Our weekly roundup of film reviews continues, courtesy of James Bryan…
This week, the girls of St Trinian’s, a schizoid version of Bob Dylan’s life in I’m Not There and the vile evil Alvin and the Chipmunks.
The posters of vamped up schoolgirls that have sprung up across town mark the return of the anarchic St Trinian’s girls, a bold effort to launch a new generation of Brit comedies, taking the 1950s Ealing comedies as their inspiration. However it’s only James Christopher in the Times that is impressed by the effort (4-stars) calling the film a “spiky topical joy” and clearly revelling in the anarchy of the place:
St Trinian’s is a disciplinary disaster area. The teachers’ common room resembles a Soho dive bar. The exam results are a national disgrace. The chemistry lab is a vodka distillery. The school encapsulates all the evils of private education.
However Peter Bradshaw in the Guardian isn’t taken in by the girls (1-star):
This is a monumentally naff film, shaming and depressing in a way that British feature-film comedies have persisted in being, intermittently, all our lives. Cheesy, dated, humourless and crass, it's a nightmare of stunt-casting, and was apparently composed by a committee of suits, PR execs and press agents.
Anthony Quinn in the Times agrees (2-stars) calling it a, “feeble, sloppily written caper.”
As proved by Simon Pegg there is a real market for home-grown British comedy films, so it will be interesting to see how well St Trinian’s performs at the box office beyond the guaranteed contingent of teenage girls and men who’ve worn out their copy of Britney Spears’ ‘Oops I did it Again’.
Next up, I’m Not There.
There’s been a lot of hype about I’m Not There. Any film casting Cate Blanchett (and five others) as Bob Dylan was always going to be intriguing. The Guardian (3-stars) describes the film as:
an idiosyncratic tribute to the many faces of Bob Dylan. It's not a conventional biopic but a cine-portrait, casting a string of actors to play the many facets of Dylan - and even these are not actually Dylan but Dylan-variants, Dylan-figures with different names
The review says that the “conceit does justice to Dylan's fugitive charisma.” Anthony Quinn in The Independent only gives 2-stars although he is impressed:
It is an ambitiously conceived and lovingly textured piece of work, a movie of images and distorted facts that will hang about your consciousness long after you've seen it.
The Times goes with 4-stars and like all the other critics, is bowled over by Blanchett who:
is superb. She drops a vocal octave, writhes around on Andy Warhol’s sofa without missing a beat; and crucially never gives you much room to think about her breasts even when she is scolding her lover.
Overall though the film is preaching to the converted and non- Dylan-ites may be confused by it as recognised by The Independent:
Fans will enjoy spotting the connections between fact and fiction, and the quotations from songs, but I do wonder what it will mean to anyone else. We have to accept that there are some out there only mildly interested in Dylan, and some who care nothing at all.
Sometimes a film comes along that looks so ghastly, so utterly without merit, that there is a sense of anticipation in watching critics hurl their verbal venom at it. Alvin and The Chipmunks has managed to bring out suicidal tendencies in two of our critics. Peter Bradshaw (1-star) says of the ‘munks':
they talk and sing their dismal lines in electronic Pinky-and-Perky voices that made me want to plunge my head into a cauldron of boiling tar.
Obviously unable to find boiling tar at his local fleapit, James Christopher (1-star) goes for the cold clinical option:
It’s the kind of family entertainment that makes you reach for the shotgun. I have no idea who could possibly be entertained by this nonsense.
Also showing this week…
Paranoid Park, the latest from the inconsistent but sometimes brilliant Gus Van Sant, 3-stars in the Guardian and 2-stars in the Independent which says, “Filming in his characteristically dreamy, dislocated fashion, Van Sant seems as interested in the innocently beautiful face of his young star as he is in the docu-style story-telling.”
The Kite Runner, based on the popular book, gets 3-stars in the Independent, “the tragedy of Afghanistan is poignantly, at times terrifyingly suggested.” It also gets 3-stars in the Guardian calling it a “decaffeinated” version of the book.
Up soon… Boxing Day sees the release of Will Smith in I Am Legend featuring a spectacular looking deserted New York.
By James Bryan