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Begin Again

When Keira Knightley’s Greta writes songs with her boyfriend, rising rock star Dave (Maroon 5’s Adam Levine), the earnest results at least have simplicity and sincerity in their favour. Imagine her pique then, when he not only shags someone else but squanders their songs’ virtues with big, glossy, clichéd re-recordings…

John Carney’s second romantic musical is a big, glossy, clichéd remix of ideas from his low-key sleeper beauty Once (2006), but the outcome is a happy one: Carney’s sincerity isn’t entirely swamped. Even with A-listers taking the place of Once’s semi-unknowns, his winning way with earthy characters mostly holds firm.

Mark Ruffalo is worth his weight in gold records as Dan, a drunken, broken-down music-biz veteran who discovers the broken-hearted Greta at an open-mic night and urges her to record an album on the hoof. With shabby, galvanising charm, Ruffalo helps draw out Knightley’s easiest, breeziest performance yet and often shepherds Carney’s plot over its bum notes.

But bum notes butt in when Carney shifts focus to Knightley and stunt-casting dullard Levine, a pairing too superficial to engage. Worse still, Carney neglects Dan’s home troubles: Catherine Keener is wasted as Dan’s wife, though she lends her limited screen time effortless indie cred.

So does Hailee Steinfeld as their daughter, especially in her joyous jams with Greta’s ragtag band. The music they make is corny and the decision to record in NYC hotspots howls with contrivance, but the gooey warmth in their improvised gatherings sustains Carney’s human touch. So too with Dan’s pleasingly platonic bond with Greta: no ulterior motives of desire or ambition crop up.

On that basis, Carney’s tale of restorative friendship between idealist underdogs plays like Lost In Translation softened for feelgood usage by Cameron Crowe. If the result is a fairytale without any real bite, the preservation of Carney’s generous spirit on a large canvas is – just – cheering enough to disarm critical defences.

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Goltzius And The Pelican Company

Peter Greenaway follows his Rembrandt portrait Nightwatching with the middle chapter of his ‘Dutch Masters’ trilogy, focusing on 16th-Century erotic engraver Hendrik Goltzius. Ramsey Nasr plays the Renaissance sauce pedlar who tries to convince the Margave of Alsace (F. Murray Abraham) into buying him a printing press by restaging the naughty bits from the Bible.

All a good excuse for Greenaway to indulge his strengths (painterly tableaux and theological art-history) and weaknesses (boobs and willies), and all a long way from his ’80s heyday.

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Love Me Till Monday

Bookended by scenes on a bus, Justin Hardy’s no-budget slip of British romantic fancy is a smooth charmer without enough sense of direction. Georgia Maguire stars as Becky, a marketing drone in an unfeasibly sunny Reading who, between nights out with colleagues and unsatisfying dates, emerges as a passenger in her own life.

Hardy’s episodic plot evokes that 20-something drift too effectively, lacking the story or certainty of comic/dramatic tone required for sustenance. His promise lies in the incidentals: between Maguire’s winning lead and the lively portraits of workmates on the lash, there’s a sitcom in the making here.

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‘Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes’ Explodes

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Jersey Boys

Anyone approaching Jersey Boys expecting a toe-tapping, hand-clapping greatest hits parade à la Rock Of Ages and Mamma Mia! should deflate their chests now: Clint Eastwood’s adaptation of the Tony award-winning musical is a rather sombre drama spiked with moments of gentle humour (and songs).

Charting the turbulent career of Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons between start-up gigs in New Jersey in 1951 and their induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1990, the meat of the action takes place in the early ’60s. It’s during this sweet spot – once the band’s rotating name has finally been settled upon, songwriter Bob Gaudio (Erich Bergen) turns the trio into a quartet, and they discover their sound with the recording of ‘Sherry’ – that the boys dominate air time before The Beatles conquered America.

Eastwood isn’t about to do the fans out of pop classics like ‘Big Girls Don’t Cry’ and ‘Walk Like A Man’ but he’s more interested in the group’s dynamics away from cameras and mics. Founder member Tommy DeVito (Vincent Piazza), a petty crook, grows jealous of Frankie’s (John Lloyd Young, imported from the Broadway show) success, while bassist Nick Massi (Michael Lomenda) resents time spent on the road. With relationships splintering, it then emerges that Tommy has left the band at the mercy of the mob.

Shot with Eastwood’s signature classicism and painted in blues and greys that might be termed ‘stately slate-y’, there’s elegance aplenty but a dearth of brio. The narrative adheres to a traditional rise-and-fall trajectory while the mob elements play like a recording of GoodFellas spun on an old gramophone.

The cast, meanwhile, equip themselves fine, particularly during the songs: Eastwood wanted these to be as authentic as possible, so rather than lip-synch, all of the actors sang to live accompaniment during filming. Away from the tunes, alas, they lack either the pizzazz or a meaty enough script to truly fire the rows, infidelities and triumphs.

What Jersey Boys does have is meticulous period design, a sense of nostalgia tempered by Eastwood’s desire to again question history as written (see Unforgiven, Flags Of Our Fathers and J. Edgar), and the ever-magnetic Christopher Walken as the band’s mobster guardian. Best of all is Young’s miraculous ability to replicate Valli’s falsetto warbling – if you’ve contributed to The Four Season’s 175 million album sales or simply know Valli from his crooning of the title tune in Grease, your heart will quicken each time he steps up to the mic. Just don’t expect it to happen too often.

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Goddess

Ronan Keating’s tattooed torso plays a supporting role in this winsome comedy, a saccharine-sweet affair whose modest charms come so thickly coated in treacle it should probably carry a health warning. Case in point? The ‘sink song’ webcam vids Keating’s bored wife (Laura Michelle Kelly) posts online while he’s off somewhere researching whales: postings that soon go viral and inspire a Sydney marketing whizz (Kath & Kim’s Madga Szubanski) to seek out her services.

Fantasy musical numbers, marital worries and toilet humour make an odd brew in an Australian production that seems intent on ticking every box imaginable. Sadly, this Goddess falls a long way short of divine.

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Young Ricky Bobby Was Just Arrested For Doing Something Horrible To His Mom


Remember the little kid who played young Ricky Bobby in Talladega Nights? Well, he’s grown into a 20-year-old man who apparently, has quite a bit of Ricky Bobby in him.
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Charlie Ergen Urges FCC To Stop Comcast From Buying Time Warner Cable

Charlie Ergen Urges FCC To Stop Comcast From Buying Time Warner CableThe Dish Network chairman made his plea on Monday in meetings with all five FCC commissioners and several staffers, according to a Dish filing today. Comcast’s $45B deal for Time Warner Cable “presents serious competitive concerns for the broadband and video marketplaces and therefore should be denied,” Dish told regulators according to its account of the talks. “There do not appear to be any conditions that would remedy the harms that would result from the merger.” Charlie Ergen said that Comcast could hobble Internet video services at three choke points: The cable company would control last mile connection to the home, and the point where content providers access Comcast’s network. In addition, it could squeeze potential rivals by devoting lots of its Web capacity to special high-speed lanes for favored services. “Each choke point provides the ability for the combined company to foreclose the online video offerings of its competitors,” the filing says.

Ergen also says that the merger of the two largest cable operators would enable it to demand the best prices from programmers — forcing them to “extract even higher rates from smaller pay-TV providers like Dish in order to compensate the programmers for lost revenue.”

Dish did not appear to also want regulators to block AT&T’s $49B plan to buy DirecTV even though that deal “presents competitive concerns.” The merger of the telco and No. 1 satellite TV provider “will also be able to combine their market power to leverage programming content, to the potential detriment of consumers,” the company says.