10 Cloverfield Lane. Like Cloverfield. But Not.

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The Sloth is reluctant to write about 10 Cloverfield Lane, for to divulge virtually anything would be to spoil things. Yet manfully we must push on for this was quite the most entertaining 100-odd minutes of cinematic goodness we’ve ingested in a long time.

 

10 Cloverfield Lane is related to 2008’s Cloverfield but it’s not a sequel, nor a prequel. Nor is it an episode VII, love child or demon spawn. It’s sort of ‘inspired by’ but shares no characters or story. All clear then?  Excellent, let’s move on.

 

Michelle (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) has had a row with her boyfriend. Storming out of their house, she drives off into the night. Before long, said boyfriend starts ringing, leading her to start fiddling with her phone in movie short hand for ‘she’s about to have an at worst fatal but at best highly injurious car crash’.  Sure enough, one flash of headlights and screech of tires later, it all goes black. Then Michelle wakes up, in a bare room on a dank mattress, shackled and chained to wall.

 

Michelle’s captor is Howard (John Goodman), exactly the sort of scowling, heavy weight, slightly sweaty person you do not want chaining you to a wall. Howard glumly informs Michelle he has in fact rescued her, for the world outside has succumbed to some kind of chemical attack and she is now safe inside a bunker. Michelle soon discovers there is a second resident in the bunker, the cheerful and accepting Emmett (John Gallagher Jnr), an employee of Howard’s. But is Howard telling the truth?

 

We’re going to stop there, for anything else would need **SPOILER ALERTS** all over it. Suffice to say this is a twisting, turning, rollercoaster ride. Part psychological, cat-and-mouse thriller, part sci-fi apocalypse, with everything and the kitchen sink thrown in for good measure, it gets away with a script that is often quite gloriously bonkers on the strength of the performances. It’ll also have you singing the old classic ‘I Think We’re Alone Now’ in an entirely new sinister tone. Terrific fun. Suspend your disbelief at the door and enjoy.

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The Monuments Men. Who You Gonna Call?

monumentThat George Clooney can’t help himself. Wherever he goes, jolly japes, camaraderie and good times follow. Even, in The Monuments Men, to the front line of World War 2.

Based on a true story, it celebrates a small, little known group who took it upon themselves to save precious artworks from destruction by the Nazis. Founded by Frank Stokes (George Clooney), a university don, Frank recognised that war brought not only human destruction, but cultural and historical destruction. Having convinced the powers that be that art was a valuable commodity worth saving, he recruited a merry band of worldwide curators and art historians, including James Granger (Matt Damon), Walter Garfield (John Goodman), Donald Jeffries (Hugh Bonneville) and Richard Campbell (Bill Murray). None soldiers, they underwent the most rudimentary training before splitting themselves off to artistically strategic cities.

Unfortunately, their higher purpose frequently fell on deaf ears, local commanding officers none too keen on rerouting long planned military campaigns to avoid an architecturally pleasing bell tower. And apart from saving art, they were also hunting it down, the Nazis having methodically stripped private collections and secreted works in unknown locations, destined for Hitler’s very own post-war celebratory museum.

It’s a rather uneven mix of joshy, boy’s own adventure tale (with rather older boys in rather longer trousers) and serious drama.  Not forgetting what appears to be a legal requirement of any contemporary WW2 movie, Cate Blanchette popping up as a feisty member of the French resistance, all scowls, cigarette smoking and Gallic hauteur. Clooney and Co do a great line in male bonding, doggedly standing by each other in times of crisis and unexploded landmines, always with a ready joke to lighten the tension. But underneath the joshing it raises valid points about how art is intrinsic to our history and culture. Don’t agree? Then imagine, as the film ponders, a world without the Mona Lisa. That’s a strange thought.

UK release 14 February

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The Hangover Part III. The Designated Driver Road Trip.

hangoverThe Sloth considered getting into the spirit of this review by downing Tequila, frequenting Stringfellow’s Angels, then vomiting over unsuspecting foreign tourists emerging from Singing’ In The Rain, but decided the ensuing headache would negate any additional insight.

We were concerned about Hangover III. Hangover I was funny. Hangover II was identical but not funny. Happily, they’ve learned their lesson and Hangover III is different. And most importantly, funny.

We reunite with Phil, Stu, Alan and Doug, aka The Wolfpack, at the funeral of Alan’s dad. The years have not been kind to Alan, who was hardly an aspirational figure to start with. Still living at home and demanding Oreo milkshakes from Mom, his peers decide to stage An Intervention, taking him off for psychiatric treatment for his own good. But en route to hospital the merry band are run off the road and kidnapped by gun toting gangsters headed up by John Goodman. Turns out Alan’s pal, the notorious Mr Chow, has stolen large wodges of gold from John who figures The Wolfpack can go track Chow down and save him the hassle.

Cue ensuing mayhem. Which strangely enough involves no hangovers whatsoever but does involve Vegas, Thai prison riots, giraffes, angry chickens and Alan finally meeting his match. Playing out like Hangover: The Road Trip Reunion, The Sloth was delighted to catch up with Heather Graham and Carlos the Baby. And even more delighted to see Alan’s barely suppressed homoerotic crush on Phil still smouldering. Enjoy with or without Tequila.

UK release 24 May

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