starring Jeremie Renier, Benoit Magimei. Directed by Florent-Emilio Sani. Cert Club

The death of French pop legend Claude Francois in 1978 led to scenes of mass hysteria in his native country, although here he's probably best known among pop aficionados as the co-writer of the song which went on to become My Way. In what's very much a traditional music biopic, Jeremie Renier gives a good account of himself as the film charts the trials and tribulations of Francois' life, from the early days to superstardom.

If you've an aversion to cheesy French pop from the sixties and seventies you might want to be careful, though. Rating: HHHII

ALSO RELEASED THIS WEEK ...

Dark Horse (Cert Club, HHIII) is more misanthropy from Todd Solondz as characters with few redeeming human traits flutter about in search of a decent story.

On the other hand, there's just way too much humanity and downright Godfearin' goodness in Joyful Noise (Cert PG, HHIII) in which Queen Latifah and Dolly Parton battle for the soul of a Georgia Gospel choir as they try to win the national choir contest.

Friends With Kids and Lovely Molly opened without press screenings.

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