Our weekly roundup of film reviews returns, courtesy of James Bryan…
Ladies and Gentleman, this is a once in a lifetime event, a week of movies the like of which we may never see again with hardened critics graciously bestowing stars upon worthy films. Let’s not even introduce them; let’s go straight to the reviews. Feel the critical love wash over you.
We have to start with There Will Be Blood, a new film already minted with classic status that’s likely to be studied for generations to come. Needless to say it gets 5-stars from all our critics (and probably more if the system allowed it). Over to Peter Bradshaw in The Guardian who says the film:
is so potent and so strange that it almost seems to have been delivered here from another planet. I can only describe it as an epic portrait, running from the beginning of the 20th century to the great crash of 1929. The movie speaks of oil's savage, entrepreneurial pre-history; in one haunted man, it shows our dysfunctional relationship with capital and natural resources.
At the centre is Daniel Day Lewis playing Daniel Plainview, an oil prospector. James Christopher in The Times puts it in no uncertain terms:
Day-Lewis will win his second Oscar for this role. He takes possession of the film like some demonic force of nature.
Peter Bradshaw goes with:
Day-Lewis's virtuoso displays of technique, occasionally denounced as hamminess, are for me all the more superbly enjoyable for being so rare in an age of naturalism.
The first 20 minutes are dialogue free and as Anthony Quinn in The Independent says “have such a fierce hypnotic force that I felt almost nailed into my seat.” He sums up:
This magnificent epic of black oil and black hearts sometimes courts derision, but it never has to fight for your attention. You simply can't tear your eyes off it.
Expect the film poster to be covered in glowing critical praise. Let’s leave it to Peter Bradshaw to sum up:
This is a dark, uncompromising film, thrillingly original and distinctive, with a visionary passion. It is a movie against which all directors, and all moviegoers, will want to measure themselves. Paul Thomas Anderson is doing something new with cinema, and you can hardly ask for more than that.
You can’t get much more endorsement than that. In fact if you’re not already halfway out the door on the way to the cinema then grab your wallet and go now.
Next up, whip smart teen pregnancy comedy, Juno.
If you saw Hard Candy, a disturbingly brilliant film, you’ll have already marked out Ellen Page as a major talent to watch. Juno is her ticket to the mainstream having taken over a $100 million at the US Box office. It tells the story of 16-year-old Juno who gets pregnant giving the baby up for adoption to a well-heeled couple. In the Guardian’s 5-star review, Peter Bradshaw says:
Juno is a fiction with irresistible charm and wit and Page carries everything before her, creating a character with a powerful sense of right and wrong, an overwhelming belief in monogamy, and a nascent talent for leadership
The script by blogger-turned-screenwriter Diablo Cody is full of smart sassy dialogue the likes of which no 16 year old has ever actually uttered. The Times gives the film 4-stars, “Comedy as sharp and bitter-sweet as this is all too rare. One to cherish.” The Independent is marginally less impressed (3-stars) but still says, “What's also refreshing is its good nature: this is a film that likes all of its characters.”
Having seen this, I’m not sure it’s truly a 5-star film but compared with most of the dross that passes for comedy it’s refreshingly funny and engaging with a universal appeal. All the cast make the most of their roles, particularly Juno’s parents, as well as Michael Cera (of Superbad fame) as the geeky father to be and Jason Bateman as the thirtysomething who doesn’t want to grow up. As Bradshaw says it’s a “thoroughly delightful comedy,” although it might just be a little too self-consciously hip at times.
The Diving Bell and the Butterfly was, as the Times notes in its 4-star review, “not the kind of book that cries out for a cinematic adaptation.” It’s the true story of former fashion editor and playboy, Jean-Dominique Bauby, who is imprisoned with ‘locked-in syndrome’ after a paralyzing stroke and who subsequently blinked out the words of his book. As the Times goes on to say:
In the hands of the director Julian Schnabel and screenwriter Ronald Harwood, the film carved from that memoir is an extraordinary work.
Bradshaw goes for his (surely first ever) hat trick of 5-star films of the week even confessing, “this is the first time I have twitched off my glasses and openly and unapologetically cried in the cinema auditorium.”
Nothing in director Julian Schnabel's career so far has anticipated the sweetness, sadness, maturity and restraint of this lovely movie.
The story is a “terrible demonstration of the fragility of our bodies and our lives.” The juxtasposition of Bauby’s paralysed state against his former carefree life clearly makes for a very affecting portrait. The Independent (4-stars) says:
The film is really about the miracle of consciousness. Towards the end he asks his faithful editor, "Does that make a book?" You bet, and a pretty outstanding film, too.
So after that hat trick of exceptional films what else does the week have to offer?
As the Independent notes in its 3-star review of Definitely Maybe no one could be looking forward to a film from the director of Wimbledon and the 2nd Bridget Jones, however, against the odds, it’s apparently surprisingly good. It features Ryan Reynolds telling his daughter the story of how he met her mothers but changing the names so the little girl has to guess which of his three ex-girlfriends is actually the one. The Times (4-stars) says:
A romantic comedy with a refreshingly adult sensibility and plot that doesn’t feel that it has been recycled and regurgitated by innumerable Cameron Diaz movies.
The Guardian goes with 1-star in the Independent, “Nicolas Cage, with a rubbish haircut and an ear for accents that's worse, returns as historian Ben Gates” and concludes, “there's buried gold somewhere in the plot, but none, alas, in the script, the gags or the performances.” The Times (1-star) goes with:
I have a certain amount of affection for Cage even in the campy nonsense he seems to favour. But here he isn't even trying. His face is a lugubrious oval, his expression that of a man who has just seen the price of hair transplants.
The Guardian in a show of generosity gives 2-stars saying, “it’s sometimes entertaining, but mostly pretty tired, with worryingly semi-serious conspiracy theory stuff.”
So in summary, There Will Be Blood gets 15/15 from our critics, Juno 12/15. The Diving Bell and the Butterfly 13/15 and National Treasure Book of Secrets: 4/15. Any guesses as to what will be top of the box office next week?
After the exhausting brilliance of this week, the dust settles next week with superior looking action flick, Jumper and Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman in septuagenarian comedy, The Bucket List.
By James Bryan