Starring: Paul Rudd, Leslie Mann, Megan Fox, Chris O’Dowd
Director: Judd Apatow (CERT 15, 133 minutes)
The plot: In this Knocked Up spin-off, indie record label manager Pete (Rudd) is facing his 40th birthday with rather more equanimity than his fashion-store owner wife Debbie (Mann) is dealing with her own. Both have work-related financial problems and not-so-secret vices (his: cupcakes; hers: cigarettes), and parenting their two daughters (Maude and Iris Apatow, the real-life offspring of director Judd Apatow and Mann) is proving no picnic. The comedic challenges of modern life, in other words.
What’s right with it? Hollywood screenwriters know all the easy tricks to make characters sympathetic to audiences, but Apatow dares to be different, presenting real people whose real flaws can’t easily be tied up in pink ribbon. He also has a knack for the hilarious one-liner, and is happy to let improv wizards such as Melissa McCarthy – playing the mother of a little boy who has been foully reprimanded by Debbie – go off the deep end. The support cast, including Megan Fox and Chris O’Dowd as employees of Debbie and Pete, is top-notch.
What’s wrong with it? Apatow is now Hollywood’s top comedy producer, and there’s no one powerful enough to force him to make tough editing choices. A little of stroppy adolescent Sadie (Maude Apatow) goes a long way, and with storylines also for Pete and Debbie’s dads (Albert Brooks and John Lithgow), there’s a lot to cram in.
Verdict: Not as consistently funny nor as relatable as Knocked Up, This Is 40 functions more as confirmation of Apatow’s talents than a wholly satisfying ride for the audience. But it’s still fresher than most Hollywood comedies. 4/5 Charles Gant
Starring: Alice Englert, Alden Ehrenreich, Emma Thompson
Director: Richard LaGravenese (CERT 12A, 124 minutes)
The plot: US high schooler Ethan Wate (pretty boy Ehrenreich) wakes up from a dream about a girl, who turns up as a new pupil that very day. Lena (Englert) is a Caster, a type of witch who will be claimed by either the light or dark side on her upcoming 16th birthday. In trying to keep Lena from the dark side, Ethan discovers his amazing connection to her.
What’s right with it? It’s beautifully shot, highly stylised, and certainly makes the most of its stunning Louisiana locations and attractive cast.
What’s wrong with it? Based on a hugely successful young adult novel, Beautiful Creatures has lost plenty in translation to the big screen. Plot holes abound.
Verdict: Not quite the Twilight successor you may have been hoping for. 3/5 Joanna Simons
Starring: Bruce Willis, Jai Courtney
Director: John Moore (CERT TBC, 97 minutes)
The plot: In his fifth trip to the big screen, hero cop John McClane (Willis) ventures out of the country, travelling to Moscow to help his apparently troubled estranged son, Jack (Courtney). But Jack isn’t troubled at all. He’s a CIA agent trying to prevent a nuclear weapons heist.
What’s right with it: Bruce Willis is perpetually cool as McClane, and presents him in a more vulnerable light than we’ve seen previously. If action set-pieces and violence galore are your bag, you won’t be disappointed.
What’s wrong with it: McClane may have the odd decent one-liner, but overall the dialogue is beyond clichéd.
Verdict: Clearly a film Willis made for the money. Time for a refresh? 3/5 Joanna Simons