Lear's Shadow: 'Unaccommodated' Shakespearean appropriation

In a year in which acting heavyweights Anthony Sher, Ian McKellen and Anthony Hopkins are set to give us a trio of ‘superstar’ Lears on stage and screen, it’s refreshing also to have the chance to experience films like Lear’s Shadow, an independently made two-hander willing to approach King Lear with both boldness and humility. Brian Elerding’s film highlights the enduring relevance of Shakespeare’s tragic play not by making that goal its explicit purpose, but by taking Lear’s relevance as an accepted truth and applying that truth to tragic circumstances extraordinary in their impact yet ordinary in their potential occurrence.

‘You know, I’ve always wished that I could just do the main plot’, says Jack (Fred Cross) at a point soon after running through dialogue from 1.1 of Lear in a rehearsal room with Stephen (David Blue), an actor in the theatre company of which Jack is the director. From this point on in Lear’s Shadow, that’s exactly what the two men do, piecing together a ‘Lear-only Lear’ as they describe it by running through a handful of scenes from the play focused on the titular king. From a filmmaking perspective, this decision by writer and director Elerding also makes pragmatic sense: in a low-budget production such as this, just over an hour in length and with only two characters on screen for most of that time, attempting to cover every plot element of Lear would likely have set the film up to disappoint if not fail altogether.

Jack justifies his wish by expressing a desire to gain greater understanding of Lear as a character, feeling that the play’s subplot prevents him from doing that. Initially therefore, having the two characters play out only Lear-centric scenes appears to give Elerding the opportunity to do what Jack feels he’s never been able to do. In fact, Elerding doesn’t ‘try to do Lear without the subplot’ (as Jack puts it) at all. Instead, he introduces a subplot of his own in place of Shakespeare’s delivered through modern-day scripted dialogue spoken by Jack, Stephen and later Rachel (Katie Peabody), Jack’s daughter. Importantly, it’s a subplot which neither attempts to recreate the Gloucester story from the play nor to contemporise the main Lear-centric plot. Elerding’s script is better than that, subtly but powerfully resonating with themes from Shakespeare’s play as facts and hints about what has happened to these characters leading up to the hour or so we spend with them are interwoven with the director’s chosen scenes from the play. As such, Elerding’s use of Lear is reminiscent of Kristian Levring’s 2001 film The King Is Alive, in which a group of tourists stranded in the Namibian desert resort to rehearsing the play as a distraction from the desperate situation in which they find themselves. Elerding’s appropriation of Lear shuns Levring’s nihilistic and self-destructive perspective, however, utilising the play instead to present an intimate exploration of the complex relationships between colleagues, friends and family still in the immediate throes of personal tragedy.

Adapted for the screen by Elerding from his Ensemble Shakespeare Theater Company play of the same name, Lear’s Shadow retains the essence of theatrical performance without ever feeling simply like a filmed stage production. The play was first performed in 2017 with the audience sat at rehearsal tables surrounding the performance space as if ready to take part in a table read1; Elerding’s use of close-ups and mid-shots throughout his film, especially at times of heightened emotion, emulates the way in which the theatre audience would have been in close proximity to his characters when experiencing the original play. The director ensures his camerawork never distracts from the performances of his cast, choosing the moments to employ relatively more cinematic shooting techniques carefully. At one point, Jack and Stephen discuss whether or not sound effects are needed to bring the storm scene of 3.2 to life, with Jack declaring the best version of the scene he ever saw was Lear standing fully lit centre stage, simply making you believe the storm surrounded him. Moments later, the camera slowly pans around Jack as he delivers Lear’s opening speech of 3.2 in the middle of the rehearsal space, Elerding’s understated camerawork and Cross’s raw performance eloquently proving the character’s point. Mention must also be made of Ryan Moore’s original score heard at key points throughout, which is consistently cinematic whilst never feeling intrusive, melancholic without ever becoming melodramatic.

In almost every scene from Lear included in the film, Jack takes on the role of Lear; Stephen meanwhile shifts between a number of roles, at times playing multiple parts one after another in the same scene. It’s a smart choice. Sporting a wire crown and cheap red cloak over his everyday dress, and with a prominent black eye beneath his spectacles, Cross as Jack makes for a formidable yet vulnerable Lear, oscillating between ‘the dragon’ (1.1.123) of the early moments of the play and the ‘foolish, fond old man’ (4.7.60) of the later scenes impressively and, at times, without warning. Blue meanwhile deserves equal praise, believably presenting Stephen as an actor both willing and able to switch between multiple roles to drive Jack as Lear, keeping him focused on what they’re doing in the rehearsal room and not on anything else that may or may not be going on outside it.

Away from their Shakespearean performances, the dynamic between Jack and Stephen is authentically realised by Cross and Blue. The pair’s relationship has clearly been fraught in the past (professional grievances and personal bugbears make their way to the surface on a number of occasions) but it’s also clear that both men understand and care about each other deeply – something which feels as though it matters more during the brief time we spend with them than it has at any point in their lives before then, making it all the more important that Cross and Blue successfully convince us of that fact throughout. Whilst the character’s role is relatively small, Rachel turns Lear’s Shadow from a two- to a three-hander at the right moment, adding just enough to our understanding of the story as a whole without becoming a crude expository device or deus ex machina. Katie Peabody shrewdly uses her limited screen time to effectively craft Rachel into the quasi-Cordelia Jack’s Lear requires.

Whilst the division between Shakespeare’s scenes and the dialogue written by Elerding is overt, the film is at its best when the boundaries between Jack and Stephen and the Shakespearean roles they play are at their most blurred. As the two men perform sections of 1.4 – Jack as Lear, Stephen alternating between the Fool and Goneril – Jack becomes increasingly infuriated as he delivers Lear’s speech, in the play seemingly in response to Albany (not present in Jack and Stephen’s version) but delivered as an apostrophe to 'Nature … dear goddess' (1.4.267). As Jack yells the final words, ‘Away, away!’ (1.4.281), Stephen looks visibly moved by his anger, unable for a few seconds to respond or even to comprehend Jack’s outburst; but it’s not clear if this reaction is in role as the Fool, or as Goneril, or whether at this point Blue has moved back to simply playing Stephen. Perhaps Blue is playing both Stephen and the Fool, or Stephen and Goneril – maybe even all three. Sublime moments such as this are the reason that Lear’s Shadow never needs to set out to prove the relevance of Lear, allowing Shakespeare’s text and Elerding’s direction to exist concurrently to craft a single moment of simultaneous conflicting, enigmatic, yet utterly human emotion.

Lear's Shadow is currently on the festival circuit, although no screenings within the UK are scheduled at the time of writing. The film will also be made available through online streaming services in the future.

1 Ellen Dostal (2017) BWW Review: Ensemble Shakespeare Theatre Transforms Tragedy Using Theatre in LEAR'S SHADOW

By Ben Broadribb. Ben is a contributing editor at Film Intel. He is normally seen in the wild wearing t-shirts containing obscure film references. When he's not writing about films here, Ben is usually writing about films - mostly Shakespeare adaptations - for his PhD. He's also on and Twitter.

Macbeth (2018) - Online Review

'As the camera swoops through rooms, snakes down staircases and soars around the exterior of this impossible environment, the film feels at its most cinematically vibrant and innovative'.

In one of the most well-known speeches from Macbeth, the title character describes life as "a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing". It's a line which could quite easily be lifted from the play and applied to any number of CGI-fuelled Hollywood blockbusters, but perhaps less often to screen adaptations of Shakespeare's own works. However, when considering Kit Monkman's overtly stylised version of Macbeth shot entirely on green screen, the words of the murderous protagonist could quite easily become the director's very own Banquo: haunting Monkman whilst spelling his downfall.

Thankfully, the director's aesthetic choices are for the most part a success. Monkman's version of the story unfolds in a collossal globe-like structure, assembled like a fantastical life-size doll's house made up of the settings in which the various scenes play out. As the camera swoops through rooms, snakes down staircases and soars around the exterior of this impossible environment, the film feels at its most cinematically vibrant and innovative. Architectural sketchwork is regularly worked into the picture: a pleasing and subtly executed touch, making it feel as if we're watching the story unfold in an edifice being designed and constructed before our eyes. The technical ambition on display is admirable throughout, helping the film to look unlike any version of Macbeth we've seen before.

It's when Monkman relies more on the dramatic and narrative elements of his film than the technical ones, however, that he flounders most often. Perhaps surprisingly for an adaptation clearly not set in our world, the supernatural elements of the story are remarkably reduced. Many of the witches' scenes are pared down or cut altogether, their remaining lines delivered by Mother (Wunmi Musaku) - a mysterious figure but one that Monkman is careful never to present as being distinctly magical.

Neither do we see Macbeth's "dagger of the mind" nor Banquo's ghost, both unequivocally presented here as figments of the murderous Scot's increasingly fragile mental state. Whilst this potentially makes for a more psychological rather than supernatural interpretation of Shakespeare's play, Monkman's investigation of this approach doesn't quite go far enough, leaving his version of the story feeling too rudimentary in places. Mark Rowley and Akiya Henry as Macbeth and Lady Macbeth respectively are both fine, but their scenes together - particularly those in Acts 1 and 2 - struggle to authentically create the charged, power-hungry relationship needed between the two characters.

The most intriguing element of the film is the Porter (Kes's David Bradley), transformed from Shakespearean fool to a non-speaking observer of the action, and who spends much of the film watching Mario Caserini's 1909 silent film version of Macbeth. It's a nice metacinematic touch, reminding the audience that they're watching just one of the many screen adaptations of this particular play. It's a shame therefore that Monkman does little more with the idea than this - a criticism which could arguably be applied to the whole film. As an experiment in innovative cinematic approaches to Shakespeare, this new version of Macbeth rightfully deserves to be applauded; as a new big screen take on a play already committed to celluloid countless times, however, Monkman's film rarely does enough to distinguish itself from its many forebears.

Macbeth is available to watch digitally now. 

By Ben Broadribb. Ben is a contributing editor at Film Intel. He is normally seen in the wild wearing t-shirts containing obscure film references. When he's not writing about films here, Ben is usually writing about films - mostly Shakespeare adaptations - for his PhD. He's also on and Twitter.

The low-fi, B-movie Thriller lives on in Bushwick. Still isn't very good.

Bushwick appears to have been afforded a level of respect above that normally granted to low budget Thrillers, starring a recently ex-wrestler. For reference, see early John Cena vehicles The Marine and 12 Rounds, or rather, don't.

Some snappy pacing and a dedication to grit aside it's difficult to see why Bushwick has been elevated out of its particular allotted place. Dave Bautista, the man formally known simply as Bautista, has shown significant promise in Guardians Of The Galaxy, but here he's back being another ex-wrestler who can't really act, given a sound mix which unkindly suggests he can barely speak. Predictably he does finally get a shouty moment to prove he can act/annunciate, barking at co-star Brittany Snow just before he breaks down and gives her his life story.

That odd couple are paired together when Lucy (Snow) emerges from the subway with her boyfriend (soon departed) to find her old neighbourhood of Bushwick at war. With whom exactly isn't made clear and the film is all the better for it the longer it isn't made clear. When one of the black-suited men is finally cornered and spills the beans on the 'plan' (after Bautista has performed the obligatory 'looks like a scrap, might be a wrestling move' on him) mouths start to open and eyes start to widen. Really? Is that really the excuse for the film's violence? Are we expected to believe that one of the antagonists sat down and seriously thought that was going to work? Does he also have a job as a Scooby-Doo scriptwriter?

The logic then is lacking and the same goes for the co-director's (Cary Murnion and Jonathan Milott) exploration of the themes on show. Bushwick is a multicultural, integrated neighbourhood and whilst the antagonists think it should just roll over, the residents are banding together to fight back. Cue scenes of orthodox Jews charging armed men with assault rifles and the local gang (or 'club', if you believe the leader's mother) supplying munitions to the citizen uprising. It's a nice idea, but it's muddled and ill-explored. There seems to be scope in Lucy's family to explore the idea of strength through integration and harmony, for example, but her sister is introduced far too later in proceedings to matter, which also ends up undercutting some of the plot machinations.

Murnion and Milott shoot mainly in close-up and behind the characters, following them at close quarters as they navigate the warring streets. This produces effective imagery of armed men disappearing behind the car Lucy and Stupe (Bautista) are using to hide and exiting, frame right. It's effective on this level of budget and whilst it doesn't entirely convince you that Bushwick is now Iraq, it does get close. Too soon though there's a lack of logic as to why the characters are going where they are going. There's an almost videogame level of hopping from place to place to get this person or complete this quest. It becomes an excuse for another effective scene behind a car, a reason for the characters not to just stay in a flat and wait it out, rather than anything more involved. That fact is eventually proven when the finales start and your emotional engagement stays at home.

By Sam Turner. Sam is editor of Film Intel, and can usually be found behind a keyboard with a cup of tea. He likes entertaining films and dislikes the other kind. He's on , Twitter and several places even he doesn't yet know about.

Quick awards season takes: Three Billboards, The Post, Molly's Game

There is plenty of talk at the moment around a The Post ‘backlash’, which I must admit to me seems like a misnomer. Was it a film that garnered a massive amount of support to begin with? It sits with just a 6.6 average on IMDb and a 65% audience score on Rotten Tomatoes. The critic Rotten Tomato score is admittedly better at 86%.

Still, it’s not as if there have been unequivocal raves for it and I’m on board with not unequivocally raving for it. Spielberg’s recent cinema has, for me, lagged behind his contemporaries, lacked dynamic plotting and visual flourish and, most surprisingly of all for this director, followed some fairly turgid pacing.

The Post is the apex of that trend. It plays as if Spielberg hasn’t seen the newsroom covered on film before. There’s none of the tension or drive of Spotlight, none of the thrill of Zodiac. And that’s before we get on to the All The President’s Men references, which raised The Post for me from dull and flaccid to downright irritating.

The film covers the period immediately before All The President’s Men and is therefore almost obligated to touch on it. But the way that this happens, placing itself in the All The President’s Men continuum, has a smack of arrogance about it. Does Spielberg deserve licence to give himself such a lofty perch? On balance, yes, probably; but his film does not. We are a whisker away from Ben Bradlee (Tom Hanks) meeting a young journalist who introduces himself as either Woodward or Bernstein, prompting a double-take of James Bond-pigeon proportions. It’s unsophisticated, plain of message and lacking in thrills.

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri was a brighter watch, although not to the point where I felt it troubling my top 10 of the year (constantly in progress here).

This is the first Martin McDonagh film I’ve felt mixed on, rather than at one end of the spectrum or the other. I admire the morals of the film and the attack on the ills of the world, the intricacies of being human and making mistakes and the plain wrong.

That said, in doing all of that, McDonagh comes across a little like a highly strung film student; someone who knows right from wrong and is going to lay all of that out over a couple of hours, so that we do too.

In doing so he leaves himself a lot to resolve and only manages a portion of it. One character turns into an omnipotent controller of the plot and the other characters within it. Another goes through an about turn that chimes as much with his previous roles as it grates against his initial casting against type. The victim in the central murder is lost somewhere in everything else that is going on. Perhaps that’s a fair reflection of the familial chaos that follows such an event.

The performances stick with you above anything else. Lucas Hedges shows Manchester By The Sea was no fluke. Woody Harrelson does his thing and can continue to do it until the end of time. Sam Rockwell is impressive. Frances McDormand is a titan and deserves awards recognition. Abbie Cornish bizarrely fails to mask her Australian accent on a regular basis. Caleb Landry Jones’ drawl is, for probably the first time ever, not completely distracting.

Giving much more trouble to my top 10 consideration was Molly’s Game, during which Jessica Chastain gets to take on a series of moronic powerful men and Idris Elba acts as the audience’s moral guide. Elba’s character is at once impressed by Chastain’s Molly and uncertain of her aims and values. As he attempts to unpick them so do we.

There are two missteps that belie the fact that Aaron Sorkin is a longtime writer but first time director. A scene where Molly is assaulted is shot with horrible fades and generally gives the impression that Sorkin has never directed a piece of very physical ‘action’ before, nor asked anyone how he should do it. Late on, he manufactures two characters together in a way that doesn’t make sense and could surely have been solved in the script.

That script though is impressive and Sorkin proves that he can keep up with himself. He has described the film as his typical mid-budget adult Thriller; the only things he knows how to write and now, demonstrably, direct. If screenplay is everything and this is by one of our greatest living screenwriters then, hey, it must be good to a degree. The real skill is in that negotiating of Molly's morals. Sorkin has spoken of how he was never in doubt of where Molly lay on a spectrum of good and evil, but the film paints in enough shades of grey to both keep you guessing and keep the character sympathetic.

Elba, released from the mumbling shackles of his iconic Bell and Luther roles, really impresses. His future is more intelligent and more cerebral than Bond; interestingly a similar arc that Chastain continues to tread.

By Sam Turner. Sam is editor of Film Intel, and can usually be found behind a keyboard with a cup of tea. He likes entertaining films and dislikes the other kind. He's on , Twitter and several places even he doesn't yet know about.

Mudbound: Netflix's Oscar-winner?

The Netflix business model revolves around offering something for everyone so that no-one can refuse a subscription. This 'all things to all people' mentality is clearly working so far (depending on how far you dig into the accounts), with one significant area still 'under development': feature films. Looking down a list of 'Netflix films' you could probably pick one or two that interest you, whatever your tastes, but there's little there that's truly unmissable. Do Ricky Gervais fans need to see Special Correspondents? Will Steven King completists subscribe just for Gerald's Game?

If Netflix were to get an Oscar winner though, things change. People seek out Oscar winners. They are unmissable. You can see where Netflix's thinking is going. In the coming year they will release films like Martin Scorsese's The Irishman, another that falls into that category, but first comes Mudbound, a genuine Oscar contender, at least in some of the acting categories.

And acting is where most of the film's merit lies. All of the characters here are uncomfortable in their present situations to some degree (except Jason Clarke's Henry, who should be), which invites terrific turns of conflict and inner angst. Director Dee Rees grants most of the major characters with a segment of Malickian monologue, over Malickian imagery, which gives each star their moment in the spotlight/beatific corn field. Carey Mulligan, Rob Morgan, Jason Mitchell and Mary J. Blige are all terrific. The latter is amongst the favourites for Best Supporting Actor. Garrett Hedlund still cannot quite shake the feeling that his efforts are greater than their end results, but those efforts are at least there.

The film tells the story of a white family (led by Clarke) working the same land as a black family (led by Morgan) in rural Mississippi, both during World War Two and in the immediate post-war period where both families welcome home a younger family member who has been away fighting (Hedlund and Mitchell). The issue with the film is that that is a big melting pot of characters, socico-economics, race, gender and plot and Rees never manages to balance it all satisfactorily.

Pappy (Jonathan Banks), for example, the senior member of Henry's clan disappears for a vast swathe of the narrative, proving finally to be a dramatic plot device waiting to be revealed, rather than a true character. Another white family, working for Henry, are introduced and seem to be heading somewhere, but you have to watch very closely for their conclusion, which arguably doesn't match that moniker. Each character has a complex relationship with every other on the farm but a massive amount of the most interesting ones get only lip service. Henry and Laura (Mulligan) are set up as on a rocky road from Mulligan's early narration, yet they get more and more time to show that rocky road in full trundling travel. The few interactions that Mulligan has with Blige are delicious, but they are just that: few and far between. The excuses for why characters aren't developing with other characters properly get thinner and thinner. 'Henry always seemed to be away when something happened', Laura tells us at one point.

The film ends on a genius piece of suggestive fancy, a bittersweet note of hope, which hints at what this could have been had a little more refinement been utilised elsewhere. As it is, Mudbound may well be Netflix's first Oscar winner. But it doesn't quite earn an 'unmissable' tag.

By Sam Turner. Sam is editor of Film Intel, and can usually be found behind a keyboard with a cup of tea. He likes entertaining films and dislikes the other kind. He's on , Twitter and several places even he doesn't yet know about.

Cartoon Saloon's The Breadwinner: just how bleak do you like your animation?

I've recently rewatched Cartoon Saloon's Song Of The Sea with my nineteen-month old, albeit in three thirty-minute stints. Whilst every nuance of the plot might not quite have been absorbed, it is fair to say that it had an effect. There were sections watched in complete stillness, mouth agape. When Ben, the protagonist of the film, comes to an emotional realisation late on, and sheds a tear, there was a rubbing of eyes from the small one on my own sofa. During the climax, CĂș, an old English sheepdog, spurred on by two spirit dogs, races home, with Ben and his sister Saoirse on his back, as the music stirs a crescendo. Most of that section was absorbed whilst bouncing around the sofa, shouting at the screen in two minutes of pure joy. It's the first time anything on film has produced that sort of reaction.

It's with mixed emotions then that I watched Cartoon Saloon's latest, The Breadwinner, alone. Directed by Nora Twomey, who co-directed The Secret Of Kells with Song Of The Sea's director, Tomm Moore, the film tells the story of Parvana (Saara Chaudry), an eleven year-old girl growing up in Afghanistan. When her father is arrested and taken away by the Taliban, Parvana disguises herself as a boy so that she can support her older sister, mother and younger brother.

From very early on, The Breadwinner created an uneasy feeling in my stomach, which I never shook off until the end credits. There is genuine and repeated heartache here, not just in the reveals and the developments of the plot, but in the very fabric of the film. Mark Kermode often quotes Roger Ebert's assertion that films are 'empathy machines' and never is that more true than here. The Breadwinner confronts the hardships of the world - and the very specific hardship of this time and location - in such a matter of fact manner that it is impossible not to be moved by what it has to show. There will be guilt too. The idea that the events of the story happen in a world to which we all share citizenship seems preposterous. How can we allow it? How did we allow it?

Twomey's film shows Cartoon Saloon refining their animation style to new heights. The content matter is belied by the gorgeous and fluid animation and sound design. Like Song Of The Sea, there are diversions to slightly different animation styles throughout, mainly to a story Parvana tells in segments throughout the film about a young boy from a village challenging an evil force which has taken the village's supplies. 'Is it a happy story, or a sad story?', Parvana's friend asks at one point. 'Just you wait and see', comes the reply.

Both the film within the film and The Breadwinner itself take a similar approach. By the conclusions, you can read happiness or sadness, or maybe just life. That's about as a bold a message from a 'children's' animation as you're likely to receive. If you or your children found Inside Out too emotional or cerebral then be warned: this is another level entirely.

Which leaves me in something of a quandary. This is 'notable' in the truest sense of the word. It's a western animation that deals with major social questions in a mature, considered and gorgeous way. It is currently in my top ten of the year list and I suspect that it will stay there. It is also, I would suggest, too bleak for most children under thirteen (it has a PG-13 rating in the US), which means that it will be some time before I can sit down with my son and enjoy Cartoon Saloon's latest. That feels a little like a missed opportunity. If some of this story could have been balanced by a little more lightness then the message of the film could have made it beyond the thirteen-and-above audience and to Cartoon Saloon's core crowd. Perhaps that's being too harsh on a film that dares to tell a story many would have rejected and, because of that, creates something of true significance.

By Sam Turner. Sam is editor of Film Intel, and can usually be found behind a keyboard with a cup of tea. He likes entertaining films and dislikes the other kind. He's on , Twitter and several places even he doesn't yet know about.

Quick awards season takes: Lady Macbeth and, erm... Despicable Me 3

Awards season is here! In Hollywood's head this means glitz and glamour. In reality, John Travolta is dusting down his tux, ready to prowl the red carpets performing all kinds of 'hilarious' 'shenanigans'. Meanwhile, studios are organising their pushes for awards-likely releases, which brings me neatly on to...

Lady Macbeth, which will probably feature at a few of the independently-minded awards and may sneak onto the BAFTAs in some way shape or form. The writing debut of Alice Birch and the feature debut of director William Oldroyd, the film looks lovely, but nevertheless manages to leave you sitting in a slightly uncomfortable manner. Some of this may be my own fault. For whatever reason (and I'm aware it should be fairly obvious) I did not have where the film was going pegged and the change in tone over what appeared to be an interesting sexual awakening drama left me a little cold. It's a cop out, but I need to see it again: the feeling I left with - of the character handling being flat-footed - may be down entirely to my expectations of where it was going to go.

That said, there are definite areas that smacked of 'first draft'. The story, based on a novel by the Russian writer, Nikolai Leskov, hinges on a character losing the power of speech when she has information to share that would stop the plot in its tracks. In writing terms that's a whisker away from everything being a dream and in directing terms it's never sold well enough to make you forget it. The opening is also a little too full of hints about Katherine's (Florence Pugh) wild nature. She talks of being 'comfortable outside', whilst other characters mix thinly veiled metaphors about animals being tied up for too long. Pugh is good but overall and, again, on first viewing only, it didn't live up to some of the effusive praise it has received.

At the other end of the spectrum, Despicable Me 3 starts with two minions becoming DJs after the opening action sequence. Their hit of choice is Ricky Martin's 1995 'classic' Un, Dos, Tres, Maria which tells you all sorts of things about how out of touch the film is and how clever the 'jokes' and musical cues are going to be.

Universal is pushing Despicable Me 3 for Best Animated gongs, but really this is the franchise running its course. The writing and jokes are lame compared to the first two films and even the minions offer little respite this time round. The story ideas test the definition of that word, opting for the 'long lost sibling' angle and doing very little of interest with it beyond the initial, obvious, 'surprise' jokes.

Worse, the film seems to have completely lost sight of what crowds of children want to watch. Even adults are likely to be a bit non-plussed by the ex-child TV star villain, complete with eighties tash, charmless robot companion and near constant glitterball accessory. What nine year-olds will make of jokes pitched around Rubix cubes is anyone's guess, but as someone who actually knows what a Rubix cube is, I'm happy to tell them that they weren't funny.

It lost me at Un, Dos, Tres and never offered anything that suggested that decision was in any way isolated or forgivable.

By Sam Turner. Sam is editor of Film Intel, and can usually be found behind a keyboard with a cup of tea. He likes entertaining films and dislikes the other kind. He's on , Twitter and several places even he doesn't yet know about.