Movies to watch this week at the cinema: Vacation, Paper Towns, more...

Out on Friday 21 August

Ed Helms takes a familiar vacation route. A doc about a different type of childhood obsession over cinema. Cara Delevingne runs away can Nat Wolff find her? Yes, heres this weeks new releases. Click on for our reviews of Vacation, The Wolfpack, Sinister 2, Paper Towns, The Dance Of Reality, The Bad Education Movie, Escobar: Paradise Lost, Good People, Gemma Bovery, Strange Magic, The Treatment, Looking For Love, Pressure and The Forgotten Kingdom. For the best movie reviews, subscribe to Total Film.

VACATION

Ive never even heard of the original vacation, says the nonplussed teenage son of Rusty Griswold (Ed Helms) early on in this reboot of a 32-year-old cult classic. Doesnt matter, replies his father, the new vacation will stand on its own. So important is this mission statement from writer/directors John Francis Daley and Jonathan M. Goldstein (who also penned Horrible Bosses and The Incredible Burt Wonderstone) that its front and centre of the trailer and has been reiterated repeatedly by the cast in pre-release promos. Were not ruining a family favourite, OK? But we also know several generations are oblivious to Chevy Chases original road-trip meltdown. And perhaps more importantly, the line between cheeky update and knowing reverence for source material has already been walked expertly, and profitably, by the Jump Street movies. So, no excuse to balls it up, Griswold-style Thankfully, they dont. A belated continuation of the original (that ignores the subsequent sequels), the new Vacation reveals Rusty has become an emasculated suburban family man one who now views his ill-fated childhood car journey to themepark Walley World through the rose-tinted glasses of nostalgia. Maybe a repeat of that family holiday and a bonding road trip is what he needs to establish his authority over a work bully (Ron Livingston), instil respect in his squabbling, back-chatting sons and re-ignite the passion in his marriage to long-suffering Debbie (Christina Applegate). But like his father before him, Rusty is a sweet fool and the 2,500-mile drive from home in Chicago to the Velociraptor Ride on the west coast will be littered with the same misunderstandings, temptations, gross-out humiliations and redneck abuses of trust all played out in different US states along the way. And so, starting with Lindsay Buckinghams earworm theme tune, Holiday Road, set against a title sequence of Americana tourist-destination snapshots, the nods to 1983 unfurl. The crummy estate car, the police hold-up, the saucy minx in the Ferrari, the near-death crash after napping at the wheel, cack-handed motel-pool flirting, the visit to the awful relations, the tip of the hat to the dog killer moment Kids of the 80s who grew up watching the original on a worn-out VHS during summer holidays will feel postmodern warm-fuzzies, but Vacation virgins shouldnt feel left out. Taking a leaf from Jump Streets book, Vacation modernises its yuks to play as both meta and fresh, with one eye keenly on 2015 expectations of comedy. So that title sequence may be familiar, but now its a Buzzfeed of actual awkward family photos (that are guffaw-inducing by themselves). The car Rusty hires for their trip the crappy Toyota of Albania is a high-tech death-trap, whose glitches provide many of the set-pieces (the non-slam sensor being a particular physical comedy highlight). Theres a dodgy borderline-racist sat-nav joke, a family singalong ripped straight from Were The Millers and Charlie Day turns up to be trademark manic and screamy. And in the wake of recent monster-hit R-rated comedies, the gags are now less innocent theyre darker, dirtier, saucier and more gross-out. To wit: the Griswolds take an unsuspecting dip in raw sewage, Chris Hemsworth (as peacocking Uncle Stone) flaunts a monstrous fake dick that gets a segment of its own, theres a dogging joke, a giggle about all truckers being rapists and an animal is accidentally killed in scene thats literally gut-busting. In many ways, the Griswolds chaotic odyssey could be any spiralling-out-of-control road-trip comedy. But what keeps it tied to its predecessor is a charming lack of spite and a focus on clan dynamics that will be recognised by anyone who has ever been on a family holiday. Those endless car hours, naff destinations that Dad thinks are awesome, the delight when parents embarrass themselves on booze and that deep familial bond that means youll jump into a brawl if anyone else takes the piss out of one of yours. What Vacation may lack in true originality it makes up for in heart most of which is thanks to performance (direction is perfunctory). Helms is delightfully misguided, trading further on his doofus Office turn. Whats more, his comic timing with a feisty Applegate makes for some cracking moments that dont rely on balls of pubic hair for punchlines (a gross-out dirty bathroom scene feels misplaced). Their on-screen kids are also spot-on (particularly Steele Stebbins as a potty-mouthed wise-ass with a penchant for suffocation) and Hemsworth is a goofy revelation as a preening conservative sex god, despite a wobbly Southern accent. And in a brief but bonkers cameo, Chevy Chase does more with an air freshener and a guitar in a cabinet than any script could come up with. A shame then like most comedies that the biggest laughs are all in that trailer THE VERDICT: Sweet, self-aware and silly, the new Vacation doesnt destroy memories or alienate newcomers but neither does it break the mould. Directors: Jonathan M. Goldstein, John Francis Daly Starring: Ed Helms, Christina Applegate, Chris Hemsworth, Charlie Day, Ron Livingston Theatrical release: 21 August 2015 Jane Crowther

THE WOLFPACK

They fuck you up, your mum and Dad wrote poet Philip Larkin. But its the lesser-known second line, They may not mean to, but they do that hangs heaviest over Crystal Moselles extraordinary documentary. Whichever way you cut it, this is a film about child abuse, even if its abuse that stems from concerned mis-parenting rather than cruelty. The six Angulo brothers and their one, silent sister grew up in a Lower East Side NYC apartment they were forbidden from leaving by their delusional father and damaged mother. Moselle met the brothers who dress and look the same, like a cult of South American Tarantino super-fans during one of their rare outings, and was granted hard-to-fathom levels of access to their lives. Our entry point is the brothers hobby: re-enacting favourite films such as Reservoir Dogs so perfectly you get the sense they arent playing so much as escaping ironic given what becomes of the Dogs (spoilers). One brother (theyre very hard to tell apart) copies out every word of Pulp Fiction for their next show: It makes me feel like Im living, sort of, because its magical, a bit... he falters. Its a striking, if gimmicky, introduction to the brothers cloistered world, and a lot of the runtime is spent waiting for Dad or Mum to explain themselves, or at least add some ballast to the films sense of shifting unease and unspoken sadness. This never really happens, so instead were left with intriguing questions rather than easy answers. We were frightened kids, thats one of the first memories I had, says one brother. What hes not telling us, you suspect, could fill volumes. Moselle does manage to show the odd burst of sunlight, such as when the brothers take their first trip to the cinema to see The Fighter, inspiring one to shout: I play that guy in The Dark Knight! or an afternoon in the park, which they decide looks like 3D. But despite the faintest of narrative progressions intended to emphasise the healing power of art and the strength of the human spirit, the majority of the film embodies some strange, nameless sinking feeling. We always saw a bad thing, like its not gonna end very well, begins one brother. But we couldnt do anything about it. What you wont realise until the credits roll is that whatever it is its probably already happened. THE VERDICT: A once-in-a-lifetime subject, sensitively brought to the screen, the Angulos story makes the strange seem ordinary and the ordinary, insane. Director: Crystal Moselle Starring: Bhagavan Angulo, Govinda Angulo, Jagadisa Angulo, Krsna Angulo Theatrical release: 21 August 2015 Matt Glasby

SINISTER 2

The original Sinister may have relied on cheap genre conventions for scares, but still offered something of a novel take on the found footage format. Directed by Ciaran Foy (the original's Scott Derrickson produces/co-writes), with James Ransone the only returning cast member, this sequel uses similar by-numbers fright tactics, but lacks the freshness factor. At least there's some attempt to tweak the first one's premise: again there's a haunted house with mysterious snuff films in the attic, but this time it's the kids (Robert Daniel Sloan, Dartanian Sloan) rather than the parent (Shannyn Sossamon) who become obsessed by watching them, allowing Foy to float the theme of trauma suffered by children exposed to disturbing content. But nothing much comes of this idea, so we end up with a tired re-run of the first film. The demon and the creepy kids are more naff than scary; the only really sinister thing here is the cynicism behind such unashamed recycling. Director: Ciaran Foy Starring: Shannyn Sossamon, James Ransone Theatrical release: 21 August 2015 Stephen Puddicombe

PAPER TOWNS

John Hughes ghost looms large over the latest teen drama to be based on a John Green book, its story of a nerdy youth obsessed by an unattainable beauty ticking many of the same boxes as Some Kind Of Wonderful. If the latter words too strong to describe Jake Schreiers (Robot & Frank) film, that wont prevent it entrancing the same audience who lapped up (The Fault In Our Stars, last years Green adap. With that films Nat Wolff promoted to lead, Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber again on scripting duties and Ansel Elgort contributing a cameo, you might expect Paper Towns to follow a similarly mawkish trajectory. Surprising, then, to discover instead an intriguing mash-up that starts as a romance, gear-changes into mystery before taking an abrupt detour into road movie. The catalyst throughout is Margo Roth Spiegelman (Cara Delevingne), a glamorous free spirit who has captivated Woolfs dorky Quentin since he was nine and who, having exhorted him to join her on a night of revengeful pranks, suddenly disappears. Convinced shes left behind clues pointing to her whereabouts, Q and his pals set out to find her a Scooby-Doo-style quest that gradually morphs into a paean to adolescent friendship, shot through with the same rueful melancholy that infused Stand By Me. The problem here is the ubiquitous Delevingne, who comes across as obnoxious and capricious in a role intended to be deliciously alluring. Itd be a tough part for a seasoned actress, but for someone so inexperienced its practically a millstone. Woolf, in contrast, deftly establishes himself as his generations Matthew Broderick with a likeable and soulful turn. THE VERDICT: A consistently watchable genre-hopper though given how many personnel it shares with The Fault In Our Stars, you cant help wishing theyd kept leading lady Shailene Woodley, too. Director: Jake Schreier Starring: Nat Wolff, Cara Delevingne, Halston Sage, Austin Abrams, Justice Smith, Jaz Sinclair Theatrical release: 17 August 2015 Mark Samuels

THE BAD EDUCATION MOVIE

Another sitcom leaps to the big screen, as history teacher Alfie Wickers (Jack Whitehall) and his unruly class K go on a school trip to Cornwall and get mixed up with the Cornish Liberation Army. Seizing the chance to be cheekier than on TV, the gags come straight from the Inbetweeners school of naughtiness (everything from Alfie eating an ancient foreskin to tea-bagging a swan). Whitehall gets all the embarrassment, not least zip-lining at the Eden Project with his tackle out, but Mathew Hornes hilarious headmaster (or President Barrack Obanter) nicks the best laughs. Fun but forgettable. Director: Elliot Hegarty Starring: Jack Whitehall, Matthew Horne Theatrical release: 21 August 2015 James Mottram

THE DANCE OF REALITY

Twenty-three years is a long time between films. Unless of course youre shaman-like director Alejandro Jodorowsky, for whom the concept of linear time is probably some kind of laughable bauble, and who surely cares not a fig for the keepy-uppy vulgarities of the movie business. Now in his 85th year, the legendary provocateur-extraordinaire returns with an intensely personal, darkly surreal and occasionally brutal coming-of-age drama, drawing on his own troubled boyhood in 1930s Chile. Shot in his coastal hometown of Tocopilla, a place torn to shreds by the sun, this is recognisably Jodorowsky country from the get-go: equal parts realist, symbolist and absurdist (dogs in kangaroo costumes and healing urine, anyone?), and occupied by a Fellini-esque cast of clowns, hookers, gurus, amputees and Nazis. And the benignly smiling director himself, gliding through the fourth wall like some snow-bearded guardian angel to comfort his younger iteration. Its art therapy, essentially: as evinced by the likes of his peyote-soaked Western, El Topo, and jaw-dropping Mexican-gothic horror Santa Sangre, the blokes clearly been beset by some rather fascinating issues. Mainly, this is an attempt to confront the memory of his monstrously abusive father as well as a mythologizing stab at redeeming him, through parable. Itll have Freudians in raptures: Jodorowskys real-life son Brontis effectively plays his own grandfather a cold, militant Stalinist, whose cruelty is offset by his kindly wife (Pamela Flores), eternally bursting out of her dress. And fortunately for us, it is she who teaches little Alejandro the value and uses of imagination. Embrace the illusion? You bet. THE VERDICT: The elusive icon of cult cinema proves theres life in the old dog yet with this bizarre yet surprisingly warm and moving meditation on youth, regret and redemption. Director: Alejandro Jodorowsky Starring: Brontis Jodorowsky, Pamela Flores, Jeremias Herskovitz, Alejandro Jodorowsky Theatrical release: 17 August 2015 Ali Catterall

ESCOBAR: PARADISE LOST

Its a brave filmmaker who tackles the story of Colombian drug lord Pablo Escobar, after Entourage hero Vincent Chases notorious disaster Medellin. Actor-turned-director Andrea Di Stefano makes a decent attempt, yet despite a compelling performance by Benicio Del Toro as the notorious kingpin, it falls short of capturing Escobars true complexity. In truth, Pablo isnt the focus of this fictional version of events. Instead, the hero is Canadian surfer Nick (Josh Hutcherson), whose idyllic lifestyle on the beach gets even better he thinks when he falls in love with local charity worker Maria (Claudia Traisac). The catch: Pablo is her uncle, and soon paradise seems a long way away. In its broadest details, this ticks the boxes surrounding Escobars duality: treated like a folk hero by Colombias poor and yet indiscriminately butchering opponents and bribing his way into power. Del Toro is well cast; his mercurial shifts between sentimental bonhomie and narrowed-eyed paranoia are suitably unsettling. Viewed at one remove, however, the character is shorn of specificity: just another gangster on the make. Comparison with a href="http://www.gamesradar.com/the-last-king-of-scotland-review/">The Last King Of Scotland the most obvious model here reveals how poorly integrated the history is with the fiction, and Del Toro never has the material to create a career-defining performance. That said, the fictional elements build up steam nicely, as Escobar enlists Nick in a mission to hide his ill-gotten gains while the drug lord heads to a pre-arranged (and real-life) prison holiday. The slow first half gives way to a well-staged, tense thriller full of betrayal and bloodshed. Hutcherson channels his a href="http://www.gamesradar.com/the-hunger-games-catching-fire-review/">Hunger Games persona as an uncomfortable killer and the film, finally, provides a memorably savage snapshot of what the Medellin cartel was capable of. Its just a shame that Escobar: Paradise Lost never quite escapes its central flaw: is it even vaguely plausible that Nick would be nave enough to get so close to such a worldfamous bogeyman? THE VERDICT: As a thriller, its exciting enough. Yet director Andrea Di Stefano all but ignores the opportunity to deliver a definitive, Carlos-style take on one of modern crimes central figures. Director: Andrea Di Stefano Starring: Josh Hutcherson, Benicio Del Toro, Brady Corbet, Claudia Traisac Theatrical release: 17 August 2015 Simon Kinnear

GOOD PEOPLE

The law-abiding folk of the title are Tom and Anna Wright (James Franco and Kate Hudson), an American couple living in debt in London having poured the entirety of their savings into renovating the formers late grandmas woodworm-ridden Notting Hill pile. School teacher Anna doesnt earn enough to cover costs while Tom plays at being Kevin McCloud and certainly doesnt bring home enough bacon to pay for the IVF she so desperately craves to get pregnant. So when their dodgy neighbour dies and they discover a handy 220,000 in cash (implausibly hidden in his ceiling tiles despite a prior police investigation), the Wrights decide to go a bit wrong and set about spending the ill-gotten loot. Clearly they have never seen Shallow Grave or indeed any London crime caper given their surprise when a local gangster/ sadist (Sam Spruell), a French drugs kingpin (Omar Sy) and a worn Met copper with a grudge (Tom Wilkinson) all come a-calling... Even if you didnt know that the source novel was based in Chicago (with action presumably moved to London for those handy tax breaks), Franco and Hudsons casting feels odd and inauthentic in a violent movie striving for urban-underbelly grit. Instead, musing on why either actor accepted the parts at all (particularly during a pointless Hudson bum flash) will detract from the intended tension of the Wrights quandary. And thats before you get to the morally dubious third reel where cold-blooded murder with DIY tools turns out to be entirely excusable, and strangely in a film ostensibly about consequences goes completely unchallenged. Hugely derivative, unconvincing and ethically wobbly, Good People is less than the sum of its parts a handsomely lensed but half-baked thriller that youd probably watch on a hangover or a sick day. THE VERDICT: A below-par Shallow Grave that turns violent Home Alone, via The Money Pit. Like Grandmas renovated house, this is a shonky, expensive mess thats full of holes. Director: Henrik Ruben Genz Starring: James Franco, Kate Hudson, Tom Wilkinson, Omar Sy, Sam Spruell Theatrical release: 21 August 2015 Jane Crowther

GEMMA BOVERY

Its easy to view Gemma Bovery as a companion piece to Tamara Drewe. Besides the fact both star Gemma Arterton in the title role, theyre also lifted from Posy Simmonds serialised cartoon adaptations of classic novels. Where the Stephen Frears-directed Tamara Drewe updated Far From The Madding Crowd with broad comic brushstrokes, Gemma Bovery is a more contemplative adaptation of Gustave Flauberts classic of European realism, Madame Bovary. Set in the present day, its a meta take on the source material. Baker Martin Joubert (In The Houses Fabrice Luchini) overzealously scrutinises his new neighbours, an English couple who have left London for a quiet Normandy village. His interest in Gemma and Charles Bovery (Jason Flemyng) is piqued by the uncanny resemblance their name bears to the principal characters in his favourite book, and he watches from the sidelines, occasionally interfering, as their lives start to reflect the plot of the novel. Initially charmed by provincial life, Gemma soon becomes listless, and a young law student (played by Pattinson-alike Niels Schneider) catches her eye. Arterton shines in the lead role, earning sympathy for a character that couldve easily been irritating. Flemyng also brings warmth to the cuckolded husband, and Luchini finds wry humour in slack-jawed obsession. Its only Mel Raido whose lack of naturalism jars, as Gemmas unlikely lothario ex-lover. Director Anne Fontaines cool direction adds class to the somewhat soapy set-up, and an air of sexual tension is generated without simply turning Arterton into a lust object (look out for some extremely sensual dough-kneading). Theres comfort in the cosy, bucolic setting, and while some of the emotional beats ring true, it ultimately feels a little trifling. The story is unlikely to resonate keenly for anyone who doesnt have at least a passing knowledge of Flauberts original novel, but if youre after a charming blockbuster antidote, theres plenty to savour here. THE VERDICT: A smart update of a classic novel with a winning performance from Arterton, Gemma Bovery is a minor pleasure, best enjoyed by literary buffs. Director: Anne Fontaine Starring: James Franco, Kate Hudson, Tom Wilkinson, Omar Sy, Sam Spruell Theatrical release: 21 August 2015 Matt Maytum

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