This week - A documentary about Mongolian nomads (The Cave of the Yellow Dog), a music documentary about a hip hop concert in Brooklyn (Dave Chapelle's Block Party) and a teeny flick with Lyndsey Lohan and McFly (Just My Luck)
You know that it is a week to go to the ice rink when the first film reviewed on Friday Film News is about the zen-like simplicity of the lives of Mongolian nomads. It comes from director, Byambasuren Davaa who brought us another film about Mongolian nomads, The Story of the Weeping Camel which became a cult hit in Britain and the US and was nominated for an Oscar for best documentary and beat Fahrenheit 9/11 to the same award from the Directors Guild of America. It stars the Batchuluun family, (Batbayar, Urjindorj and little Nansal) and, of course, a yellow dog.
It may not be too bad though. James Christopher in the Times gives The Cave of the Yellow Dog 4/5.
It’s a hypnotic documentary about survival, punctured by small splinters of improvised drama. The cast — mother and father Batchuluun and their three adorable kids— seem utterly indifferent to the prying lens. The film hinges on the slightest of arguments. The oldest daughter, Nansal, who is barely 6, finds a stray dog in a hilltop cave and brings it home to the yurt. Her father refuses to let her keep it in case it has been running with a local pack of wolves. Mum keeps her opinion to herself. Nansal tries to hide the dog among the goats.
You see, if you're from the North it may well remind you of your own childhood. David Gritten in the Telegraph, like an English Lit teacher, explains,
This is merely the surface of a richer narrative. The wolves represent forces of modern life that threaten this harsh nomadic existence; other families have given up and gone to live in the city.
Ahhh, of course!
Christopher really does like this film, writing "The film looks as if it was made for nothing, but you could hang every frame on an art gallery wall." and that "There are few more subtle and unassuming gems."
Bradshaw is more cynical, dealing it only two stars. He writes,
It grew on me, but I couldn't suppress the unworthy and philistine thought that it's the sort of right-on film that the Modem Parents from Viz comic would take their dismayed kids to see, rather than something vulgar that they might enjoy.
Peter Bradshaw reads Viz?
Ostensibly for children, all the reviewers seem to suggest that adults will enjoy this film more. After all, kids want CGI, don't they? Bradshaw writes that, "to me, it has the arthouse look of a movie for adult cognoscenti" and for Christopher it "engages adults and children on profoundly different levels".
This clearly isn't going to be everyone's cup of tea but if you enjoyed The Story of the Weeping Camel, you probably can't go far wrong going to see this.
Next up, Dave Chapelle's Block Party
Fortunately, this has nothing to do with British Cure-a-likes Bloc Party. This Block Party is a record of a concert that took place in a Brooklyn neighbourhood in autumn 2004, organized by American comedian Dave Chapelle.
Steve Rose in the Guardian gives it 4/5. Chapelle has "a wisecracking charm that's difficult to resist." and,
Beneath the frolicking, Chappelle is also at pains to redress the commonly peddled booty-shakin', gun-waving image of African-American culture. His performers are from the more thoughtful end of the spectrum - Kanye West, Erykah Badu, Mos Def, and, topping the bill, a reunion of the Fugees.
So the bad news is, no Snoop.
Sukhdev Sandhu in the Telegraph continues to heap on the praise. Chapelle "doesn't hog screen time, but nor do the performers; the film is a celebration of its audience as much as of its stars." Chapelle has created "both a tribute to - and an embodiment of - black America's creativity, struggles and hopes and what is, according to Sandhu, "one of the best music films ever made."
Rose concludes that, "Altogether, it's an uplifting experience." and we here at Londonist quite fancy being uplifted by this particular film. If you're a fan of African-American culture., this has to be a must see.
Last up, Just My Luck. The basic idea is that Lohan, who is the luckiest girl alive, kisses a loser on the dancefloor (oh to be that loser) and suddenly swap 'lucks'. Lohan’s glittering life falls apart (if only), and Pine becomes the successful manager of the pop group McFly (we think they've both been dealt a pretty bad hand really). It is clearly cack.
James Christopher gives it two stars, calling it "larky but endearing nonsense." We've always thought that Lohan was pretty good, Mean Girls appeals to us on a number of levels. Mcnabb in his one star review in the Guardian agrees with us,
You can't blame Lindsay Lohan. The freckled, red-haired young diva plays Ashley with a cheery resilience strangely reminiscent of Doris Day in her prime. The real rot is in the script.
Gritten at the Telegraph agrees, "Lohan has the makings of a fine, feisty comedienne, but, Mean Girls aside, the right scripts have eluded her."
So, to the script. NcNabb dubs this a "numbing romantic comedy",
We're bombarded with feeble visual gags involving bad luck (puddles, dog shit, ladders, broken mirrors, black cats and so on) before the all-too predictable finale in which true love conquers all.
The Telegraph concludes, "British pop band McFly add a puppyish presence." I hope this doesn't mean they poo on the floor or knock over Lohan and lick her face.
Other films out this week - Reeker (Disturbing visions of murder and gore haunt a group of students stranded in the desert), Princess Raccoon (Japanese romance blossoms between a banished prince and a raccoon princess in disguise as a human), Over the Hedge (A sly CGI raccoon and his shy CGI turtle friend resist the evils of encroaching suburbia) and Forty Shades Of Blue (A Russian beauty living in Memphis is drawn into an affair with her much older partner's estranged son)
As it is out on Thursday, a round up of the reviews of Pirates of the Caribbean 2 : Dead Man's Chest will feature next week but if you are interested, there is a good review in today's Guardian. Read it here.
Some film news for fans of Kevin Smith,
The guys behind Clerks II are offering permanent credits at the end of the comedy to the first 10,000 MySpace members who link the Clerks II page to their friends list.
The names of the winners will then appear at the finale of the theatrical and DVD versions of Kevin Smith's sequel in what will surely become the longest roster of individual mentions in the history of cinema. Unfortunately, we just had a gander and they already have over 23,000 friends.