This week - Alan Bennett's adaption of his smash-hit play (History Boys), Costner plays a lifeguard, (The Guardian) and Outkast make a jazz/hip-hop movie (Idlewild).
First up, The History Boys, the film adaptation of Alan Bennett's ridiculously successful play which won a sackful of awards. However - does this mean that it makes a great film? Seemingly not, the reviews this week all agree that this adaptation does not measure up to its theatrical origins.
In the words of Robert Hanks at the Independent (3/5), "the film arrives on a wave of expectation; and it doesn't live up to it." For him, "the difficulty is largely about the different degrees of reality, and realism, theatre and film demand ... The film lets slip that the action is taking place in the run-up to Christmas, but it was obviously shot in high summer, with blue skies and leaves on the trees."
There is also much written about the problems of the year it is set in. It is supposedly set in 1983 but the boys seem like boys from a much earlier period, perhaps the era of Bennet's own adolescence.
Another problem with the adaptation is the way in which the film has endeavoured to stay true to the original play, leading to, what Bradshaw (2/5) describes as "the kind of elaborate, highly worked dialogue that is exhilarating in the theatre, but rather unreal-sounding on the big screen." James Christopher at the Times (3/5) accuses director, Nicholas Hytner, of having "cut and pasted [the film] on to the screen without any real idea how it should all fit together."
Bradshaw's review is the most scathing, calling the film "oddly contrived", not "any one thing in particular" and "faintly directionless". However, he did enjoy the performance by Richard Griffiths and spends much of his review elaborating on his size,
Heaven knows, Mr Griffiths was no starveling playing Uncle Monty in Withnail and I 20 years ago - but now he is a mighty presence indeed... As far as he is permitted, Griffiths dominates the screen with talent and charm - and sheer equatorial girth.
James Christopher highlights another problem with the director's obsession with sticking to the spirit of the original stage show,
Hytner’s noble compunction to retain the original stage cast has obvious wisdom but a curiously surreal side-effect. The boys, although as carefully differentiated as the Spice Girls, behave like Midwich Cuckoos. Their eerie “suits you, sir” repartee is oiled by the fact that they have lived these parts onstage for the best part of three years. They finish each other’s sentences and jokes with dead-pan ennui. They spar like a very large gay family.
Robert Hanks sums up the thrust of the reviews very well - "It is, in sum, a useful record of a great night out at the theatre; but not a great film."
Next up, The Guardian
Finally... a film about the daily life of the Guardian's resident film critic, Peter Bradshaw, starring Kevin Costner as Bradshaw, looking effortlessly cool as he saunters from press screening to press screening, winking at Wendy Ide from the Times, sparring with Anthony Quinn for her hand in marriage...
Well, we were close. It's got Costner in it, but he plays a lifeguard. We'll probably have to wait until he dies for the Bradshaw biopic. It'd be cruel to make him review it for a start.
Anyway, back to the real film. It's bad. Bradshaw (2/5) writes,
What a very long film this is: distended by a fanatical desire to include every single cliche imaginable, from the neglected wife leaving Costner - and being absolutely right to do so - to the male-bonding punch-ups in the local bars, à la Officer and a Gentleman.
Costner and Kutcher aren't very good.
These thesps look like the most terrifying water-based situation they have ever actually faced is when the Jacuzzi isn't warm enough in their suite at the Four Seasons. Costner, in particular, could do with a pair of waterwings, and he gives us every reason to suspect that his tummy scrapes the bottom of the pool when he assumes a horizontal position.
Hanks at the Independent (2/5) concurs, writing about the heavily laid on cliches and the length which is a "good hour too long to doggy-paddle to a conclusion." James Christopher (1/5) writes that, "Kutcher seems to think he’s in An Officer and a Gentleman. I’m not sure if Costner actually thinks at all."
Lastly, the product of hip hop outfit Outkast and their video maker, Bryan Barber, Idlewild. We're sorry, but it looks as if this film is rubbish too. It's a week for going to the theatre, or going to see The Departed.
Hanks (1/5) writes,
As Prince with Under the Cherry Moon and Madonna with Shanghai Surprise, so the hip-hop duo Outkast with this farrago about 1930s Deep South gangsters. No amount of style, wit or talent - and Outkast have those - can keep you from making an arse of yourself on film: you also need a decent script and a director who can make a story flow. Barber is ace at music videos (he did Outkast's "Hey Ya") but this mess suggests he hasn't the attention span for anything larger. Even hardcore fans should avoid.
Bad bad bad.
James Christopher (1/5) calls it, "an utterly deranged Moulin Rouge story" and Bradshaw manages to give it two stars writing, "this is a mess, but occasionally an interesting mess... the big set-pieces are a bold and even experimental attempt to blend contemporary hip-hop with the jazz age" There is also mention of some "very weird sentimental necrophilia" which explains the two stars.
Other films out this week - The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning ( Four friends on a road trip crash their car. They are taken to a secluded house of horrors, where a young, would-be killer is being nurtured.), Frozen Land (Paha Maa) (When a schoolteacher is sacked he takes it out on his son, who then turns to crime. The chain continues with each character passing their problems on to the next victim), New Police Story (A policeman haunted by survivor's guilt is galvanised back into action by a young man with a troubled past.), Open Season (A domesticated grizzly finds himself in the forest three days before hunting season begins.), Shut Up (Tais Toi!) (A dangerous criminal and a dim-witted thief become friends in prison and, upon their release, go in search of a hidden stash of stolen money.) and Stick It (A former gymnast-turned-juvenile delinquent is forced to enrol at an elite gymnastics academy after one too many run-ins with the law.)
Trailer of the week - Rocky Balboa