The world of showbiz magic is the setting for a comedy that conjures few laugh-out-loud moments yet offers enough flourishes and pithy quips to sustain interest.
In THE INCREDIBLE BURT WONDERSTONE (15: Warner), two stage magicians have been performing together for years without revealing to the public that they can’t stand each other.
Childhood friends Burt Wonderstone (Steve Carell) and Anton Marvelton (Steve Buscemi) grew up to become the toast of Las Vegas, but then their jaded schtick and the need for younger, edgier acts brings their embittered partnership to a halt.
Wonderstone is forced to rekindle his love of magic, aided by his idol Rance Holloway (Alan Arkin), to fend off the cooler antics of extreme street performer Steve Gray (Jim Carrey). He and Marvelton must settle their differences to mount the most spectacular illusion of their careers.
There are moments of Anchorman-style hilarity, with bad hair and even worse suits, but the movie relies too much on absurd set-pieces for laughs.
Sopranos star James Gandolfini, who died in June, applies his seasoned gangster persona to a casino mogul called Doug Munny.
> A reporter returns to his home town to investigate the story of a man on death row for the murder of a sheriff in jaw-droppingly dire, 1960s-set crime thriller THE PAPERBOY (15: Lionsgate).
The tale begins in John Grisham territory with Florida slacker Jack Jansen (Zac Efron), the black sheep of a long line of newspaper journalists, teaming up with his high-flying reporter brother Ward (Matthew McConaughey) to probe the possibly unsafe conviction of Hillary Van Wetter (John Cusack).
They are helped by white-trash murder groupie Charlotte Bless (Nicole Kidman), whose arrival signals the film’s rapid descent into camp farce, particularly an astonishing scene that requires her to urinate on a jellyfish-stung Jack.
Ineptly directed and clumsily acted, at least its awfulness adds entertainment value whenever the plot enters one of its frequent lulls.
> Slick, London-set action flick WELCOME TO THE PUNCH (15: Momentum) sees a serial heist-puller hiding overseas after a robbery, leaving the detective on his trail tormented by his failure.
While in dogged pursuit of Jacob Sternwood (Mark Strong), cop Max Lewinsky (James McAvoy) takes a bullet.
Three years later, Max is a shell of a man, crippled emotionally and physically, but he gets a shot at redemption when Sternwood breaks cover to see his critically injured son.
Inspired by Michael Mann’s Heat and the Hong Kong school of cop films, it’s an exhilarating, if predictable, ride played with great swagger. Top-notch support is provided by Andrea Riseborough, David Morrissey, Daniel Mays and Peter Mullan.
> Twilight meets Invasion Of The Body Snatchers in soppy teen romance THE HOST (12: Entertainment In Video), which swaps vampires for aliens.
Saoirse Ronan plays a youngster whose body is implanted with an intergalactic ‘soul’. But as one of the few humans who can fight the parasitic takeover, she uses her host to protect loved ones hidden in a cave-dwelling community.
It’s a daft dual part where Ronan’s inner voice constantly bickers with that of the host and each moons over differing boys. Special effects are minimal and this story of two colliding minds couldn’t be more mindless.