This attempt to restore faith in British cinema is a light, old-fashioned bank-job comedy in the Ealing vein. While it’s a departure for Australian director John Duigan, who made his name with dramas The Year My Voice Broke and Flirting, this is a natural step for Steve Coogan, well established on TV as Alan Partridge, Paul and Pauline Calf and others. Parole officer Simon Garden is less frenetic and cutting edge than his previous creations, but that also makes him more immediately sympathetic. In a nice set-up, Simon must convince the only three ex-lags he has successfully put on the straight and narrow (Om Puri, Ben Miller, Steve Waddington) to return to crime and help him steal a videotape from a bank vault and thus clear his name, as he’s been framed by bent cop Stephen Dillane. It’s undemanding but well told, and peppered with smart lines. Ignore people who go on about “the rollercoaster scene”, the film’s nod to fashionable US gross-out orthodoxy. What makes The Parole Officer worth seeing is what made Knowing Me Knowing You, The Paul Calf Video Diary and the rest such great television, and that’s Coogan. The Americans won’t go for it – but that just proves he’s not Mr Bean.
This long-awaited adaptation of Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons’s seminal comic-book mini-series is less faithful than totally obsessive – a fanboy’s love letter to a complex, adult work that deconstructed the American superhero myth on its original publication in 1986. Lifting whole frames from the source material, director Zack Snyder (300, Man of Steel) delivers a dark, violent epic set in an alternative 1980s in which America was victorious in Vietnam, Nixon remains president and masked crime-fighters have been outlawed by legislation. It’s here that brutal and obsessive mystery man Rorschach (Jackie Earle Haley) investigates the murder of former “mask” The Comedian (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) and unravels a complex conspiracy involving quantum superman Dr Manhattan (Billy Crudup). Hyper-stylised visuals capture the noir-style seediness of Moore’s world brilliantly, with the opening credit scene a tour-de-force scene-setter for the events that follow. Those unfamiliar with the work may be completely bewildered, but stick with it – this is a bold and uncompromising take on one of the genre’s sacred cows that stands up to repeat viewings.
Not since the invention of fondue has 1970s cheese been this hot. This shiny, happy romantic comedy set to Abba’s greatest hits has already proved a winning formula on stage and with this big-screen adaptation it’s been taken up another notch. Meryl Streep sings her heart out here as ageing rock chick-turned-hotel owner Donna, whose daughter Sophie (Amanda Seyfried) is about to get married on the Greek island where they live. But the wedding is thrown into chaos when three of Donna’s ex-lovers (Pierce Brosnan, Colin Firth and Stellan Skarsgard) turn up. Each has a case for being Sophie’s father, but only one stakes a claim on Donna’s heart. It’s a feather-light story patched together with little elegance or élan, but that’s entirely fitting when the film is populated with big, brash disco numbers likeDancing Queen and Voulez-Vouz. The fun is in watching usually straight actors like Streep, Brosnan and company throwing caution to the wind and making up for weak vocals with infectious gusto.