Our weekly roundup of film reviews returns, courtesy of James Bryan...
This week a nice young couple get brutally terrorised by hoodies in Eden Lake, a couple of stoners try and track down some Pineapple Express and holocaust film The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas.
Horror films are more effective when they’re close to home and full of British voices. 28 Days Later, The Descent and even The Cottage are much more chilling and unpredictable than anything Hollywood has served up of late. The well-reviewed British film Eden Lake taps into all kinds of latent fears and terrors as a happy couple head off for an idyllic camping weekend. The Guardian (4-stars) reckons this is, “the best British horror film in years: nasty, scary and tight as a drum” which is mighty praise indeed. The Times (3-stars) thinks it’s a “unexpectedly intelligent British horror film with a crude and vicious social twist,” while The Independent (3-stars) describes how it’s a cut above a by-the-numbers slasher picture, “While Eden Lake poses uncomfortable, possibly unanswerable, questions about gang culture and the disappearance of respect, one detects a more ambiguous conflict being raised. It's not just about the adult fear of children, it's about the middle-class fear of a violent underclass”. Although be warned, it might be too much for some as Peter Bradshaw concludes in the Guardian, “Eden Lake is exceptionally well made, ruthlessly extreme and relentlessly upsetting.” The perfect date film.
Stoner comedy Pineapple Express has the ubiquitous Seth Rogan and his drug dealer buddy James Franco (clearly inspired by Brad Pitt’s legendary performance as Floyd in True Romance) as two stoners hopelessly out of their depth when they get mixed up in a gangland murder. The Independent (2-stars) thinks that it starts out well but then “slumps into a derivative action caper that's weirdly and unappealingly reminiscent of Eighties dross like Beverly Hills Cop” while The Guardian (also 2-stars) realises that, “Watching this without having got stoned first is like watching a 3D movie without the special glasses. There are a few moderate laughs (and a nice Jude Law gag) but the full-on gory violence is disconcerting and unfunny.”
The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas sounds like a horrible piece of mawkish holocaust rubbish (like the shudderingly bad Life is Beautiful) but from the reviews is far better than expected. It follows the eight-year old son of Nazi camp commander who becomes friends with a starving Jewish boy on the other side of the fence which he thinks is a farm. Xan Brooks in The Times (4-stars) says “it’s one of the most moving and remarkable films about childhood I’ve ever seen” while The Guardian (4-stars) admires how it steers through “the heaped cargo of conceits that has it wavering between the stark and the sentimental, the nuanced and the schematic” before the “devastating closing minutes”. The Independent goes with 3-stars but does question, “Would a child really imagine that the starved, bruised inmates of a camp are part of a ‘game’? Would he really not smell the death and decay around him?”
Of the week's other releases, Jar City looks the best. An Icelandic police thriller featuring “a man chewing on a sheep's head for his supper” (The Independent, 4-stars) – it is, according to The Times (4-stars), “as dark and brooding as the long winter nights, it is also infused with a sardonic northern humour as sour as fermented shark and so understated that you almost miss it.” The Guardian (4-stars) is also impressed with this “cracking police-procedural thriller.”
Next week Hollywood’s richest mine the Vietnam war for laughs in the overblown looking Tropic Thunder featuring Ben Stiller, Jack Black, a blacked up Robert Downey Jnr (indeed) and a fat bald raging mad Tom Cruise.
By James Bryan