This week - CGI cars populate the earth (Cars), stylist sci-fi thriller set in Paris 2054 (Renaissance) and a computer game becomes deadly (Stay Alive)
First up, Cars from Pixar, makers of Finding Nemo, The Incredibles, Toy Story etc. etc. However, where Pixar's previous efforts have been recieved well by the critics, Cars dissapoints. Bradshaw in the Guardian awards it three stars writing that Cars "just doesn't have much in the tank." As expected, the graphics are flawless, Bradshaw calls the animation "top-of-the-range" but what we are left with is an "uninteresting spectacle".
The awful truth is that we are becoming blase about animation technology that just a few years ago would have had us on the floor, gasping. Now these movies are having to rediscover the old verities of script and voicework.
To sum up, "There's nothing inherently wrong with Cars, but nothing very much right either".
James Christopher in the Times writes a very unforgiving review and awards it one star calling it "the most depressing and utterly nerdy blockbuster I’ve seen in a while." The plot is "as novel as a second-hand spark plug" and "who really cares if 17 hours of hard labour went into every single frame? Yes, the signposts and rear-mirror reflections are wonderful, but you can’t steer technology into the future without a decent script."
Anthony Quinn in the Independent, shares similar concerns as Bradshaw and Christopher, and gives it three stars. He raises an interesting point,
At a time when oil prices are bubbling up and global warming has been acknowledged as a problem even in America, the last thing we need from movies is another celebration of driving.
and finally, "wondered if I could decently recommend a film with Jeremy Clarkson in it." (One of the cars was originally voiced by Jeremy Piven from The Larry Sanders Show, but for the UK release this character has been dubbed in by utter knob Jeremy Clarkson.... why why why?)
We don't think we at Londonist can recommend a film with Jeremy Clarkson in it either.
Next up, Renaissance.
This is another animation, but not Pixar primary colours. Real footage of actors is digitally derived from live-action footage and recreated in a kind of stylised noir monochrome set in a Paris of floating steel and glass, circa 2054. Peter Bradshaw gives it three stars and describes it as "beautiful-looking". Also, "The feature is over-extended at its current length, but its look and style are intriguing; it is maintained with energy and panache."
Wendy Ide in the Times also gives it three stars. While the film has "gorgeous graphics" the writing is "never in the same class" with its "generic sci-fi conspiracy plot".
For Ide, the real problem is in the re-recording the voice parts using English actors, including Daniel Craig and Ian Holm,
The uniquely Parisian atmosphere is diluted by English and American accents which seem glaringly out of place. A decision intended to increase the film’s commercial potential only serves to make the dialogue seem clumsily inauthentic.
Anthony Quinn in the Independent (three stars) doesn't agree, writing that the while script is unimpressive, "a sliver of sci-fi fustian about biogenic experiments that filches from Minority Report", "the producers persuaded a good cast (Daniel Craig, Catherine McCormack, Ian Holm, Jonathan Pryce) to do the voice work"
Last up, Stay Alive. There are loads of posters for this in the tube, with an image of an xbox controller daubed in blood. We think this looks brilliant. Rubbish, but brilliant. The reviewers half agree. It recieves one star from the Guardian, one star from the Times and two stars from the Independent.
It is a "The Ring" style storyline in which 'game over' on the screen means game over as far as life goes too. According to the Times, "The only way to escape the game is by hammering nails into a 17th-century psychopathic spinster."
For Bradshaw, "It's not a bad idea, but boredom and silliness intervene after about 10 minutes." Boredom? People are getting brutally slain by a computer game! James Christopher is our sort of guy, he writes, "Daft would be one word for it, though in the blood-spattered interfacing of the digital and the physical, it's also pretty entertaining."
We're sorely tempted to go and see this. It has a very straightforward title and has the whiff of a classic about it. Could it be one of those films that is so bad that it's good? (See Frankenhooker.)
Other films out this week - A Lion in the House (Filmed over six years, this documentary follows five children, and their families, contending with cancer.), Warrior King (Tom Yum Goong) (A young fighter named Kham must go to Australia to retrieve his stolen elephant.), Profils Paysan 2: Le Quotidien (Profiles of Farmers 2: Daily Life) (Film about the plight of small-holding peasant farmers in rural France.), Omkara (A Bollywood take on the Othello story, set in the badlands of Uttar Pradesh), Angel-A (A beautiful woman helps an inept scam artist get his game together.)
Trailer of the week - The Fountain