Out on Friday 26 August
Jonah Hill and Miles Teller get their guns out. Andy Samberg gets ready to mock.
Yes, here's this week's new releases. Click on for our reviews of War Dogs, Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping, Julieta, The Purge: Election Year, Bad Moms, Kids in Love, Cell, Ambulance, Gary Numan: Android in La La Land, and Mechanic: Resurrection.
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Todd Phillips’s first film since The Hangover Part III marks something of a departure from his blokey comedy wheelhouse (Old School, Starsky & Hutch). But it still feels familiar, thanks to its close adherence to the rise-fall arc that defines the young-man-involved-in-seemingly-glamorous-crime drama.
Taking its cue from Guy Lawson’s non-fiction Rolling Stone article ‘Arms and the Dudes’, War Dogs sees David Packouz (Miles Teller) ditching his day job after catching up with school friend Efraim Diveroli (Jonah Hill), an aspiring arms dealer procuring multi-million-dollar government contracts.
You don’t need a crystal ball to see they’ll soon be in over their heads. The chemistry between the pair is spot-on, and Hill brings a welcome unpredictability as amoral Scarface fan Diveroli. Bradley Cooper, meanwhile, has wolfish fun as the unsavoury type they form an alliance with.
It’s never boring, particularly once Efraim and David venture onto the front line – one standout set-piece striking just the right funny/tense balance – but stock stylistic tics (such as the film starting with a third-act flashforward, plus frequent freeze-frames while the voiceover continues) feel tired, and add to the inescapable feeling that you’ve seen it all before.
THE VERDICT: Jonah Hill delivers another strong performance in a fun but throwaway crime dramedy that has few surprises.
Director: Todd Phillips; Starring: Jonah Hill, Miles Teller; Theatrical release: August 26, 2016
POPSTAR: NEVER STOP NEVER STOPPING
That title sounds familiar, doesn’t it? Never Stop Never Stopping is exactly the kind of meaningless subtitle you expect from a tween-oriented pop-concert movie, and it’s one of the many things this Judd Apatow-produced mockumentary gets right.
Clearly inspired by Justin Bieber’s meltdowns, Kid Conner (Andy Samberg) is a teen idol whose douchey attitude is threatening to torpedo his solo career. Having left his boyband mates behind, Conner is surrounded by yes people who co-sign his terrible music, which makes for some wildly offensive singles. The script is full of laugh-out-loud jabs at A-list self-delusion while Conner’s excesses are punctuated by a TMZ-esque gaggle of reporters led by Will Arnett.
Though written by people who understand this world, NSNS doesn’t skewer celebrity narcissism so much as poke gently at it. The characters are broad caricatures, but sharp writing makes this an enjoyably absurd parody.
THE VERDICT: Almost too sweet-natured to be satire, this entertaining mockumentary benefits from the snappy running time.
Directors: Akiva Schaffer, Jorma Taccone; Starring: Andy Samberg, Jorma Taccone; Theatrical release: August 26, 2016
Spanish auteur Pedro Almodóvar here draws from three interrelated stories by Alice Munro to offer an absorbing mystery/thriller about a woman (Emma Suárez) who discovers her long-lost daughter is most alive. Sliding between past and present, Almodóvar drip-feeds revelations to hook viewers while crafting an affecting study of lost, grief and guilt. And the actresses, as ever in a Pedro joint, are terrific.
Director: Pedro Almodóvar; Starring: Emma Suarez, Adriana Ugarte, Rossy De Palma, Daniel Grao, Inma Cuesta; Theatrical release: August 26, 2016
THE PURGE: ELECTION YEAR
The twist in the third entry in the murder-holiday franchise is that it pits warring pro- and anti-Purge presidential candidates against each other, in a sort of reflection of the 2016 race to the White House. It’s an allegory painted in broad strokes, but several set-pieces are nail-biters, and more than once it captures the insanity of election campaigns with stark clarity.
Director: James DeMonaco; Starring: Frank Grillo, Elizabeth Mitchell, Edwin Hodge, Betty Gabriel, JJ Soria, Mykelti Williamson; Theatrical release: August 26, 2016
Mila Kunis, Kristen Bell and Kathryn Hahn play fed-up suburban mums who decide to live a little. Bad Moms comes from the writers of The Hangover, so naturally involves lots of boozing, swearing, puking and fighting. But since it’s about mums, there’s also shopping and babies. It’d be a complete eye-roller if not for the ferocious Hahn ripping through the thin script like a comedic atom bomb.
Directors: Jon Lucas, Scott Moore; Starring: Mila Kunis, Kristen Bell, Kathryn Hahn, Jay Hernandez, Annie Mumolo, Jada Pinkett Smith, Christina Applegate; Theatrical release: August 26, 2016
KIDS IN LOVE
Debut director Chris Foggin’s tale of adolescent amour stars Will Poulter as Jack, a suburban lad who falls for the enigmatic Evelyn (Alma Jodorowsky), abandoning friends and further education in the process. Cara Delevingne features, as does the Notting Hill Carnival and an ill-judged pimping subplot. Messy for sure, and the boho backdrop will alienate/irritate, but Foggin adeptly captures the flush of first love.
Director: Chris Foggin; Starring: Will Poulter, Cara Delevingne, Alma Jodorowsky; Theatrical release: August 26, 2016
It’s a 1408 reunion as John Cusack and Samuel L. Jackson re-team for another Stephen King story, about an electro-pulse that turns mobile users into zombies. Luckily Cusack’s artist had a dead battery; now he must reach his family with help from the world’s coolest subway driver. The opening is a hoot and the closer would make George A. Romero quake, but much in between is as flat as Cusack’s battery.
Director: Tod Williams; Starring: Samuel L. Jackson, John Cusack, Isabelle Fuhrma; Theatrical release: August 26, 2016
Two summers ago, Gaza City was subjected to a 51-day shelling assault by Israeli forces. Without telling his family, 23-year-old Mohamed Jabaly attached himself to an ambulance crew with his camera. What he shot vividly conveys the anger, grief and resilience of people trapped in a situation over which they have no control – and the dedication (and humour) of the ambulance crew.
Director: Mohamed Jabaly; Theatrical release: August 26, 2016
GARY NUMAN: ANDROID IN LA LA LAND
This study of the ’80s electro-pop innovator is a tale of family life on the fame/failure cusp. Numan seems to take himself seriously, but closer views reveal self-deprecation. His saviours are wife Gemma and the daughters they thought they’d never have. Numan emerges as an unlikely star from his guide to a rock life, and more likeable for it.
Directors: Steve Read, Rob Alexander; Starring: Gary Numan; Theatrical release: August 26, 2016
Five years on from Simon West’s The Mechanic, Jason Statham’s MacGyver-like assassin Arthur Bishop is back for this globe-trotting Dennis Gansel-directed sequel. When an old frenemy (Sam Hazledine) kidnaps Bishop’s new love (Jessica Alba), he’s forced to pull off three near-impossible hits – taking down warlords, human traffickers and arms dealers – to save her.
Tommy Lee Jones crops up, complete with flower-power outfit and Dr. Evil-like lair. But largely Mechanic: Resurrection is a functional action-fest, enlivened by one or two outlandish set-pieces, including a very novel way to drain a swimming pool. Enjoyable enough but no more, please.
Director: Dennis Gansel; Starring: Jason Statham, Jessica Alba, Tommy Lee Jones, Michelle Yeoh; Theatrical release: August 26, 2016