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Flex appeal ; FILMS [Birmingham Mail (UK)]

August 30, 2013


The Rock delivers his finest turn in Bay's tale of bungling bodybuilders turned kidnappers PAIN & GAIN (15) DIRECTOR Michael Bay has never been afraid to go for the spectacular - or the jugular.

Now the man who began his career with Bad Boys, The Rock and Armageddon has gone back to crime thriller basics with a body- building, crime-comedy.

Given the emphasis on extortion, strong language, drugs, sexual references and ultra-violence, quite how this movie isn't rated an 18 is a mystery.

It would have been a badge of honour for a film taglined: 'Miami, Muscles, Money, Murder - The American Dream is in Great Shape'.

Perhaps the BBFC's leniency is due to the fact this is said to be based on a true story.

Or maybe the examiners saw it on the kind of cinema screen I did - with a slightly muffled sound that couldn't make up its mind if it was a 'parent and baby' event.

Heaven forbid, because this is Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson straining every sinew to deliver the heavy duty performance of his career.

Just like Denzel Washington in 2 Guns, his fizzing silver screen presence brings the best out of co-star Mark Wahlberg who has thankfully left his dour persona at home.

Wahlberg plays trainer Daniel Lugo, who decides to rob wealthy customer Victor Kershaw (Tony Shalhoub) with the help of friend Adrian Doorbal (Anthony Mackie).

After they fail to kill him Victor hires Detective Ed Du Bois (Ed Harris) to nail the 'Sun Gym Gang'.

The dialogue isn't quite as sharp as 2 Guns, but Pain & Gain has moments of great humour in between scenes that will make you wince.

Hollywood's body builder persona is given a neat polish in the post Arnie and Sly era, while The Hurt Locker star Anthony Mackie adds some Eddie Murphy-style energy.

Aside from Ewan McGregor's long-forgotten thriller The Island, the rest of Bay's directing career includes the disastrous Pearl Harbour and the spectacularly-superficial Transformers' series.

Pain & Gain proves he does have an ability to get actors to act amid the exciting stunts.

But with a fourth Transformers film underway and Bad Boys 3 rumoured, it might be some time before he's fully turned the corner.

ONE DIRECTION - THIS IS US 3D (PG) THERE'S an extraordinary note at the very end of the credits of this documentary to the effect 'these interviews are for entertainment purposes only'. Just in case anyone thought this was a Panorama investigation into how five lads who couldn't even win The X Factor have become the world's biggest boy band.

Having spent all of '10 minutes' putting them together, mystified producer Simon Cowell reveals he's 'not a neuroscientist' - then a man in a white coat uses the model of a brain to explain how 1D make girls happy.

That is about as deep as this anodyne movie gets.

The most surprising thing about the film is the man in the director's chair. Morgan Spurlock made his name with irreverent documentaries Super Size Me (2004) and Where In The World is Osama Bin Laden? (2008), so to find him helming what is essentially an extended pop video is strange indeed.

There's very little for him to get his teeth into here. With none of the band members having any love worries to match Katy Perry (and Russell Brand) in last year's similar but superior film Katy Perry: Part of Me (2012), This Is Us plays out like a love letter to the cardboard cutouts we often see in the background.

Fans will love the concert footage and the trouser-dropping scene, but issues like the songwriting teams and the tattoos are never addressed.

Although watching the Jaggerish Harry Styles back at the Holmes Chapel bakery where he used to work with mature ladies is particularly fun, the film's best moments are with the boys' parents. They're old enough to realise what their sons have 'won', but what they themselves have lost.

THE WAY WAY BACK (12A) AFTER making The 40 Year Old Virgin and Little Miss Sunshine back to back seven years ago, Steve Carell has been pushed into too many tight corners recently by the modern Hollywood system.

Here, he's back at his best by playing it commendably straight as Trent, the boyfriend of Pam (Toni Collette) who takes her nerdy 14- year-old son Duncan (Liam James) on holiday with them.

The acting and directing debut of actors Nat Faxon and Jim Rash - two of the three Oscar-winning co-writers for George Clooney's The Descendants - The Way Way Back has many funny lines and is a genuinely heart-warming, old-fashioned ensemble film about growing up.

Duncan's female worries include Trent's tearaway daughter Steph (Zoe Levin) and Susanna (Bridge to Terabithia's Anna Sophia Robb) - daughter of the hilariously-boozy Betty (Allison Janney), a beach house neighbour.

They are just two of the reasons why Duncan falls under the spell of Sam Rockwell's Owen down at the local Water Wizz splash park.

Owen's man-boy spirit eases Duncan out of his shell.

Always good value but not seen often enough, Muriel's Wedding star Toni Collette is perfect as mum Pam. Still only 40, she has been frequently overlooked since being Oscar-nominated in 2000 for The Sixth Sense.

Rockwell, 43, has also often been under-the-radar since his own break-out performance opposite a young Mischa Barton in the 1997 film Lawn Dogs, in which, curiously, he played a character called... Trent.

Here, Rockwell feels like a younger Kevin Bacon, whom he references.

Other unexpected delights include a refreshingly-different Massachusetts' location and the use of Young Blood, a minor 1980 hit for British rockers UFO.

THE WAY WAY BACK PRIZES UP FOR GRABS WIN a bumper pack of movie goodies to mark the release of new coming-of-age film The Way Way Back.

Readers can win one of eight prize packs consisting of a T- shirt, cooler bag, flip flops, straw hat and sunglasses. Answer the following question to enter: Who plays Duncan in The Way Way Back? Send entries to Movie Contest, c/o Marion McMullen, Shared Contest Unit, Trinity Mirror Regionals, Old Hall Street, Liverpool, L69 3EB. Closing date midnight, Thursday, September 5. Standard rules apply. Full list of winners and rules available upon request.

"The Way Way Back is a genuinely heart-warming ensemble film"

"(One Direction) Fans will love the concert footage and the trouser-dropping scene"

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