This week - A swashbuckling adventure sequel (Pirates of the Caribbean 2 : Dead Man's Chest), a futuristic crime movie featuring 'le parkour' (District 13) and a Beastie Boys concert film with a hilarious title (Awesome; I Fuckin' Shot That!)
It is individual performances that lift this film. Of course, the wonderful Johnny Depp, so good in the first installment, shines again. According to James Christopher in the Times,
Depp revels in his pithy script. He tells Knightley: “You know, these clothes do not fancy you at all. It should be a dress or nothing. I happen to have no dress in my cabin.”
We're sure we've heard that chat up line before... followed by "Don't you know who I am? I'm the Hoff!"
There also is praise allround for Bill Nighy's villainous Davy Jones, a pirate with an octopus face that according to Anthony Quinn in the Independent, "will give you sleepless nights... He has a beard of slimy tentacles, a weird Scottish accent, a special relationship with a monster called the Kraken, and the sporting patience of Andy Murray." Steve Rose in the Guardian describes the villains as, "like a bad acid trip at the sealife centre.".
In the same way that they are in consensus about what makes this film good, the reviewers all agree on its negative points too. Firstly, Orlando Bloom and Keira Knightley. Christopher writes, "they are full and pretty British extras" who "don't add much by way of charisma." Quinn writes that they "are a match for one another in prettiness, yet there's a distinct lack of sexiness about either of them."
Secondly, all the papers pick up on what Christopher calls its "indefensible longwindedness". He continues, "The only serious flaw is that the film rambles on, and on, and on." Quinn agrees,
It's a basic misapprehension of modern action-adventure movies that if you keep adding to something you make it more exciting. In fact, the law of diminishing returns must apply, as in the sequence where a mill wheel breaks off from a house and rolls down a hill while two men swordfight upon it. For thirty seconds it's quite exciting; after a couple of minutes you wonder why something improbable has also become interminable.
Rose in the Guardian makes an interesting comparison with Star Wars,"This isn't an updated swashbuckler, it's a backdated Star Wars! ... virtually every character here has a Star Wars equivalent." He continues, "A new Star Wars - or perhaps Sta-Haaar! Wars - is exactly what the movie world wants, and possibly needs."
"Sta-Haaar Wars"?... oh Steve, the review was going so well. They'll never let you fill in for Bradshaw again.
Next up, District 13
In this film, a hardened police officer has to team up with a street tough-guy to save the day in authoritarian 2010 Paris. The cop is played by former stunt star Cyril Raffaelli and David Belle plays the street tough guy.
Belle is the famous inventor of Le Parkour, put simply, jumping around urban landscapes in a way that if attempted by most normal non-Spiderman people would lead to certain death, or as Bradshaw describes it in his two star review, "gobsmacking free-running stunt moves across urban landscapes." He continues,
When the movie suspends its notional storyline to let Belle float miraculously over rooftops and up stairwells, it is great stuff. Not even the fact that he did it for a promotional film for BBC1 can spoil the effect.
Remember? He rushed across London rooftops to get home in time to see Eastenders or plug in his set top box or something. Very cool. Totally radical. Cowabunga. If you are still unsure, click here for a awesome youtube video of Parkour on some of London's famous landmarks to the sound of Van Halen's 'Jump'.
Quinn at the Independent (two stars) obviously also enjoyed Belle's work, "If stuntwork were the sole standard of movie greatness, then District 13 would be in the very front rank." Ian Johns in the Times (two stars) calls him a "human Speedy Gonzales." Bradshaw laments that "A 90-minute feature simply showing Belle's stunts with no frills would be great; unfortunately, they only account for about 10 minutes."
Ian Johns seems to summarize quite well,
You can tell that this is not a La Haine-style essay on urban alienation. Trying to find a deeper subtext in this... is like mulling the meaning of a rollercoaster: it’s best simply to enjoy the ride."
Last up, Awesome; I Fuckin' Shot That!
Bradshaw begins, "That title led me to hope for a fascinating first-person documentary by the Duke of Edinburgh about his first wildlife tour of Kenya." Unfortunately it isn't. It is an "eyeball-frazzling but diverting and often weirdly intriguing experimental concert movie" about the Beastie Boys. "The result is like watching an entire 90-minute film on your mobile phone." Bradshaw gives it three stars but doesn't have much positive to say about it.
"It's raw, mad, vulgar and some of it is all but unwatchable." but "it comes much, much closer to the energy of a live experience than the plump, stately and middleweight 'concert movies' that occasionally surface." Well so does getting beaten up in the pub, Peter. Doesn't mean it's fun.
The other reviews are all much less benevolent. However, we can't help thinking that the reviewers can't get past their obvious dislike of the Beastie Boys. Quinn in the Independent (one star) writes, "What you actually get are a million grainy shots of three blokes in acid-green Adidas tracksuits shouting and hectoring unintelligibly over a monolithic beat." Christopher in the Times (one star) writes, "Frankly, Hornblower would have got more interesting footage if he strapped his cameras to a flock of Highland sheep" and, "The film is unwatchable. Not just because there is barely a frame in focus. The stroboscopic editing triggers migraine, and the music is appalling."
Basically, if you like the Beastie Boys then it might be good. If you don't, then it won't.
Other films out this week - Heading South (Three middle-aged white women head to Haiti for no-strings sex with young locals - naughty), Little Manhattan (A pair of besotted 11-year-olds face separation when one leaves to attend private school - who cares?), Ju-On: The Grudge 2 (Actress Kyoko loses her boyfriend and her unborn child in a car accident, but when she goes to her gynaecologist he assures that her all is well with the pregnancy: so who, or what, is gestating down there? - eugh yuck!)
Trailer of the week - The U.S. vs John Lennon
Implausible Film News of the Week -
"Expectation has reached fever pitch ever since news leaked out about the plot and title" The plot and the title are the same thing! Is it only us who are baffled by how this film ever got made?