This week: A Cock and Bull Story, Shopgirl, and Get Rich or Die Tryin' plus film news and gossip.
Our very own reviewer has already tangled with A Cock and Bull Story but will the broadsheet reviewers agree with our positively glowing review of Michael Winterbottom's post-postmodern literary adaptation?
Well, on the whole, yes they do. James Christopher in The Times is the most generous critic with a four star review, calling the film "one of the most startling arthouse comedies I have ever seen,":
Mere words cannot describe the complexity of this fiendish task. No one has tried to prise Laurence Sterne’s loony classic, The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman, off the page for 250 years for a very simple reason: no one has ever fathomed the point of the novel. The film celebrates this quirk to make an equally eloquent point about the frothy fame industry. A Cock and Bull Story is a savoury piece of cheek: a rude, ruddy satire about media stars, and an awesome tour de force by the comedian Steve Coogan, who plays three similar egos: Tristram Shandy, his father Walter, and Coogan himself.
And if you were wondering what Michael Winterbottom's genitalia consisted of, Christopher assures us that "You need rubber balls to play this fast and loose with convention."
If ther's a downside it's the production standards, which JC says "creak with favours and good will," (Winterbottom and and his producer had to dip into their own pockets to keep the film afloat). But in the end that's of little consequence as the "script is magnificent and the editing razor sharp".
One thing that JC doesn't mention is 9 Songs, Winterbottom's dismal attempt at experimental erotica from last year. Anthony Quinn, writing in the Independent, however can't resist having a pop... but in a nice way: "[Winterbottom] has followed one of his shabbiest efforts, last year's experimental sex movie 9 Songs, with what might well be his funniest, an adaptation of Laurence Sterne's 'unfilmable' (and, some say, unreadable) novel The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy."
Although it's just three stars from Quinn ther'e still a lot of praise here, with Coogan's "confessional courage" coming in for special mention despite the fact that Brydon "does upstage him" not only in the film within the film, but also the film that the other film is within... oh, you know what we mean.
Quinn does go on to say though, that despite being "an altogether chucklesome romp," (which century are you writing from this week Tony?) A Cock and Bull Story left him feeling "rather undernourished by the end." and lacks a bit of "emotional or intellectual texture".
There are knob jokes though.
In the Guardian, Pete Bradshaw also tags the film as a 'romp' although this time it's a "self-referential romp" which, we assume, is like the cinematic equivalent of a wank (or maybe a wank in the mirror?).
Anyway... it's three stars again from PB who accuses Winterbottom of generating "an almost delirious atmosphere by making us breathe two different sorts of heady fume: postmodernism and celebrity."
Bradshaw's main gripes are that "all this non-action and thwarted narrative is often quite boring," and (typically Bradshaw-esque this) "Michael Nyman's music sawing away dispiritingly on the soundtrack." And although you can't fault the fact that the film "curbs our enthusiasm for celebrity culture in a funny and shrewd way," there's some doubt in Pete's mind as to "exactly how relevant that is to Tristram Shandy."
(By the way, we also reviewed Shopgirl earlier this week, the post is here.)
"A grim travesty," says JC, kicking off his review as he means to go on, "Steve Martin is the iron-haired grandfather who plays with the affections of a lonely shop assistant, Claire Danes, who is desperate for love. I have rarely seen an actor more determined to wrap his career around a lamppost."
Ouch. And if that weren't enough, Christopher also claims, that at 103 minutes, "the film is wildly over-stretched." A pretty difficult task, especially when you conside that Cheaper by the Dozen 2 was just ten minutes shorter.
One step up the 'turkey ladder' (sounds like a disgusting euphemism if we ever heard one) is PB's two star review in the Guardian, which actually starts off rather promisingly:
Could this be the beginning of Steve Martin's return to form? It's an arrival at base camp, anyway.
Bradders goes onto call the British-directed film "a decently intentioned romantic comedy with moments of sweetness and sadness," and you can almost smell the vast 'but' before it hoves into view....yep, here it is:
But it is lumbered with Martin's present-tense novelistic narration and sentimental contrivances. Worryingly, the film looks like precisely the sort of flimsy, overpriced luxury item that Saks might be selling with a ridiculous price tag.
The best bit of Bradshaw's review is the entire paragraph given over to Danes' performance which we're going to reproduce here for 'posterity' (and we know we go on about Bradshaw's reviews a little too much in this column, but try and deny that the man is a genius after reading this...just try):
It is always a pleasure to see Claire Danes in anything, an intelligent actor who genuinely looks and sounds different from the run of Hollywood careerists. Real Danes fans are, however, never entirely happy until they have seen her do her Crying Face: the crumpling, quivering lower lip and brimming tears. (Only Juliette Binoche cries on screen more eloquently.) This does not materialise until well into the last act, after a run of amorous excitements. Her seduction of Ray is however a smidgen embarrassing; they kiss - he goes off to turn the phones off and comes back to find the bohemian little minx has stripped off and is now lying face down on the bed, like some soft-focus erotic print by David Hamilton - a moment made more silly by the creeping suspicion that Danes has used a pair of stunt-double buttocks.
(By the way, how ugly have they managed to make the normally stunning Danes look in that picture we've used above? Less lipstick girlfriend!)
In the end though, if the only real praise this film can get is that it's nice to see Martin "play something approaching a human being." then it can't be worth the price of a ticket can it?
Things look a little brighter over in the Independent (who, by the way, have started uploading their film reviews on separate pages with easily decipherable star ratings and everything - thank you the Independent!) where Tony Quinn awards three stars. And it might have got more...if it weren't for Steve Martin.
You see Quinn loves Danes, while Schwartzman "looks certain to steal the picture," until that is "Martin... enters the scene and, by degrees, drains off most of the comic energy and goodwill it has won."
"There's a black hole where a romantic hero should be." concludes Anthony, securing the final nail in Shopgirl's coffin, possibly using Steve Martin's skull in place of a hammer.
Now, if there's one thing we didn't expect to be typing this week it's the following sentence:
The best review of Fifty Cent's Get Rich or Die Tryin' comes from The Times.
Ok, so it's not so bad when you consider that everyone else gives it one star, but two stars for a film which drops the G from the end of 'Trying'? What were you thinkin' Wendy Ide?
"It simultaneously sentimentalises, glamorises and condemns the crack-dealing bad-boy brotherhood that rules the streets," says Ide, and we can almost believe she's been there herself, right up until she says "Jackson’s not a natural actor. He’s unreadable and inscrutable. His most expressive feature is his baseball cap, the angle of which varies to distinguish between pissed off and really pissed off. He’s no Tupac."
Wendy Ide: Tupac fan! Who would have thought it?
As we mentioned the Guardian and the Independent are not so generous. Quinn's one star summation includes the line "Jim Sheridan...merely offers his star a length of rope, with which Jackson duly hangs himself," while Bradshaw's scathing enditement finishes with this typically absurd critique:
The movie duly showcases the awful moment where 50 Cent gets shot in the cheek, resulting in the lisp causing him to refer to himself in real life as Fiddy Cent. But his acting skills are not niddy. He does not have the gidd. He's a big spender who isn't thriddy, and when he biffs someone, they stay bidd. The script's attitude to women is shiddy. That's how I'm pronouncing it, anyway.
And so on to this week's film news:
As you may have already seen, the BAFTA nominations were released this week, and the slightly lacklustre (in our opinion) Constant Gardener wins the nomination competition over (the far superior) Brokeback Mountain (no prizes fror guessing why).
Meanwhile Tim Robbins, fresh from his brilliant performance in Team America wants to remake Orwell's 1984. Yeah, because John Hurt was just rubbish in the 84 version wasn't he Tim? Terrible job. We're sure you can do much better.
And in superhero news: it looks like the rather smashing Bryce 'daughter of Ron' Howard might take on the role of Spidey's love interest Gwen Stacy.
And, continuing with the 'hot babe' theme, it looks to be about 99% certain that Rose Byrne is going to be the new Bond girl.
Could this week's trailer of the week be the one for the movie verison of Silent Hill?
No, it couldn't. Instead we're plumping for the much cuter Monster House.