On the surface of things this week looks like a good one for going to the pictures, as there’s some pretty heavyweight offerings out there. The only problem is that, when heavyweight movies lumber into the ring, they’ve got a lot of expectations tagging along with them, and the broadsheet reviewers seem to expect an awful lot.
Take The Woodsman, starring Kevin Bacon, for example. It’s a film about a paedophile for God’s sake, there’s no way you’re going to ‘win over’ many people with that, but at least the reviewers give director Nicole Kassel decent marks for trying.
In the Guardian, Pete Bradshaw awards the film three stars, calling Bacon’s performance “a thoroughly intelligent” one, before going on to wonder why the film’s protagonist is allowed to live opposite a primary school: “Would a paroled paedophile really be allowed to live there? It seems about as likely as an ex-bankrobber being given a flat above his local branch of NatWest.”
However, in the end, Bradshaw seems to cast aside all his doubts in favour of the fact that this film simply exists in the Hollywood system: “All these reservations need to be offset against the simple daring of making a film like this in the first place, of trying to raise different ideas and different dramatic impulses on a subject that generally inspires only horror and incurious revulsion.”
Still only three stars though.
It’s the same mark from James Christopher in the Times, who tells us that “the gamble pays off; the film is hypnotic; and Bacon’s reputation remains intact,” (Bacon has a reputation?). But ultimately Christopher succumbs to the pressure of expectation, declaring “The Woodsman is not the masterpiece I was expecting. There’s not much ‘revulsion’ to enjoy when the film sits so squarely behind the anti-hero.”
The only reviewer to give The Woodsman more than three stars is Anthony Quinn in the Independent who gives the film four stars, and praises “Kevin Bacon’s bravery for taking on a type that might be the most demonised in all America”, summarising the film as a “serious and thoughtful drama on a hideously difficult subject, [it] deserves the warmest praise and the widest possible audience. It is certain to secure one of these.”
And so on to the second of this week’s heavy hitters: Hotel Rwanda.
We’ve heard nothing but praise for this film so far, but strangely it gets three stars across the board from the broadsheet reviewers. Bradshaw calls it a “potent political melodrama [that] rumbles in with a two-pronged agenda: to slam the west’s discreet non-involvement in the 1994 Rwandan genocide and to salute one man who stood up and made a difference.”
But once you get past the morality of the tale, it seems to be the execution of the story which lets Hotel Rwanda down: “it buckles under the weight of its subject matter and resorts to a blur of fraught chases, narrow scrapes and miraculous reprieves.” complains Pete.
In the Independent, Quinn praises the film highly: “Writer-director Terry George doesn’t overwhelm us with the barbarities – how to convey the slaughter of 800,000 in a movie? – but instead focuses upon the absurdist horror of one man holding back a tide of blood…Cheadle is sensational as the hotelier, a Rwandan Oskar Schindler.” but still only gives the film three stars – we’re not quite sure why.
And in the Times, James Christopher again praises Cheadle (“an African Schindler”), but has problems with the subject: “a bizarre effort by Hollywood to make romantic sense of the 1994 genocide in which a million people were butchered,” and can’t quite get his head round Nick Nolte’s performance as “a prevaricating UN peacekeeper,”, who he calls “a ham too far.”
So anyway, enough of all this cerebral stuff, let’s get on to a film everyone hates!
Hide & Seek is the latest Bobby De Niro vehicle and this time he’s gone horror! Oooooh.
The film gets two stars in the Independent and the Times, with Quinn disclaiming that although “Elisabeth Shue and Famke Janssen provide attractive support” (mmmmm Famke Janssen), it’s still nothing more than “formulaic stuff”. While, in the Times Wendy Ide just curses De Niro for his stupidity: “you’d think he was old enough to know better than to fritter away his hard-earned reputation on such derivative nonsense…There was a time when a De Niro performance would grab you by the throat and dare you to take your eyes off him for one second. In this film, I found myself getting distracted by the soft furnishings”.
But we all know who the master of the cinematic hatchet job really is…Pete ‘The Kneecapper’ Bradshaw. And, boy, does Pete hate this film:
“What have we done to deserve this? Whose hamster have we collectively run over in a previous life to merit this dire horror-thriller starring the unhappy Robert De Niro, the EEG readings on whose career had been ticking hopefully north after his wacky new direction in comedy?
And that’s just the first paragraph! It gets worse: “The ending to this tripe is so abysmally lame and implausible it could trigger a class-action lawsuit against Twentieth Century Fox”, and then (true to Bradshaw form) it gets really weird:
“De Niro has a stunned look on his face, as if mentally rephrasing the lyrics to Talking Heads’ Once in a Lifetime: This is not my terrible performance! This is not my insultingly bad script! These are not my scenes opposite Elisabeth “Leaving Las Vegas” Shue! How did I get here?”
In the news this week: images from the unreleased, Paul Schrader version of the new Exorcist film have been released on to the internet, and you can also download the trailer from that same page (apparently the film will be sown in Brussels next month).
There’s some clips from the latest Elmore Leonard adaptation/Get Shorty sequel Be Cool over at Chud.com.
Obviously it’s the Oscars this weekend. You can peruse the Guardian’s special Oscars page here and also read Roger Ebert’s brilliant guide to the whole affair. Of course, don’t forget that as well as laying down some of our hard-earned dough on a few outside bets, Londonist will also be providing a live commentary on the whole ceremony, so leave some comments for us if you’re near an internet connection.
And if you get bored looking at people’s dresses on Sunday night/Monday morning you can always play the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy flash game, we’re hopelessly addicted already.