This week - Rocky has another bite at the boxing apple (Rocky Balboa) and Cate Blanchet gets shot in the neck and all manner of problems arise (Babel).
The general feeling in the press about Rocky Balboa, the sixth Rocky film, has been one of mild embarrassment. What is Sly doing? He's 60 for God's sake! Wasn't Rocky rubbish the first time?
However, we here at Londonist do not follow the journalistic tides of the print media. We think Rocky is awesome. So awesome that we reviewed it ourselves this week. So awesome that we have a poster of Rocky here at Londonist HQ. Right next to our Rambo one. The first Rocky film is our second favourite Stallone movie behind Stop! Or My Mom Will Shoot!
Anyway, what do the broadsheets think?
James Christopher in the Times gives it 3/5. He writes that,
Thirty years and five sequels may have turned Sly’s face into a pudding, but they haven’t dented his appetite for a good pounding.
This final Rocky film is "poached in melancholy" as the first half of the film shows Rocky as a "fading legend"
Describing Rocky, Christopher writes,
His chest is a map of varicose veins, his knees are rheumatic and he can barely move his neck because of arthritis.
but it doesn't matter! He has "a pair of sledgehammer fists" and "oodles of rough charm".
Anthony Quinn gives it 2/5 For him,
The surprise is that, for the first hour at least, the film is a quietly affecting portrait of an ex-fighter coping with retirement.
but soon we are treated to a good old "montage of running, weightlifting and punching carcasses of meat". Yeah!
Bradshaw in the Guardian gives it only 1/5. He writes,
Euphorically running up those Philadelphia steps to the pounding music must take a little longer for Rocky these days, you'd think, what with the Zimmer frame and the nursing team on hand with the canister of Grecian 2000.
The tone of the review doesn't really change from there on in, it seems that Bradshaw's problem isn't really with the film itself, rather Stallone's appearance,
We get the usual "training" montage showing this Saga-vintage Michelin Man running, lifting heavy weights and roaring motivationally at himself. The famous Stallone face now looks more asymmetrical than ever; it's as if a gallon of Botox has been injected into one side of his head, and his lower lip is so skewed that its right corner is now directly under his right earlobe. The unfortunate effect is that of an invisible angel of death hooking Rocky's mouth with a fishing line and implacably reeling him in.
Watch the trailer here.
Next up, Babel.
James Christopher gives Babel 5/5 and calls it "the red-hot favourite to win Best Picture at the Oscars",
The story is by no means perfect. It rattles alarmingly between characters and crises on three continents. Time slips backwards and forwards like a dodgy clutch. Entire reels are spent wondering how all these splinters add up. Yet Babel is still the most exhilarating Oscar contender by a long stretch.
It is a film that is about a "clash of cultures" and the "bitter irony" that "in a world bursting with technology we still fail to communicate at the most basic level". For Quinn this is "the topical tragedy of this terrific epic".
The mighty Quinn in the Independent awards it 4/5 but has some pretty weighty criticisms,
As a mosaic, however, the pieces don't really fit together, beyond the arbitrary design imposed by the script. We discover how that rifle ended up in the hands of the mountain guide - it isn't sinister, just a random act of generosity that teaches us nothing. There is no rhyme or reason to these tragedies, and there are no consonances in the story that suggest how things could be different.
He praises the performances, Brad Pitt is "unusually persuasive". Adriana Barraza is "magnificent" and Rinko Kikuchi as the deaf-mute schoolgirl "etches a portrait of loneliness so raw you want to look away, but can't."
He concludes that, "if it had as much meaning as it pretends to, it would be a masterpiece."
Bradshaw is feeling brutal this week and gives Babel only 2/5,
There are some films that arrive here from the international festival circuit almost incandescent with self-importance. They hover into the cinema in a kind of floating trance at how challenging and moving they are. They are films with a profound reluctance to get over themselves. They look up at the sceptical observer with the saucer-eyed saintliness of a baby seal in culling season, or a charity mugger smilingly wishing a nice day on the retreating back of a passer-by.
Despite it being "well acted" and "handsomely photographed" it is,
extraordinarily overpraised and overblown, a middlebrow piece of near-nonsense: the kind of self-conscious arthouse cinema that is custom-tailored and machine-tooled for the dinner-party demographic. The script is contrived, shallow, unconvincing and rendered absurd and almost meaningless by a plot naivety that is impossible to ignore once its full magnitude dawns on you.
Watch the trailer here.
Other films out this week - Asterix and the Vikings (Everyone's favourite animated Gaul takes a stand against the forces of global imperialism), Black Book (Zwartboek) (In the final stages of the second world war, a young Jewish woman joins the resistance in the Netherlands after seeing her family murdered by the Nazis.), Infamous (An interest in a vicious murder case in a Kansas backwater draws writer Truman Capote away from his glittering Manhattan milieu.), Iraq in Fragments (Portrait of life among Iraq's different ethnic communities in the wake of the second Gulf war.), The Return (A young businesswoman begins having nightmares about a murder that happened 15 years ago. So of course she goes to visit the old farmhouse where the killing took place.) and Play (A man and a woman are separately searching for love, but they never quite seem close enough to meet.)
Trailer of the week - Letters From Iwo Jima