Our weekly roundup of film reviews returns, courtesy of James Bryan…
Unfortunately there’s not much to whet the cineaste’s appetite this week. Most of this week’s releases are comedies ranging from the mediocre to the terrifyingly bad. Let’s dive right in.
First up is a film that comes to us deep-coated in vitriol and with the promise of being so spectacularly bad that you should rush to the cinema immediately to witness this once in a lifetime event. It’s Paris Hilton’s The Hottie And The Nottie. The Worst Film ever on IMDB no less! Now that’s special. Our critics are cool, calm and collected. James Christopher in the Times is having none of it even managing to rustle up a whole 2-stars:
This righteous indignation is at preposterous odds with a perfectly run-of-the-mill and rather sweet romantic comedy.
The thin story has Hilton trying to get her beast of a best friend set up with a man. How does the World’s Favourite Socialite™ acquit herself? Over to the Guardian (1-star):
Paris on the other hand, with her Made by Mattel good looks, is adorably available: "A life without orgasms is like a world without flowers," she trills. As an actor, Hilton isn't much cop, her efforts seemingly concentrated on keeping her top lip from curling into its natural sneer.
The review concludes that the film is “as cheap and as nasty as the perfume, jeans or whatever else she hawks.” The Independent is shorter and to the point, it’s 1-star “toxic stuff” and “very very boring.” I feel strangely betrayed – I wanted our critics to be so much nastier.
Astonishingly it’s not even the worst film of the week – that accolade goes to First Sunday starring Ice Cube. 1-star reviews from everyone. A couple of samples for the film poster:
The least funny man ever to make a career in comedy movies, Ice Cube hauls his sullen mug back in front of the cameras for the execrable First Sunday. A new low, even for Ice Cube, this is an astonishingly ill-judged film. (The Times)
Whoever managed to persuade Ice Cube that he had any gift for light comedy deserves some kind of prize – and then a jail sentence. (The Independent)
Drillbit Taylor has a better pedigree coming from writing directing team Judd Apatow & Seth Rogen who were responsible for Knocked Up and the brilliant Superbad. Like that film this is set in a high-school world of misfit best friends but as the Guardian says (2-stars):
it lacks that film's dash and confidence, wandering uncertainly from one comic set piece to the next and struggling to make its presence felt. The final bell can't come soon enough.
The friends place an advert to hire themselves a bodyguard for protection at school and the job goes to Owen Wilson who, according to The Independent (3-stars):
claims to have been trained in special-ops before being discharged from the army for "unauthorised heroism". He holds out his arm and crooks his elbow. "Know what this is?" he asks the boys. "It's a wing – and you're under it."
From the reviews it feels as if this is Apatow-lite. The Times (3-stars) says “As with Knocked Up, there's a soft heart under the scabrous humour”. It sounds like it’s passable until his next film, but not up to scratch. As the Guardian says:
Drillbit Taylor may be fitfully amusing and fleetingly engaging. But it's neither soulful enough nor polished enough, not by a long chalk. Every litter needs a runt, and this one is Apatow's.
Star of Knocked Up, Katherine Heigl, has her own comedy out this week in 27 Dresses, which mines very familiar wedding comedy territory. She plays Jane, a perpetual bridesmaid planning her younger sisters wedding and looking for Mr Perfect. The Times (2-stars):
This cynical chick flick is formulaic and shallow, so no prizes for guessing how it all pans out. But the biggest problem is the uneven characterisation
The Independent, with only 2-stars, is actually more impressed. The:
prickly relationship that develops between Jane and Kevin (James Marsden), a journalist stuck in "the taffeta ghetto" of the wedding columns, has a spark and sexiness uncommon in the genre. Heigl is a fabulous comedienne, her fluid switches of expression being one of the joys of Knocked Up, and she handles the movie's slapstick with aplomb.
However this is clearly by the numbers stuff. The Guardian (2-stars) also rates Heigl but says the “she has taken on a script that fails to find satire on the can't-miss territory of the Manhattan wedding circuit.”
Changing track we have ‘war is hell’ film Beaufort, nominated for the best foreign language Oscar. It’s set in an Israeli outpost during the Lebanon conflict, showing a young solider losing his idealism. It’s 3-stars from everyone. The Independent:
The film pokes at a still-raw wound, though its insights are more psychological than historical – how young men behave under the constant threat of death without any prospect of fighting back.
While The Times calls the film, “not a polemical antiwar film, but rather a deeply human elegy for young lives lost.” The Guardian says that the director’s time in the army gives the film a “tang of authenticity about the details of service life.”
The Book of Revolution is an Australian film asking the question:
What if women were sexual aggressors? With unexpected emotional intensity, Anna Kokkinos's film reverses the gender roles in rape. (The Guardian, 3-stars)
The reviews are quite good but the problem seems to be the credibility. As the Independent says (2-stars):
It's a sincerely felt movie and quite decently acted, but it suffers from the irresolvable flaw of being completely unrealistic. This is not to question the likelihood of male rape – merely this particular portrayal of it.
The Times gives the film 3-stars calling it “a strange and intense psycho-drama” before also concluding, “the film, inevitably, leaks credibility when it tries to couple the anonymous sense of menace with the scenes of kinky abuse.”
So last, but not least, we have the best-reviewed film of the week, You, the Living, a strange sounding Swedish film. Over to the Independent for a description (4-stars):
Imagine The Fast Show as directed by Ingmar Bergman, and you have a partial grasp on the whimsical world of Swedish film-maker Roy Andersson. His camera testifies to the fascination of watching people slowly fall apart.
The film is a series of unconnected vignettes which The Times (4-stars) acknowledges is “an acquired taste” although the results are “sometimes breathtaking”:
His snapshots of Swedish eccentrics in spookily empty urban settings are almost too wilfully quirky for their own good.
Over at The Guardian, Peter Bradshaw seems completely besotted with the film, and the film-maker (4-stars), waxing lyrically:
His films are profoundly different from the work of any other film-maker, and in a different league from most. There are extraordinary visions of lost souls adrift in worlds that I can only describe as resplendent with vivid, hyperreal drabness. The people are loosely interconnected, some of them anyway, and everywhere there is the disquieting sense that we are witnessing the last hours of a doomed world.
He goes on to conclude that Andersson is, “radically different from anyone else, with a technical, compositional rigour that puts other movie-makers and visual artists to shame. And he really is funny.”
Clearly when you spend your professional life sitting in dark screening rooms, anything hitting you from a radically different direction suddenly feels like a breath of fresh air. For the rest of us, we eagerly await the announcement of a Hollywood comedy starring Paris Hilton and Ice Cube. Now that could be something for the ages.
Next week: Son of Rambow.
By James Bryan