This week - Dame Dench catches Cate Blanchett fiddling with a child and goes nuts (Notes on a Scandal) and Beyonce fronts the Supremes (Dreamgirls).
Bradshaw gives Notes on a Scandal 4/5.
So we have some "tremendous acting" from Judi Dench and Cate Blanchett, director Richard Eyre "gets the best out of Dench and Blanchett and, with great shrewdness, elicits from these two actors all the little tensions and exasperations - as well as the genuine tenderness - in their tragically fraught relationship." The film also incidentally provides "a screenwriting masterclass" from Patrick Marber who "makes the subtleties obvious and sets up the story's twists and turns with the confidence of a young master."
This is a quintessentially English tale of twisted love, of festering secrets and emotional self-harm. Something so horrible and abject shouldn't be so compulsively watchable, and yet it is. Last year was great for British cinema; with films like this on the horizon, 2007 is shaping up very nicely too.
British films! Yeah!
James Christopher at the Times also gives this "potent and evil pleasure" 4/5.
There is more praise for Patrick Marber. This "is screenwriting at its vicious best."
There is the usual praise for Dame Judy and Mrs Blanchett but also, "Bill Nighy is marvellous as the despairing husband who can’t fathom his wife’s crazy behaviour"
Robert Hanks at the Independent gives it only2/5.
the film motors along on the exquisitely observed reproduction of everyday life. The school looks like a real school, the house looks like a real house, the marriage feels like a real marriage, the people, in Patrick Marber's script, talk like real people - and not just real people, but people who live here and now.
However, problems start with the Blanchett's schoolteacher-shagging-a-student character.
She may have betrayed all the trusts placed in her as a teacher and a wife and a parent, but she remains a fairy princess. This is partly about Blanchett's unwillingness or inability to show Sheba's darker side. She allows the loveliness to be underscored by loneliness and frustration - as well as the much older husband, Sheba has a son, Ben (excellently played by Max Lewis), with Down's syndrome, and she ascribes to the pressures of caring for him her sense of "entitlement" to a fling. But to start screwing a 15-year-old - doesn't that require something a bit nastier, a core of fecklessness? ... The script never offers a convincing account of what carries Sheba (Blanchett) over from being flattered and intrigued by a pupil's attentions into twice-a-night bonking sessions by the side of the railway.
So Notes on a Scandal is "enjoyable, and by gum it looks classy". But in the end, "it's just a standard-issue bunny-boiler, a fairy-tale."
Next up, Dreamgirls
James Christopher gives it 4/5,
Few pictures can match the glamorous pull of Dreamgirls. Bill Condon’s first big musical since Chicago is a glossy, gleaming Cadillac of a film with a vintage rhythm and blues engine tuned to perfection. The cast is dressed to kill. Even their wigs look fabulously expensive.
Apparently, the "disarming beauty" of the film is "how dialogue slides into wrenching song or barnstorming blues." Eddie Murphy is,
the wonderful purveyor the film’s best dance numbers. He is a venal joy as James “Thunder” Early, an arrogant, vulgar fusion of James Brown, Chuck Berry and Marvin Gaye. The greasy black quiff that crowns his head makes him look uncannily like a performing phallus.
Does James Christopher's phallus have a greasy black quiff?
Bradshaw gives it 2/5,
There aren't actually that many songs here in the generic musical sense, and the characters don't start singing in this stylised way until some way into the movie, so the effect is a bit odd.
There is no single person or story to centre the drama around, and Murphy's performance, though widely liked and indeed now Oscar-nominated, is for my money flatly written with very little of the high comedy octane of which we know he is capable.
Robert Hanks also gives it 2/5. The story "lacks any real rhythm or direction" and,
The music is a problem, too: some of it is meant to sound sincere and soulful, some is meant to sound sold-out and bland, but it's all pastiche, and the dividing lines aren't clear.
Other films out this week - Welcome to Dongmakgol (Soldiers from both sides of the Korean divide live among villagers who know nothing of the war.), Arthur and the Invisibles (Arthur et les Minimoys) (In a bid to save his grandfather's house, a 10-year-old looks for hidden treasure in the land of the Minimoys, a tiny people living in harmony with nature.), Gridiron Gang (Teenagers at a juvenile detention center, under the leadership of their counselor, gain self-esteem by playing football together.), Running With Scissors (Based on Augusten Burroughs's memoirs, the story of a boy becoming involved with a sinister therapist after his parents divorce.)
Trailer of the week - Grindhouse