News Column

Disaster zone of dullness

June 9, 2013


GIVING a director like M Night Shyamalan $130m to make a film is a bit like handing a flamethrower to a five year old.

You just know it's going to end badly. And the man with Hollywood's most vertiginous downward career path doesn't disappoint with a sci-fi thriller guaranteed to wash-up in all the Worst Films Of The Year lists come December. Truly, it's right up there with the heinous Battlefield Earth.

A full millennia after humanity abandoned Earth for a new planet called Nova Prime, space ranger Cypher (Will Smith) and his son Kitai (Jaden Smith) crash-land back on Earth. What follows is 80- odd minutes of the lad running through the destroyed landscape to retrieve a rescue beacon, all the while dodging some badly rendered monsters who can sense fear.

The film has already come under fire for promoting the Scientology credo - Smith Snr is one of the cult's supporters - but its alleged agenda is the least of After Earth's problems. Put bluntly, this is dullness distilled.

While Shyamalan's dwindling career has been built on the last- minute twist (see The Sixth Sense, The Village, Signs), this time he's gone for a straight action adventure and it's never a pretty sight.

Kitai's journey is uninteresting and uninvolving, while Smith Jnr, so good in 2010's Karate Kid remake, gives a performance of teeth-gnashing awfulness. Even the speaking clock has more emotional range, with the trite scenes of him bonding with his father simply throw-your-handsin-the-air bad.

Smith Snr isn't much better and spends much of the film not acting but spouting risible platitudes about conquering fear that would make even L Ron Hubbard blush.

Calling After Earth the worst film ever may be overstating things, but it's a disaster zone of Chernobyl-esque proportions.

BEHIND THE CANDELABRA (15) HE'S DONE it again. After giving us the thriller of the year in the shape of Side Effects, Steven Soderbergh serves up what looks a lot like the comedy of 2013. A simply delicious look at the life of Liberace, it's a constant - and howlingly funny - delight.

The focus is on the tempestuous relationship between the flamboyant pianist (Michael Douglas) and his younger lover (Matt Damon), a pairing that brings both men joy and heartbreak.

What makes the movie so special is the acting, with both leading men turning in tremendous performances. Douglas is especially impressive as the outrageous but deeply sensitive entertainer.

Kudos, also, to the writers who avoid turning Liberace into a one- note king of camp, but give us a fully-rounded character with a deep and troubled inner life.


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