This time of year is a cinematic no-mans land; we’re post summer blockbuster and pre-Oscar baiters. We’re left with the extremes of the ludicrously high concept Tropic Thunder and the very low key Unrelated.
Tropic Thunder has got some mixed reviews, and you’ll probably know from the trailers if this is going to work for you. Written and directed by Ben Stiller it’s about a bunch of pampered narcissistic movie stars who end up in a real war zone. Among them is a crazed method actor (Robert Downey Jr) who blacks up for his role, “Man, I don't drop character 'till I done the DVD commentary,” and there’s also a much discussed (and praised) cameo from Tom Cruise as a foul-mouthed fat bald studio exec. Peter Bradshaw in The Guardian is the most amused by it all (4-stars) saying that “big laughs are to be had in this rip-roaring Hollywood satire”. The Times (3-stars) thinks that after the “delicious” start that the “satire runs out of puff” while The Independent (2-stars) reckons that “the stars seem to be enjoying themselves much more than the audience.”
From seemingly out of nowhere comes Unrelated, a British film that’s getting the best reviews of the week. A low budget drama about a married forty-something woman who spends a holiday in Tuscany with the family of an old school friend and finds herself drawn to the teenage son. As The Independent wryly notes in a 4-star review that calls the film “coolly intelligent” this “feels significantly different from the British mainstream, clogged with romantic comedies, mockney gangster flicks and period adaptations. It is not only its setting that aligns it with European cinema; it has to do with the luminous sense of space and the stillness of the camera.” The Guardian (4-stars) thinks it’s a “tremendously accomplished, subtle and supremely confident feature, authorially distinctive and positively dripping with technique” and The Times (also 4-stars) calls it “a marvellous piece of cinema that looks as if it is being crafted before your eyes.” Hugely impressive reviews for first time director Joanna Hogg.
Beyond this there’s very little else out this week. Getting bad reviews is Then She Found Me starring Helen Hunt and Colin Firth, which The Independent calls “folksy, cutesy and altogether annoying,” it’s notable only for a bizarre cameo from Salman Rushdie. The Chaser fairs better, a supremely violent Korean about a serial killer that gets 4-stars in The Independent and 3 in The Times, “there is much to savour in this dark, ultraviolent thriller. Others, and fans of Western police procedurals, might need more convincing.”
Next week, Blighty’s own action star Jason Statham in Death Race and Kevin Costner stars in Swing Vote.
By James Bryan