Our weekly roundup of film reviews returns, courtesy of James Bryan...
This week lead character Speed Racer stars in the film Speed Racer (see what they did there) and Morgan Spurlock bottles it like a shandy in Where in the World Is Osama Bin Laden?
It’s difficult to forgive the Wachowski brothers for the lameness of the Matrix sequels and their bid for redemption, Speed Racer, isn’t going to win them any new fans. The trailer made it look like ghastly over-stylised dribble and, no surprise, that’s exactly what it is. The film, to use a technical phrase, clearly sucks. It’s 2-stars all round from the critics. The Guardian:
Everything takes place in a cartoony, Day-Glo, digitised universe, with all the actors performing in front of a green-screen. The oranges and blues and greens and reds are too intense, as if on an old-fashioned television with the contrast dial turned up too high. It’s like watching a 3-d movie without the 3-D glasses.
The Times calls it “overlong, eyestrainingly elaborate spectacle full of action scenes without consequence and incidental messages of any audience member older than 14.” In an effort to put people off The Independent says, “Imagine being locked in a video arcade with wall-to-wall screens all going loudly and simultaneously berserk.” Actually, that sounds brilliant. However it seems that you’d be far better off spending your time playing proper video games than watching this. As The Independent says:
Where the movie falls apart is in its frenetic racing sequences, which not only defy the laws of physics but flout the limits of tolerance. The camera noses up to the drivers in their vehicles, close enough to count the beads of sweat on their faces. Once out on the track, however, the cars simply careen about the place like the weightless pixelated things they are.
So as Peter Bradshaw in the Guardian says, “I have to say there is little or nothing here to remind us why we were all quite so excited about The Matrix.” What a shame. So spend your cash on GTA IV instead. Then again, you probably already have.
Next up, Osama Bin Laden in the documentary, Where in the World is Morgan Spurlock?
With his entertaining expose of the fast food industry, Super Size Me, Morgan Spurlock looked like he might be more than just Michael Moore’s mini-me. He now returns with Where in the World is Osama Bin Laden? as he half-heartedly attempts to track down the world’s most wanted man. The Times and the Guardian both hate it with 1-star apiece. The Times calls it a “staggeringly imbecilic approach to a serious subject” while Peter Bradshaw in The Guardian seems quite seriously offended by this. As he says, “There is room for a tough, journalistic documentary presented by someone who really did want to know the answer. But this isn't it.” As he goes on:
With insistent, fatuous naivety, Spurlock doesn't attempt the simplest analysis of politics or motives; he simply galumphs around various countries, variously amusing and annoying the people he meets.
Ironic liberal film-making for ironic liberals. In contrast the Independent is much less politically bothered in a 3-star review that says the end result is “wry, good-natured and rather flip.”
What Happens in Vegas stars Cameron Diaz (when was she last in a good film?) and Ashton Kutcher, who has officially never been in a good film. In a parallel universe the premise could have worked; two strangers get drunkenly married in Vegas and then he proceeds to win $3 million on a slot machine. Cue divorce related money-grabbing hi-jinx. The reality is that it’s just another painfully unfunny rom-com. 1-star in the Guardian with “Diaz's grinning face looks as if it has been zapped with a 10,000-volt insincerity raygun and Kutcher's is stuck in a permanent fratboy smirk.” The Independent also spews up just 1-star, “Their juvenile pranks and naked greed – they'll endure anything for three million – ensure that we hate them, the director, the rest of the cast and all their families.” The Times is marginally kinder with 2-stars but reckons that the characters are so “irritating that you start to begrudge them their happy ever after.”
Home-grown talent Neil Marshall who made the wonderfully screwed up Dog Soldiers turns his attentions to an apocalyptic Scotland in Doomsday. The Guardian (2-stars) says that “a bit of wit would have helped smooth out the juddering plots as it clumsily lurches from one cribbed set piece to another.” The Times calls it a “deranged thriller” and coldly states “the entire population of Scotland dies.” Apparently this makes it worth 3-stars.
Honeydripper gets quite good reviews. Starring Danny Glover it’s about the owner of a Blues club in fifties Alabama. The Independent gives the film 3-stars saying it’s a “nicely acted but ponderously staged underdog drama. The musical interludes generate plenty of atmosphere, and there's an occasional zinger of a line.” The Times has it at 4-stars with a “towering performance from Glover as well as a sharp, seductive script from Sayles transform a bluesy melodrama into something far more nuanced and satisfying.” The Guardian only thinks it’s worthy of 2-stars as an “amiable but underpowered tale of the American south.”
The critics ruthlessly dismiss Cashback with 1-star reviews. A British film based on an Oscar-nominated short it’s about Ben, a night shift worker, who can pause time (like Hiro in Heroes). The Guardian says for “all its slickness it's an unforgivably shallow film,” The Independent that “the comic observation is desperately feeble,” while The Times thinks that, “time actually does slow down as Ben’s pretentious, monotonal voiceover drones on and on.”
Among the host of other small scale films trying to get your attention this week, the best reviewed is XXY. It’s an Argentinean film about, as the Times puts it, “a tortured teenage girl with breasts and male genitals” and calls the film a “terrific flash of Argentinean magic” (4-stars) while The Guardian describes it as “unexpected and wonderfully thought through.” (4-stars). Hollywood has something to learn from this, the missing ingredient in Speed Racer is obviously the lack of Argentinean hermaphrodites.
Next week there’s probably some stuff out but all you need to know is that the IndyWatch Clock only has twelve more days on it. That’s right less than two weeks of humming the theme tune until He returns.
By James Bryan