We weren't really looking forward to trawling through the Kingdom of Heaven reviews this week.
To be honest, historical epics are starting to bore us and we can do without seeing any more of Orlando Bloom brandishing oversized weapons while his hair gently shifts in the breeze...and it seems we're not alone.
Pete Bradshaw can only bring himself to give Kingdom of heaven two stars in his, frankly brilliant, review in today's Guardian.
It is four years since President Bush used the word "crusade" to describe the war against terrorism, and then, while the liberal west winced, attempted to gulp it back into his mouth. Ridley Scott's achingly well-intentioned epic looks like a 145-minute dramatisation of that wince.
Go get 'em Pete!
Bradshaw calls the film a "modernised romantic-liberal fantasy about the Crusades, stuffed with some of the silliest supporting performances imaginable", and is particularly nasty about 'chief baddie' Sir Guy De Lusignan played by Marton Csokas:
He is the campest villain I have seen in a long time - always sneering and pouting and arching his body into all manner of haughty catlike postures. He's like a cross between Larry Grayson and Satan, with a touch of that serial killer from The Silence of the Lambs who liked dancing around in his lair with his penis tucked between his legs.
Jeremy Irons' performance also comes in for a bit of stick for a turn which apparently "sends the thesp-o-meter into bleeping overdrive".
Over in the Independent it's another two stars from Anthony Quinn who (like Bradshaw) enjoys the "battle scenes of panoramic scope and bloody savagery" but has some reservations regarding Scott's intentions:
In portraying the centuries-long struggle between Christians and Muslims for the troubled soul of Jerusalem, [Scott] has ended up pleasing neither side, though given the state of geopolitics post 9/11 and the incendiary charge already carried in the word "crusade" the film-makers probably saw this coming
Although he gives the director "credit for at least trying to present a balanced account of an insoluble conflict", Quinn can't quite bring himself to "seriously imagine that a two-hour-plus epic is a useful tool with which to unpick it."
So one to avoid then? Well, not if you're James Christopher, who gives Kingdom of Heaven a whopping four stars in The Times today, summing it up as "a thumping medieval yarn, dressed in all the bloody trappings that made his last box-office epic, Gladiator, such a terrific watch."
Huh? What's going on here? Is is the battle scenes? The intricate plot? The performaces? No...it's Orlando bloody Bloom:
He wears blowsy shirts, dusty britches and medieval cowboy boots when he’s impressing the natives, and chain-mail armour and a huge glistening broadsword when he’s chopping them in half. He is fabulously uncomplicated, and effortlessly sexy.
Woah there James. Go take a cold shower or something before you lose it completely. Oh, too late:
"Defending the hallowed city against the tidal wave of Saracens — who march and grunt like hungry orcs — is, of course, meat and drink for Bloom...[his] shining idealism is a beacon in a city teeming with crooked barons and back-stabbing plots."
And Christopher even thinks the supporting cast are ok too: "David Thewlis, Marton Csokas and Jeremy Irons put in superb cameos as seasoned cynics."
Who knows, maybe he's right. But personally we'll side with Bradshaw and Quinn on this one and give it a miss.
So what else is out there for us non-Bloom fanatics? Well there's always Todd Solondz's Palindromes.
Solondz normally scores well with the critics but he's struggling to impress the newly elected president of the Bloom Fanclub, James Christopher, who awards Palindromes just two stars.
"A thin victory of form over content," says Christopher (obviously peeved at the lack of blowsy shirts in the film). Christopher goes on to call the movie a "freak show rather than a film...not [because of] the underage motel sex, nor even the crazed Christian shelter run by Debra Monk’s Mama Sunshine. It’s the fact that Aviva is confusingly played by two women, four adolescent girls, one 12-year-old boy, and a six-year-old girl."
It's the same score over in the Independent and a similar complaint: "Confusing, to say the least, and, unfortunately, not that interesting, either". For Quinn, Solondz's methods are "so roundabout and his purpose so obscure that you begin to long for the straightforward tastelessness of his younger days."
Meanwhile, over at the Guardian, Pete Bradshaw is a little more forgiving. It's a three star review from him in which he claims Solondz has enforced "his reputation as the Diane Arbus of modern American cinema," with, "a startling formal challenge thrown down to the audience [and] a way out of the traditional constraints of restraint, respect and correctness, smashing through into a new realm of post-modern empathy."
Finally this week we have Twin Sisters, a second world war drama from Holland and a best foreign film Oscar nominee.
It's a respectable three stars over at the Independent, with praise for the actors if not for the director: "Ben Sombogaart's direction won't set the pulse racing, and the narrative jolts make the film look as if it has been edited from a much longer project, but Nadja Uhl and Thekla Reuten both do honest work as the star-crossed sisters."
But the film starts to suffer by the time we reach the Times where it receives just two stars. And despite more praise for the acting, Twin Sisters gets labelled "a creaky melodrama".
By the time we reach the Guardian the Oscar nominated film is down to one measly star.
"Danielle Steel appears to be the presiding deity for this tiring second world war drama from Holland," complains Bradshaw, before closing with this damning line: " In keeping with its quaintly picturesque period approach, the film appears to have been developed in cold tea."
Some quick film links to finish off with then:
Trailer of the week (just for curiosity value you understand) has to be The Dukes of Hazzard...we can't wait until Bradders has to review this one.
Garden State was one of our favourites of last year and now there's finally some news of what Zach Braff's next project will be: a comedy called Fast Track apparently.
And finally for this week, check out this early Superman flying footage that's found it's way on the interweb. Is it a bird...etc.