It’s cute. It’s competent. It’s even occasionally clever. But with such a volume of animated material for kids hitting the screen over recent summers, Turbo doesn’t seem quite able to make its mark. Don’t get me wrong, this is a superior Dreamworks product, and it sports an outstanding voice cast that includes Samuel L. Jackson, Paul Giamatti, Snoop Dogg and Michael Pena, who work well together and go a considerable way to saving a story about a snail called Turbo, whose dreams of participating in the Indy 500 motor race become a real possibility after a freak accident that gives him an amazing turn of speed. It’s life in the fast lane for Turbo, but unfortunately the scriptwriters can’t keep up, the film sags a little in the middle and all the cute inspirational stuff quickly becomes a little cloying.
Critics are polarized: Variety calls it “a sensationally entertaining old-school freakout and one of the smartest, most viscerally effective thrillers,” while The Wall Street Journal’s Joe Morgenstern sees nothing more than “amped-up echoes of old ideas.” The Conjuring contains numerous echoes of The Exorcist and the The Amityville Horror, and the sense of nostalgia for these classics may prevent this horror flick from cutting its own groove. On its own terms, the filmmaking is more than competent, with solid acting and some clever play with the conceit that it is all based on a true story.
After the Men in Black franchise ran its course, Hollywood had to come up with something else to cash in on the alien comedy conceit. That something is R.I.P.D., complete with its mismatched cop buddies, but this time both these cops are dead, working for the Rest in Peace Department, searching out bad guys among the undead. Headlining are Jeff Bridges and Ryan Reynolds, who both deserve better than this second-rate, second-hand material. There are some good action sequences, but the tired format fails to provide context to make them gripping. The concept, for what it’s worth, seems ideal for humor, but director Robert Schwentke takes everything dead seriously and the film never comes to life.
The Dream Team (Les seigneurs)
Big-budget French soccer comedy that is unlikely to break out of the Francophone sphere despite the presence of some well-known comic talent including Omar Sy (Intouchables), Gad Elmaleh (Midnight in Paris) and Ramzy (Porn in the Hood).The plot hinges on a washed-up, binge-drinking soccer champ, Orbera (Jose Garcia), who, in order to maintain custody of his daughter, is sentenced to coach a fledgling team on the tiny Breton island of Molene. To help the team win, he brings together a bunch of has-beens who all now face their own slew of problems. The group is little more than a bunch of comic cut-outs and director Olivier Dahan, who directed La vie en rose, one of the best musical biopics ever, fails to find any inspiration and works by numbers. With The Dream Team, the numbers simply do not add up.
Take the A Train
The last film by Japanese director Yoshimitsu Morita, who came to prominence in the 1980s with films like The Family Game, a black comedy that took a clear-eyed view of Japanese middle-class family life. Take the A Train couldn’t be more different from this earlier material, as he follows two young men infatuated by trains, but who inevitably have to balance this hobby with the needs of their jobs and romantic involvement as well. Kenichi Matsuyama and Eita play simple-souled train buffs who find uncomplicated pleasure in each other’s company, and their chemistry is the primary force that carries the film through a shambolic plot line that never really seems to be going anywhere.