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This week’s new films reviewed

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Cameron Diaz and Leslie Mann plot revenge on the cheating man they both love in the comedy The Other Woman

THE OTHER WOMAN (12A)

Revenge is a dish best serve ice-cold and in generous portions in Nick Cassavetes’s romantic comedy of spiteful sisterly solidarity.

For the first hour, it’s a tasty dish laced with tart one-liners by screenwriter Melissa Stack, who deftly sketches the emotional bonds between a wife and the two other women, who have unknowingly slept with her skirt-chasing husband.

These early scenes, in which the embittered spouse surfs a tidal wave of rage while the two mistresses wrestle with their guilt, achieve a pleasing blend of painful home truths and ribald humour.

“You had sex with my husband 50 times?!” shrieks the wife when she learns about the impressively gymnastic nature of her husband’s relationship with one of his bits on the side.

“Don’t you have a job? Or hobbies?!” she caterwauls.

Once the feisty femmes agree on a plan of attack to make the cheating husband pay for his bed-hopping sins, any subtlety in the script is supplanted by crude toilet humour and cutesy fairy-tale romances for two of the protagonists.

Thus one mistress drops laxatives into the husband’s drinks and we’re treated to a protracted sequence in a cramped toilet cubicle with the philanderer as he endures a blitzkrieg of deafening rectal explosions that seem to go on forever.

He deserves his comeuppance, we just don’t need to see or hear it, blow for literal blow.

Carly Whitten (Cameron Diaz) is a high-flying attorney with a sassy personal assistant (Nicki Minaj), who aptly describes her boss as “a ruthless law-robot”.

However, Carly wants to be adored and she falls for a handsome charmer called Mark (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau), who showers her with gifts.

On the spur of the moment, Carly surprises Mark in a sexy outfit and she stumbles on his secret: he’s married to Kate (Leslie Mann), who gave up her job for her man.

Unexpectedly, the two women become friends.

Shared sisterly sympathy solidifies when Carly and Kate discover Mark has been cheating on both of them with another woman, Amber (Kate Upton).

Emboldened by their experiences, Carly, Kate and Amber resolve to teach Mark a lesson he will never forget.

Meanwhile, Carly flutters her eyelashes at Kate’s hunky brother, Phil (Taylor Kinney).

“You aren’t having my husband and my brother,” Kate warns her.

The Other Woman fails to deliver in a messy and unsatisfying final act that skids wildly out of control and muddies the underlying message of female empowerment.

Diaz and Mann spark appealing screen chemistry and Coster-Waldau possesses the right amount of charm and slipperiness to convince us that he could deceive so many women, and almost get away with it.

Upton is surplus to requirements, but does provide a predictable final punch line for Carly’s ageing, five-times divorced father (Don Johnson).

RATING: 5/10

TRANSCENDENCE (12A)

Man’s unhealthy relationship with technology takes a sinister turn in Wally Pfister’s ham-fisted sci-fi thriller, which imagines the consequences of an artificial intelligence running amok in the digital realm.

The high-brow concept of Jack Paglen’s undernourished script is at odds with the whizz-bang pyrotechnics that director Pfister is asked to deliver in the muddled second act, ultimately starving the film of jeopardy.

Characters are poorly developed and the line between the supposedly evil computer and valiant human rebels is blurred to the point that we couldn’t care less if our entire species is wiped out.

Total oblivion would be sweeter than another 20 minutes spent in the company of a morose Johnny Depp and his co-stars.

Transcendence opens in Berkeley, California, in the aftermath of a global blackout.

“The internet was meant to make the world a smaller place but it actually feels smaller without it,” muses Dr Max Waters (Paul Bettany).

The narrative rewinds to the same location five years earlier, where Dr Waters’ good friend Dr Will Caster (Depp), a pioneer in the field of artificial intelligence, lives with his wife Evelyn (Rebecca Hall).

They are at the forefront of a scientific vanguard, which hopes to create a machine with sentience.

Extremists called R.I.F.T. (Revolutionary Independence From Technology) oppose this advancement and shoot Will with a polonium-tainted bullet.

Doctors give Dr Caster a month to live so Evelyn suggests her beau continues his work by uploading his mind to a super-computer.

Dr Waters urges caution but Evelyn ignores his warnings, desperate to cling on to her husband.

R.I.F.T. leader Bree (Kate Mara) is powerless to stop Will making the leap into the digital abyss and when Evelyn uploads him to the internet, he infiltrates every hard drive on the planet.

As Will’s thirst for knowledge intensifies, Dr Waters joins forces with fellow academic Joseph Tagger (Morgan Freeman), FBI agent Donald Buchanan (Cillian Murphy) and military man Colonel Stevens (Cole Hauser) to create a virus that will corrupt Will and protect mankind from his insidious influence.

Transcendence begins promisingly, setting out Will and Eve’s utopian vision of cutting-edge technology to heal the planet and eradicate disease.

Once radioactive isotopes are coursing through the central character’s bloodstream, screenwriter Paglen struggles to sustain dramatic momentum and the final hour unfolds at a pedestrian pace that makes the running time seem closer to three hours than two.

Depp’s lifeless performance suggests a robotic doppelganger was hired to take his place while Hall and Bettany are tortured and tearful, wrestling with murky questions of morality that seem beyond the film’s flimsy grasp.

If the end point – a world starved of electricity and gadgets – halts screenings of Pfister’s film then perhaps there is method in R.I.F.T.’s muddled madness.

RATING: 4/10

 
 
 

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