Richard Curtis’ time-travelling rom-com could be his last as director.
ABOUT TIME (12A)
All good things must come to an end.
As a writer and more recently a director, Richard Curtis has warmed the cockles of the nation’s heart with his rose-tinted romantic comedies that suggest every bumbling, accident-prone Englishman gets the impossibly beautiful girl with a combination of expletives, dry humour and good fortune.
Our love affair with Curtis started in 1994 with Four Wedding & A Funeral, which earned him an Oscar nomination for his screenplay, and has continued unabated through Bean, Notting Hill, Bridget Jones’s Diary, Love Actually and various sequels.
About Time is purportedly his final film (as director – he’ll carry on writing) and it is a fittingly amusing and heartbreaking swansong.
Set largely in London with occasional forays to the picturesque Cornish coast, this bittersweet romcom concerns not only saying goodbye to the people you love, but also bidding farewell to childhood and the safety net of a parent’s guiding hand.
Admittedly, Curtis is guilty of old habits.
His characters are almost exclusively white, upper middle class, and seem to be able to afford sizeable properties in the capital despite modest salaries.
Once you accept that realism is a distant stranger to certain elements of the writing, About Time casts a heady spell.
Shortly after he turns 21 years old, nice guy Tim (Domhnall Gleeson) is ushered into the office of his father (Bill Nighy) for a revealing heart-to-heart.
“Get ready for spooky time!” begins the old man with a twinkle in his eye, revealing that Tim harks from a long line of male time travellers, who can go back along their own timeline to correct past mistakes and relive fond memories.
Tim is stunned by his father’s outlandish claim and with obvious scepticism, he heads for the nearest dark cupboard and clenches his fists as instructed.
Sure enough, Tim is able to skip back through his personal history.
The young man begins to master this new skill, which comes in very handy when he crosses paths with an insecure beauty called Mary (Rachel McAdams) and bungles their first meeting.
With the benefit of time travel, Tim corrects wrinkles in the relationship and romance blossoms.
However, every correction risks ripples through time and Tim gradually learns there are some imperfections which must never be smoothed.
“All the time travel in the world can’t make someone love you,” Tim’s father reminds him tenderly.
About Time is a treat.
Cast in the everyman role usually reserved for Hugh Grant, Gleeson is a loveable hero and catalyses wonderful screen chemistry with McAdams and Nighy.
Laughter abounds, tempered by the poignancy of sequences between Tim and his father, which are among Curtis’s finest work on the page.
Secret plenty of handkerchiefs about your person – the final 15 minutes will wring you dry.
The third film in the Riddick series, which began in 2000 with the muscular sci-fi thriller Pitch Black, is the most dramatically unsatisfying chapter of the ongoing saga.
Made at a fraction of the price of the overblown 2004 sequel The Chronicles Of Riddick, this new instalment pares back the pyrotechnics, focusing on the lead character as he adjusts to hazardous new surroundings.
Writer-director David Twohy even throws in a canine sidekick to humanise his hulking killing machine and provide us with moments of obvious humour.
Vin Diesel reprises his role as the visually impaired “zulu warlock” with unabashed gusto, flinging himself into the various action sequences that Twohy uses to punctuate his flaccid storyline.
In one of the film’s many risible moments, the leading man strips off and clambers up a rocky formation and stares intently into the sky, his rippling frame bathed in the light of an alien moon.
If all else fails, frighten off the enemy with gratuitous nudity.
Riddick (Diesel) has been left for dead on a sun-scorched planet, which seems to be lifeless.
The mercenary quickly discovers that there is alien life on this outpost and he cannot battle these predators forever.
Riddick’s only hope is to activate an emergency beacon and steal aboard a rescue ship.
The beacon alerts bounty hunters to his position and they descend on the planet determined to kill Riddick and collect their fee.
Santana (Jordi Molla) and his men are the first to answer the distress signal and they set up sensors around their craft to track Riddick’s movements.
A rival squad led by Boss Johns (Matt Nable) and his sassy sidekick Dahl (Katee Sackhoff) arrive next but they have a slightly different agenda for wanting to track down Riddick.
Santana tries to assert his authority over Boss Johns – “As soon as I have his head in a box, I will let you know!” – but infighting between the bounty hunters allows Riddick time to sneak up on his hunters.
And time is of the essence because a deadly storm is coming that will sweep across the surface of the planet, killing everyone in its path.
Riddick doesn’t advance the central character’s storyline at all and the two hours drag.
Diesel can growl Twohy’s dialogue in his sleep, and since his character wears darkened goggles for sections of the film, perhaps he does just that considering the emotion in his delivery.
Supporting cast inhabit their unwritten roles with sweat-drenched purpose while special effects vary wildly in quality: some digital characters don’t meld seamlessly with live action backgrounds.
From beginning to end, Twohy’s film is riddickulous but fans of earlier films will probably love every desperate grunt and groan.
Check this Thursday’s Telegraph for times, or click here from Friday.