Our weekly roundup of film reviews returns, courtesy of James Bryan...
This week, London tube comedy Three and Out, the erotic thriller that is a Deception and Russell Brand tries to take America in Forgetting Sarah Marshall.
It’s baffling that as a nation we’re so consistently bad at comedy films. Despite having the home-grown talent, British comedy films, as a general rule, suck. So it is with Three and Out, the Tube suicide comedy that’s managed to stoke the mild flames of controversy this week. It stars Mackenzie Crook as a tube driver looking for a payout if he can manage to run over his third suicide ‘jumper’ of the fortnight. The Guardian thinks the concept is “promising” but hates the end result (1-star):
It's just another depressing, mediocre, muddy-looking British film that wastes an awful lot of talent.
The Independent (2-stars) thinks the film has a “fatuous plot, full of wrong notes and lame gags.” As for Bond Girl to be, Gemma Atherton, she’s described in the Guardian as “more wooden than all the Woodentops combined.” Surprisingly The Times (3-stars) is in a more generous mood saying the film has “ultimately pleasing results” and that by the end:
The film becomes a thing of solemn beauty, asking big questions about life and death and erasing any memories of its opening flippancy.
Next up, Deception.
More talent, of the A-list variety, is squandered in alleged erotic thriller Deception. According to the Independent (1-star) it’s a:
feeble thriller about a corporate sad-sack (Ewan McGregor) who is befriended by a high-flying lawyer (Hugh Jackman) and introduced to "The List", a sex club for the super-rich.
Our critics agree that the high concept potential has singularly failed to deliver. Peter Bradshaw in The Guardian (1-star) believes the film is:
about as erotic as a midweek National Express coach journey to Hitchin and more than justifies the death penalty for anyone seeking to describe it as "Hitchcockian".
Perhaps he’s being cryptic and that the aforementioned National Express service is famed for it’s hedonistic indulgence. In a short review The Times gives 2-stars saying that “It is full of the shimmering tricks beloved of TV cop soaps and Michael Mann. But it doesn’t work”. Jackman. McGregor. You should really know better. Consider yourselves told.
Comedy director Judd Apatow’s quality control is also starting to look increasingly dubious. After the highs of Knocked Up and Superbad we now have Forgetting Sarah Marshall. Written by and starring Jason Segel, it has him going to Hawaii to get over a recent break-up and finding his ex-girlfriend shacked up with a rock star, played by noted recluse Russell Brand. The Times is kindest (3-stars):
Apatow fans will have much to enjoy, including a bad sex montage, a brilliant William Baldwin cameo, a spot-on CSI parody and a titter-inducing use of Segel's inappropriately exposed genitals. The cracks in Apatow's heart-warming formula, however, are beginning to show, just as the undeniable charm is fading.
That nails the problem. What was once fresh is already feeling formulaic. The Independent (1-star) even longs for Drillbit Taylor which “at least had its moments; this has only the ubiquitous Jonah Hill and a bunch of bad sex jokes.” Meanwhile The Guardian (2-stars) says:
There are some laughs, but not that many, and a weird, nagging undertow of self-pity and resentment of beautiful women making honest guys' lives a misery
As for Our Russell, The Guardian thinks he’s “the best thing in the film” but The Independent thinks he shouldn’t give up the day job.
Has Jessica Alba ever been good in anything except men’s magazines? Her latest attempt is The Eye where she plays a blind violinist who has a cornea implant only to find herself haunted by the visions of the previous owner. A truly silly concept. The Independent calls it “portentous, predictable and terminally boring” (1-star). The Times (2-stars) finds it to be “underwhelming” and that “The Sixth Sense twists are as remarkable as pasteurised cheese”. The Guardian gives 3-stars but still can’t manage to be kinder than calling it “reasonably entertaining”.
The best-reviewed film of the week by far is Persepolis – a black and white Iranian animation. Peter Bradshaw takes it upon himself to persuade people to check it out (4-stars):
Here is an adaptation so inspired, so simple and so frictionless in its transformation of the source material that it's almost a miracle. When I tell people it's a lo-fi animation, largely in black-and-white, about Iran, they put their heads in their hands and make a low groaning sound. But I've seen those same people bounce happily out of the cinema after seeing it as if they had had some sort of caffeine injection.
Based on a graphic novel by Marjane Strapi’s about her childhood in Tehran and her eventual move to Vienna, The Times (4-stars) calls the film a “hypnotic fable”. The Independent (3-stars) is surprised to find “it’s funny, in spite of the grim subject matter”. Back at The Guardian the praise just keeps flowing:
Persepolis gives us the sheer pleasure of narrative, rarely found in modern cinema or indeed fiction: a gripping story of what it is like to grow from a lonely imaginative child into an adult, and to find this internal tumult matched by geo-political upheaval.
The reviews of Stop-Loss inhabit opposing ends of the critical spectrum. The Independent in a very long 4-star review thinks that the film, the story of an American soldier returning to frontline duty in Iraq is:
a blistering account of what war does to young men, first in that battle prologue (brilliantly directed) and then in the confused and largely unsuccessful struggle to acclimatise to civilian life.
The praise is lavish, long and in stark contrast to the Guardian who only give 1-star, calling it:
completely pathetic: thoroughly feeble and softcore, with plenty of macho-sentimental male bonding and an insidious ending which made me suspect that Dick Cheney has been running screenwriting seminars.
The Times is less damning (2-stars) but finds that the “drama is as constipated as the performances.” How’s an honest viewer supposed to make their mind up? It would help if critics could settle these things before they print their reviews. Surely a quick trip to the nearest bar after a press screening and a few rounds of Jagerbombs could sort this stuff out? Works for the rest of us.
Anyway, next week Summer is in the air as Hollywood unleashes it’s first wannabe blockbuster of the season with Iron Man.
By James Bryan