The concept of celebrities playing monstrously exaggerated versions of themselves was pioneered on TV’s The Larry Sanders Show.
Now it’s taken to even greater comedic levels in THIS IS THE END (15: Sony), an over-the-top, but smart, satire on the narcissism of Hollywood.
Tinseltown stars send themselves up to riotous effect in the directorial debut of Seth Rogen and his writing partner Evan Goldberg.
A housewarming party at James Franco’s palatial Los Angeles home, attended by familiar faces from the big and small screens, descends into mayhem when the apocalypse strikes.
The pampered actors are forced to rely on their limited wits in order to survive raging fires and outwit biblical beasts. As these demons overrun the world, the celebrities go into hiding and must rise above their selfishness if they are to survive.
Rogen, Jonah Hill, Michael Cera, Emma Watson and others relish the opportunity to indulge in self-mockery, with the laugh-out-loud script sparing no egos.
> Gerard Butler almost drowned filming fact-based Californian surf story CHASING MAVERICKS (PG: Entertainment In Video), which just goes to show that acting can be a perilous business.
He plays veteran surfer Frosty Hesson, who meets troubled teenager Jay Moriarty (Jonny Weston) on the beach in Santa Cruz.
Jay’s dream is to ride the almost mythic Mavericks – waves in a local cove that are some of the biggest breakers in the world – and he wants Frosty to help him to do it.
That’s the cue for some Karate Kid-style mentoring in matters physical, mental, emotional and spiritual.
This tale of bonding and boarding, and of teen and adult angst, is a tad long and a little laboured, but its heart is in the right place and the surf scenes are spectacular and dangerous-looking.
> Tina Fey returns to films three years after Date Night with ADMISSION (12: Universal), although she needn’t have bothered.
She plays Portia, an admisssions officer at an Ivy League university who gets all in a twist with her ethics and emotions when she discovers one of the high school students she must vet for entry could be the son she secretly gave up for adoption.
Her performance is OK and there’s solid support from Lily Tomlin, Michael Sheen and Paul Rudd, who’s the headmaster with a special interest in the case – and in Portia.
But the story eventually slips between the cracks of comedy and drama by trying to do too much, and despite some chuckles and moving moments, there are just not enough of them.
> Atmospheric thriller TRAP FOR CINDERELLA (15: Lionsgate) is a decent-enough watch, even if genre fans may find they’re well ahead of the mazy twists and turns.
Tuppence Middleton and Alexandra Roach play former best friends who’ve drifted apart and then meet again several years later. Middleton is well-to-do and extrovert, while Roach is dowdy and needy.
When a devastating house fire leaves one dead and the other requiring extensive facial reconstruction, the amnesiac survivor embarks on a tortuous road to recovery, with flashbacks filling in details of the pair’s relationship.
The plot also involves a wealthy aunt (Frances de la Tour), a manipulative personal assistant (Kerry Fox) and oodles of inheritance money.