Blessed with one of the silliest scripts in recent memory, this is a triumph of pre-production planning. Can you imagine what this corny prisoner-of-war picture would have been like if producer Freddie Fields had not secured the services of Michael Caine, Sylvester Stallone, Max von Sydow and a squad of international footballing legends (including Pelé, Bobby Moore and Osvaldo Ardiles)? It’s pretty obvious that director John Huston didn’t quite know what to make of it all, but his sure touch and Pelé’s football choreography turn this into a rousing romp, made all the more enjoyable by the shocking performances of the players. It’s escapist entertainment in every sense.
Henry Selick’s stop-motion animation version of Neil Gaiman’s celebrated children’s book is just as darkly original as the director’s earlier feature The Nightmare before Christmas. Here, stuck in dreary rural Oregon, 11-year-old Coraline (voiced by Dakota Fanning) discovers a parallel world to her family’s new home. This alternative reality offers more thrills and surprises than her own, seemingly dull, life. However, her near-perfect “Other Mother” (a deliciously wicked pantomime turn by Teri Hatcher) has a hidden agenda and schemes to make Coraline the latest in a long line of trophies. Coraline’s dangerous predicament, coupled with the eye-popping set design, makes for a sinister and menacing universe that provides excitement and thrills, but may be a little too intense for younger viewers used to more sanitised fare.
An all-star cast, including Jennifer Aniston and Scarlett Johansson, talks relationships in this Sex and the City-inspired comedy. Oddly though, it’s the less well-known Ginnifer Goodwin who stands out here as the outgoing but lonely Gigi. Her quest to discover why she never gets a second date leads to bartender Alex (Justin Long), whose blunt assessment of the situation – neatly encapsulated in the movie’s title – only serves to convince her that he is “the one”. Their dynamic provides the real intrigue here, as everyone else in Baltimore seems to be overwhelmed by banalities. So, Aniston wants commitment from long-time boyfriend Ben Affleck, Johansson seduces a married man (Bradley Cooper), and Jennifer Connelly is the wife who takes him for granted. Drew Barrymore ups the kooky quotient as a hapless cyber dater, but with too few funny moments, there’s an awful lot riding on the charms of the attractive cast.