This week - A chap flying here and there with his pants on the outside of his trousers (Superman Returns), a drama/black comedy about death in Bucharest (The Death of Mr Lazarescu ) and a German film adaption of a Michel Houellebecq novel (Atomized)
First up, is it a bird? No, it's far too big. Is it a plane? (Are there snakes on the plane?) No he's too small and brightly coloured to be a plane... it's Superman!!
The critics have all dubbed this a pretty mediocre film. It was never going to be brilliant, this being the fifth bite at the Superman apple, but there are positives.
The big triumph has been Routh, who, according to Bradshaw's 3/5 review, plays Superman and is "very good at the Clark/Superman differentiation". His Kent is "gawky, geeky, with an unattractive sort of tousled fringe. Transformation means not merely ripping off his outer garments and specs, but teasing his hair into a kiss-curl and acquiring vivid blue eyes which are capable of repelling bullets."
There is nothing wrong with a tousled fringe.
Bradshaw is also impressed by the performance of London's own (sort of) Kevin Spacey "who is a terrific turn as Luthor". His "cracking performance incidentally puts paid to the whisperings of mean-minded types in this country who claim he's only doing London theatre because his movie career is washed up. It's not."
Anthony Quinn (2/5) makes the inevitable comparison between Margot Kidder's Lois Lane of the 1978 original and the 2006 Lois, Kate Bosworth. It seems that Bosworth comes out the worse for it, she "makes Lois more of a petulant miss than perhaps was intended. I ultimately found myself hankering for Margot Kidder in the 1978 movie." James Christopher in the Times (3/5) concurs, writing, "Bosworth is not a sexy femme fatale in the mould of Margot Kidder."
The comparisons with the original do not stop there. Bradshaw writes that,
"So much of the vigour, the sheer thrill of the film comes when we revisit the scenes from Superman's childhood and early manhood ... Why couldn't Singer have just gone the extra mile, like Nolan with Batman or indeed Peter Jackson with King Kong, and just travelled back to the beginning, the narrative wellspring?"
Mr. Singer! Take Bradshaw back to the narrative wellspring and you could have had a four or five star review on your hands.
Another possible problem with this film is addressed by Quinn who highlights a problem with many blockbusters of late, length. Superman Returns "demands a shade over two and a half hours of your time, and for no discernible reason."
Lastly, Christopher in the Times makes an interesting observation, "I haven’t seen a film littered with so much biblical iconography since The Passion of the Christ."
A superhero coming out of the blue to save humanity from itself - the day Christ was born or indeed the day Peter Bradshaw joined the Guardian staff.
Next up, The Death of Mr Lazarescu
Bradshaw describes it as "a blacker-than-black, deader-than-deadpan comedy",
It seems extraordinary to claim that this film is funny but it is, because Lazarescu's decline into catatonia and stillness - mumbling, wheezing and whimpering against the dying of the light - is in superb counterpoint to the loquacious performances from incidental characters, forever jabbering and squabbling with each other about trivial matters while Lazarescu goes into his twilight moments. He is trembling on eternity's threshold and one grumpy doctor laments only that no one will lend him a Nokia charger.
Then to end his review, Bradshaw gets all philosophical,
Part of the film's brilliance is its stunning and unforgiving transmission of the great truth that for most of us, death is not a single, flatline moment, but a gradual, insidious process of deterioration. When does it begin: in one's 70s? Or 60s? 50s? 40s? Is the second half of our life a matter of swimming harder and harder and harder against the receding tide?
Don't worry, you're never going to die Peter. When scientists have perfected that bringing-people-back-from-cryogenic-freezing thing, you'll be the first to be unthawed and we'll be the first in line with a hairdryer.
Wendy Ide describes it as "like an unusually philosophical episode of ER played in painful slow motion" which to us sounds awful but, "the experience is extraordinarily compelling and emotionally draining."
This sounds like a quirky one, and with five stars from both the Times and the Guardian, this is our tip for the week.
Next up, a German film adaptation of a Michel Houellebecq novel, Atomized. Bradshaw writes,
One of the funniest and most astringent books of recent times has been turned into a film so embarrassingly awful I felt like putting a brown paper bag over my head and emitting a high-pitched keening sound.
Needless to say, he gives it one star and finishes up by calling it "dead as a haddock on a slab." I think we all get the picture.
Strangely, James Christopher in the Times doesn't agree and awards it three stars. Rather than comparing it to a dead fish, he describes it as "a hot and cold comedy which pricks taboos with a wit that makes you gasp... the comic appeal is raw to the point of repulsive."
So whether you see this film depends on one thing, a central question that has plagued us all and will continue to do so for years to come - who does one believe, Peter Bradshaw or James Christopher?
Other films out this week - Ellie Parker (A young woman's struggle for integrity, happiness and a Hollywood acting career), 11:14 (The events leading up to a car crash, from five very different perspectives), Taxi Driver (re-presented for its 30th anniversary as part of a Bernard Herrmann season at London's National Film Theatre)
Trailer of the week - Miami Vice