This week: The Proposition, The Child, and The Hills Have Eyes. Plus all the usual film news and Trailer of the Week.
Let's kick things off this week with a look at The Proposition, John Hillcoat's Aussie western starring Guy Pearce and scripted by Nick Cave.
Londonist reviewed this film recently and gave it a resounding thumbs up (can thumbs resound?) and it looks like at least two out of our three regular broadsheet reviewers agree with us.
In the Guardian Pete Bradshaw gives The Proposition four stars claiming that it invokes "the spirits of Sam Peckinpah and Sergio Leone" in its brutality:
It isn't going to be to everyone's taste; I found myself wishing I could have brought a sofa into the cinema to hide behind. But it really is a very stylish, arresting piece of movie-making, throbbing with heat and fear and violence.
Bradders likes the fact that the film manages to reinvent the cinematic gunfight, "presenting it not as the usual stately giving and receiving of strategically aimed shots, but a rattling, eardrum-perforating mess," and is also enamoured with the film's photogrpahy: "Benoît Delhomme's camerawork extracts every last drop of harsh flavour from the cracked landscape, and the movie itself has the quality of a bad dream."
And there doesn't seem to be a bad performance in the film according to PB, everyone from Danny Huston, to Pearce, to John Hurt's cameo comes in for praise, all of which goes to make this "a riveting experience," as far as he's concerned.
James Christopher, in the Times, agrees also awarding four stars. "One of the most powerful frontier films I’ve seen," he claims, "Lyrical too. The correlation between the beautiful and the damned is the unforgettable theme. Violence is the pure and numbing way of life."
The grizzliness of the whole affair is now beyond doubt ("The sickening, sometimes unwatchable, acts of human horror are ghastly expressions of despair") and the performances seem to be flawless ("the cast whittle marvellous performances out of stock parts") so why does Anthony Quinn, writing in the Independent, only give it two stars?
Well, his main problem seems to be Nick Cave:
Now, Cave has written some wonderful lyrics in his time, and he plainly admires the folk legend of Ned Kelly; unfortunately he has a tin ear for dialogue and almost no grasp of narrative urgency.
Quinn also calls Cave "maddeningly inconsistent" in his characterisation and claims that some of the performances lack the necessary conviction: "I was unconvinced John Hurt's blarneying bounty hunter and David Wenham as a Brit landowner with a cartoonishly broad mean streak."
Quinn does agree that cinematographer Benoît Delhomme does a grand job with the outback's landscapes but that alone is not enough to save the film when "Hillcoat can't even stage a competent action sequence and Cave's screenplay shrinks from every challenge it needs to face."
Did he see the same film as the other two?
Next up this week is the Palme d’Or winning The Child (L’Enfant) from Luc and Jean-Pierre Dardenne.
Just from looking at the online page it's hard to know how many stars Anthony Quinn gives L'Enfant. It looks like two, but that's the mark for The Proposition which is on the same page. In fact if you look in the newspaper you'll see he gives it four stars, which makes more sense when he's saying things like, "If you want a portrait of hand-to-mouth privation in today's Western Europe (and I suspect not many do), here is a good place to start."
Unfortunatley Quinn also spends half of his review explaining the plot of the film instead of reviewing it, so we can't really tell what he likes so much about it. We do know however that he thinks the directors are "uncompromising, unglamorous," and can handle "dramatic development" very well.
The film drops a star at the hands of James Christopher in The Times, who also spends the majority of his review documenting the film's narrative. JC's main problem with L'Enfant is the initial premise though and depsite that fact that he thinks the Dardenne brother's brand of realism is "raw and relentless" and the central performance is "captivating" he just can't instill enough faith in the film's motivations to give it any more than three stars.
The film gets its best review in the Guardian where Peter Bradshaw gives it the maximum five stars.
"An example of how cinema has the power to convince, to move and to compel with the fewest possible material resources," gushes Bradders:
As gripping as any thriller, with the abrasive force of social-realist drama, and yet it is also unapologetically concerned with redemption - a theme that is just a style accessory in many movies, but is here absolutely authentic. It is a spiritual and even religious story, though religion of any sort is quite absent. In some scenes, it even had this unbeliever fearing for the lead character's immortal soul.
So he likes it then.
Bradshaw talks about how the mobile phone is a central motif in the film, how it is a "vital possession, the only possession that appears to mean anything,"; and how eventually it becomes "a symbol of moral void." It's not all doom and gloom though, "The Child has nothing to do with miserablism, and everything to do with fine acting and transcendentally powerful, compassionate drama," says Bradshaw. What tops the whole thing off for him though is that L'Enfant has "what many movies of all genres lack: a satisfying and ingenious ending."
Finally this week it's horror-remake time with The Hills Have Eyes.
Anthony Quinn must be having a crap week or something. He only awards one film (L'Enfant) more than two stars this week, so The Hills Have Eyes has to settle for two stars. We already know Quinn is not a big fan of horror, so it comes as no surprise that his rather terse review could be summed up with "slow build up" followed by a "splatter-fest".
Alexandre Aja's trubute to Wes Craven fares slighlty better in The Times, where Wendy Ide awards it three stars and is surprisingly approving of all the "pickaxe/eye socket injuries". We particularly likes this sentence:
Hardened splatter-fans and gore hounds should have their appetites for cranial trauma and evisceration satiated for a good while.
Finally, in the Guardian, Pete Bradshaw also gives three stars, penning a similar sentiment to Ide, but in a more succinct, poster-friendly way: "If you're a fan of pickaxe-related violence, it's a must-see."
In film news this week:
We've spent the whole day trying to finish ths 1980s Movie Alphabet Quiz. We've got one to get and it's driving us mad.
Have you seen the Natalie Portman rap video yet? Go watch it while it's still there.
The film right's to Stephen King's zombie book Cell have have been bought already. It'll be rubbish.
And talking of King, John Cusack has signed up for 1408, based on SK's short story. We like the sound of this one.
Woody Allen is going to direct his next film in...Paris! Bastard, that's the last time we invite him over here.
There's some new stills from Casino Royale, including Daniel Craig in an obscene pair of blue trunks.
Trailer of the week: Perfume.