TimeOut's film reviewers Toby Woollaston and Dominic Corry take a look at two of this week's biggest movie releases
Diane Keaton gets her pom poms out in new comedy
If her recent roles are any indication, Diane Keaton (Book Club, 5 Flights Up) is mining a comfy retirement plan by seemingly accepting any "senior-age-dependent" parts offered.
Poms is a retirement village comedy that pits an elderly group against the youthful sport of cheerleading. Think The Full Monty or the more recent Swimming with Men for the aged. However, before you dismiss this as dreary sentimental dross laced with cheap incontinence gags, you might want to put down your knitting and push up your bifocals — Poms is better than that.
Sure, Poms does lean into a fair amount of cheap humour and sentimental cringe; it doesn't hold back on body humour or avoid revelling in its many silly situations. But it's far from the cream pie face-splat that the trailer might lead you to believe. It is at times disarmingly delightful.
Essentially a buddy flick, the film centres on Martha (Keaton), who has terminal cancer and wants to see out her final years in the tranquillity of Sun Springs Retirement Village. However, her serenity is rocked by the effervescent Sheryl (Jacki Weaver), whose boundless energy sparks an awakening in Martha. And so, against all odds, the Sun Springs Retirement Community Cheerleading Squad is born.
Branching out from her documentarian roots, writer/director Zara Hayes has played it safe, employing a very formulaic approach to this fist-pumping triumph-over-adversity tale. Her effort at corralling an ensemble cast and navigating them through a minefield of banal comedy and saccharine vibes produces mixed results. But high-water marks are provided by Celia Weston as the overbearing village president and Charlie Tahan as the endearing teen who lives with his grandmother.
To reiterate: there are many corny moments that some will find irksome and it certainly won't make you dust off the ol' cheerleading kit. But on the whole, one can't deny Poms has a life-affirming quality and an emotionally charged finish that'll have you leaving the theatre on a high.
- Toby Woollaston
Cast: Diane Keaton, Jacki Weaver, Rhea Pearlman
Director: Zara Hayes
Running time: 90 mins
Rating: PG Coarse language & sexual references
Verdict: Unashamedly dances a safe routine but successfully nails the dismount.
All Is True
To see or not to see Kenneth Branagh's new film, that is the question ...
Kenneth Branagh directs and stars in this passion project that chronicles the final years of William Shakespeare's life via the lens of a family drama. All Is True was written by Ben Elton (Black Adder, The Young Ones), who is also behind the significantly more light-hearted Shakespeare TV comedy series Upstart Crow.
After the Globe Theatre burns down during a production of Henry VIII (also known as All Is True), Shakespeare moves back to his home town of Stratford-upon-Avon from which his long absence has bred simmering resentment within his immediate family.
As he struggles to reconnect with wife Anne Hathaway (Judi Dench) and grown daughters Judith (Kathryn Wilder) and Susanna (Lydia Wilson), Shakespeare is drawn into a local scandal and remains haunted by the death of Judith's twin brother Hamnet when the boy was just 11.
Having directed and starred in umpteen Shakespeare adaptations, Branagh's lifelong association with The Bard can't help but inform All Is True. The actor also drafted in some fellow heavyweight Shakespearean actors in Dench and Ian McKellen, who makes a huge impact in a short amount of screen time as patron the Earl of Southampton, to whom some of Shakespeare's most romantic sonnets are dedicated.
The hefty talent on display doesn't overwhelm Branagh's clear desire to tell a grounded, human story informed both by how its subject sees himself, and in the context of his loved ones.
Shakespeare's genius and legacy are addressed, but not overly dwelled upon by the film, which is more interested in exploring his familial relationships and his lingering concerns over his social standing.
Branagh's performance is casual, soft-spoken, and only occasionally marred by some less-than-amazing facial prosthetics.
- Dominic Corry
Cast: Judi Dench, Kenneth Branagh, Ian McKellen
Director: Kenneth Branagh
Running time: 101 minutes
Rating: M (Offensive language)
Verdict: A watchable curiosity that takes a determinedly personal approach to the latter years of the history's greatest.