This week - The accompanying film to Clint Eastwood's Flags of Our Fathers, the 1945 invasion of Iwo Jima as experienced by the Japanese Imperial Army. (Letters From Iwo Jima) and Jim Carrey gets obsessed with the number 23 (The Number 23).
Today had the potential to be a very sad day at Saturday Cinema Summary. As we sat down to write, the Guardian website would not load, it was thought that here could be no reviews from the filmic Führer, Peter Bradshaw, today. We know to proceed without the great man would be like stepping onto the field without Johnny Wilkinson, but we were confident that we could still beat Ireland with the Telegraph coming on as substitute, or perhaps Johnny Vaughan at the Sun.
However, our half an hour of concerted pressing the refresh button was rewarded when the Guardian website sputtered back into life. Coincidentally, this happened just as I heard that Johnny Wilkinson would be playing for England today after all. The thing is, Vaughan is all warmed up and ready to go, so we'll see what he (or whoever writes his column) has to say today as well.
First of all, a couple of words about the Oscars which take place tomorrow evening -
On with the films! First up, Letters From Iwo Jima.
Before we read any of the papers, you will of course want to refresh your memory of our own review of the film here.
The comeback kid Peter Bradshaw gives it 3/5.
Comparing it to the other half of Eastwood's project, Flags of Our Fathers, he writes that "despite some spectacular battle scenes, it is more muted, more restrained, even fairl anti-climactic"
Eastwood's depiction of the Japanese is deeply sympathetic,
The spectacle of Axis-power soldiers committing suicide in defeat is very different from that in, say, Oliver Hirschbiegel's Downfall, about the Hitler bunker. These, you see, are the good bad guys. Just as Noël Coward told us not to be beastly to the Germans, so Eastwood is suggesting something similar with the Japanese.
but Bradshaw questions whether this sympathy colours the truth,
Kuribayashi's men are finally reduced to tears by a letter found on a dead GI from his mom, realising that she is no different from their mothers. It is a powerful moment, and yet the awful, un-Hollywood truth was that most Japanese troops probably died on Iwo Jima with their fear and hatred of the American enemy quite intact.
James Christopher also gives it 3/5, calling it, "an inspired idea, but a weak film."
His problem with the film, and the two-film project in general is the conclusion that they come to,
Despite the dramatic disparity between Eastwood’s chalk-and-cheese films, it’s hardly a surprise when they arrive at the same angry conclusions. They weep for victims on both sides. They expose the evils of propaganda. And war is condemned as a shocking absurdity ... The moral is hardly original. The scale certainly is. Only a director of Eastwood’s standing could possibly terrify enough producers into financing this decidedly foreign, but impressively chunky, white elephant.
Anthony Quinn also gives it 3/5. Compared to Flags Of Our Fathers, Letters from Iwo Jima is a "more focused and intense film"
It is "magnificently humane but monotonous", but the brutality depicted "has a numbing, repetitive quality."
Eastwood and his cinematographer Tom Stern have done a superb and possibly unique job in showing both sides of this dreadful battle, and the pair of films together already look monumental. But this lacks a moral and textural subtlety that would make it enjoyable as well as notable.
The big man Johnny Vaughan awards the film three and a half severed bulldog heads out of five,
It’s Clint’s assured camerawork combined with top-notch acting turns and blood-thirsty battle scenes that make this a stunning slice of cinema not to be missed.
Watch the trailer here.
Next up, The Number 23.
Bradshaw gives it 1/5,
Jim Carrey goes into frazzled mode with this mind-numbingly silly conspiracy thriller about a dog-catcher who gets obsessed with the number 23. The number 23, it seems, is the key to a terrifying sex murder. Jim Carrey believes he holds the key to a global occult conspiracy of which it is a part. If only he can work out how the number 23 is involved.
According to some Talmudic scholars, 23 is the exact age at which Jim Carrey stopped being any good. Twenty-three was the exact number of times I stood up in the cinema and shouted: "Why are we watching this rubbish?" Twenty-three is the number of times director Joel Schumacher should have been slapped for inflicting it on us. Twenty-three is the number of emails Virginia Madsen's agent should have sent her, begging her to turn it down ... And 23 is the number of pounds that some central London cinemas are going to charge two people to go and see it.
Wendy Ide is more benevolent and gives it 2/5 and begins with criticism for Carrey's acting ability,
Joel Schumacher’s incoherent psychological thriller The Number 23 relies a little too heavily on Carrey’s ability to play it straight, something he’s capable of doing with a high-quality script such as Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind . Given a shaky screenplay full of creaky devices, however, and Carrey doesn’t know what to do.
Ide also questions the crazy number 23 idea. It really is shit isn't it?
That some people actually believe that there is a “23 enigma” is almost as depressing as the fact that opportunistic film-makers have crowbarred this lacklustre movie into the phenomenon. Examples of the mysterious workings of the number 23: there are 23 letters in the Latin alphabet; Julius Caesar was stabbed 23 times; William Shakespeare was born and died on April 23; the Knights Templar had 23 grand masters. Whoo. Spooky stuff ... being pursued by a set of digits is just not very scary. Carrey might as well be being stalked by the letter B.
We were pursued by the letter B once. The advice is to stay very still and when approached you should punch it on the nose but we just told it that we weren't scared and that it wasn't even a vowel and it skulked away.
Anthony Quinn gives it 1/5,
While dozing through this nonsense you may wish to speculate on the number's real significance to this movie: possibly the IQ of its writer?
Vaughan gives it two bulldog heads out of five,
If director Joel Schumacher set out to shock with his latest psychological thriller, he has succeeded. It’s a shocker all right, but for all the wrong reasons.
It's for that sort of wit that Vaughan is paid three times more than any other UK film reviewer.
Watch the trailer here.
Other films out this week - The Good Shepherd (The early history of the CIA seen through the life of a young operative driven to sacrifice his principles.), School for Scoundrels (A young meter reader enrols in a confidence-building class to win the love of a girl, only for his tutor to sets his sights on the same target.), Orchestra Seats (Fauteuils D'Orchestre) (A soap star, a piano prodigy and an art collector meet at a cafe where they are waited on by a waitress with her own dreams of fame.), Bamako (Set against the backdrop of overwhelming economic strife, a couple fight to save their relationship.) and Sheitan (Satan) (After a wild night out on Christmas Eve, a group of youths follow two girls back to their house in the country, only to meet a strange shepherd with diabolical plans.)
Trailer of the week - Mr. Bean's Holiday