This week: Good Night and Good luck, Casanova, Aeon Flux and all the film news and rumours (plus, Trailer of the Week).
You've already heard what we at Londonist have to say about Good Night and Good Luck (which we're going to call GNaGL from here on in) so what do the broadsheet hacks make of Clooney's big Oscar hopeful?
To start us off it's three stars from Pete Bradshaw in the Guardian, who knows how to construct a serious sentence for a serious film:
A downbeat account of the McCarthy standoff, and his film is evidently intended as a counterblast to boisterous neocon-revisionist attempts to rehabilitate the controversial senator.
For all it's "handsome" black and white photography and "adoring recreation" of the pioneer days of US television in the 50s, Bradders can't help but think that the whole thing has "a slightly inert, docudrama quality, like something BBC4 might commission if it wanted to spend 10 years' total programming budget on one 90-minute feature."
Pete goes on to repeat that GNaGL is "all outstandingly performed and photographed" and contains "classy acting and [a] cerebral script" but can still only bring himself to award the same amount of stars as he gave "Final Destination 3 last week. Puzzling.
Over in the Independent, Tony Quinn seems to be having the same problem in his two star review.
Again we're told that GNaGL is "a ravishingly handsome piece of work," and Clooney has done "a handsome and heroic job of reconstructing" the era (that's three 'handsomes' in two reviews so far) but, like Bradshaw, Quinn just doesn't think that this makes for "an especially satisfying movie".
The problem isn't (or isn't just) that a bunch of men who sit around and argue is cinematically inert; a few years back a movie about the Cuban Missile Crisis, Thirteen Days, followed the same behind-closed-doors scenario and turned it into a thriller.
Clooney and his co-writer Grant Heslov look for the same jangled energy in the CBS backrooms, and let the actors talk over one another in the heated, on-the-hoof style of news journalists, a breed never knowingly shy of offering an opinion. But while their rapid-fire talk sounds authentic, it also registers as a massive self-congratulatory group- hug.
The film lacks 'moral suspense' claims Quinn, which is just a film critics way of saying 'bor-ring!'. And, despite the "impeccable liberal values and... smoky black-and-white loveliness," Quinn sums up the film as "self-regarding, complacent and flat."
Clooney's labour of love is up to four stars in The Times, where Wendy Ide denies that the film is "self-satisifed and praises it for being "a masterclass in intelligent, adult film-making" (but doesn't use the word 'handsome' once!)
For Ide it's the performances which make this film with Patricia Clarkson, Robert Downey Jr, Jeff Daniels, Frank Langella and Clooney himself coming in for praise, but special mention is reserved for Ray Wise as the news anchor Don Hollenbeck and, of course, David 'Oscar-nominated' Strathairn as Ed Murrow:
Strathairn’s central performance as Murrow that really dominates the film. Authoritative and dignified, he permits us glimpses of the man behind the broadcasting legend in the seconds after the cameras stop turning — the momentary pause after his attack on McCarthy as he realises that he has started something bigger then either of them; the fleeting look of disgust after a “person to person” interview with Liberace. It’s a performance that deserves an Oscar.
And from one 'Best Actor' nominee to another: Heath Ledger. Donnie Darko's been hogging the cinematic spotlight for the past month or so but now it's time for his Brokeback co-star to try and capitalise on that success and he couldn't have found a more polar-opposite vehicle than Casanova (and we don't just mean the switch from lads to lasses, judging from the critics response to this bodice-ripper there's a gulf of quality between Heath's last two outings).
Anthony Quinn sets the tone with his one star review, laying the blame squarely at director Lasse Hallstrom's feet:
Hallstrom, not a master of the light touch, takes to the canals of 18th-century Venice and creates a different but no less horrid big stink. His retelling of the Casanova legend owes almost nothing to history, and a great deal to the period romp and to the lesser Carry On movies, which mightn't be so bad if some scintilla of wit or mischief were discernible.
Ledger comes in for a slightly lighter kicking ("looks merely distracted as the famous swordsman of the boudoir - as if he can't quite believe the arrant silliness he's signed up for,") but nothing, not even the "cavalcade of middle-ranking stars" can stop this becoming "a dismal farce".
Wendy Ide is in total agreement in The Times, and also doles out just a single star. "A shamefully hammy performance" she says of Ledger, "little more than a crotch and a smirk". But again he gets a bit of a repreive thanks to the Brokeback effect: "Perhaps that’s more a reflection of the limitations of the film and its script than of Ledger’s acting ability."
Miller meanwhile is "instantly forgettable" but we knew that anyway, and the fact that its neither her or Ledger who are "smeared in lard and strapped to a trestle table" will reduce the potential audience for this film by at least half we reckon.
We can normally rely on Pete Bradshaw to be stood waiting, mallet in hand, ready to pound the final nail in any turkey-shaped coffin, but this week he's surprised us all by awarding Casanova three stars.
"Sheer puppyish silliness keeps this jolly romp alive," says Bradshaw, sounding for all the world like someone's spiked his drink with happy drugs. And even the fact that "Heath Ledger smudges his Brokeback cool by playing Casanova with a naff kind of thespy English accent arrived at by speaking as if his jaws have been wired shut," can't dislodge a star or two.
If you were thinking of asking Pete Bradshaw if you could borrow some money, now might be the time to ask. He's even given Aeon Flux an extremely generous two stars. Although he does find time to inject some of the Bradshaw-patented piss taking ("Charlize Theron, looking almost scarily beautiful, plays a secret rebel in a repressive city-state in AD 2415. For some reason, she is given a name that makes her sound like a vacuum cleaner").
Pete says the film is made "with some style," but once you get over that and the first bit of action is out of the way then the film flags badly.
Idey in the Timesy (sorry) also sees fit to award two stars but you do get the impression that she was so bored she spent 90% of the time it took to write the review on this one sentence:
It looks striking, almost as if someone had genetically spliced Ken Adam, the designer of Dr Strangelove, with Antoni Gaudí and let the resulting creature loose with a big budget and a goody bag of digital effects.
That's not our favourite sentence in Ide's review though. This is:
Charlize Theron in shiny leather knickers as an ass-kicking rebel warrior who has a metal knob on her back so that she can tune her thought waves like a transistor radio.
Unfortunately, as fantastic a concept at that might seem on first reading, Wendy asures us that "the plot is as flimsy as Ms Flux’s barely decent night attire."
Those fears are confirmed in Tony Quinn's Independent review where Aeon Flux picks up the almost-inevitable one-starrer.
"Rubbish sci-fi" says Quinn, hypothesising that Theron only did it for the money. The big shock though is that Frances McDormand, Sophie Okonedo, and Pete Postlethwaite are in this film. The big non-shock: so is Jonny Lee Miller, and he's "awful".
It's all spies in this week's film news: The Bourne Ultimatum, is due to start shooting in August with Paul Greengrass directing again. And though Ultimatum was the last book there's talk of the franchise going on for around five films.
More Bond casting news: the villain will be played by Mads Mikkelsen. Who he? Check his IMDB entry here. Plus the undeniably stunning Eva Green has taken the role of Vesper Lynd and Jeffrey Wright will play CIA agent Felix Leiter. No word yet on who will play Sir Ian Blair.
Here's the poster for Oliver Stone's World Trade Center film.
It looks like London might see a bit of David Cronenberg if he decides to direct Eastern Promises written by Steve 'Dirty Pretty Things’ Knight. It's a drama based around a sex-trafficking based in the capital.