This time of year is a cinematic no-mans land; weâ€™re post summer blockbuster and pre-Oscar baiters. Weâ€™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 youâ€™ll probably know from the trailers if this is going to work for you. Written and directed by Ben Stiller itâ€™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, â€śMan, I don’t drop character ’till I done the DVD commentary,â€ť and thereâ€™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 â€śbig laughs are to be had in this rip-roaring Hollywood satireâ€ť. The Times (3-stars) thinks that after the â€śdeliciousâ€ť start that the â€śsatire runs out of puffâ€ť while The Independent (2-stars) reckons that â€śthe stars seem to be enjoying themselves much more than the audience.â€ť
From seemingly out of nowhere comes Unrelated, a British film thatâ€™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 â€ścoolly intelligentâ€ť this â€śfeels 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.â€ť The Guardian (4-stars) thinks itâ€™s a â€śtremendously accomplished, subtle and supremely confident feature, authorially distinctive and positively dripping with techniqueâ€ť and The Times (also 4-stars) calls it â€śa marvellous piece of cinema that looks as if it is being crafted before your eyes.â€ť Hugely impressive reviews for first time director Joanna Hogg.
Beyond this thereâ€™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 â€śfolksy, cutesy and altogether annoying,â€ť itâ€™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, â€śthere is much to savour in this dark, ultraviolent thriller. Others, and fans of Western police procedurals, might need more convincing.â€ť
Next week, Blightyâ€™s own action star Jason Statham in Death Race and Kevin Costner stars in Swing Vote.
By James Bryan