The crew of the Enterprise wonder what’s happened to Spock / image from Paramount Pictures
Our weekly round-up of film reviews
You’ll have to forgive some fanboy/girl squealing this week, cos Star Trek‘s back! And wow, is it back. “J. J. Abrams’s thriller Star Trek is the first tent-pole film that has made me sob with pure pleasure” sighs The Times (5 stars). The Guardian’s also spectacularly happy with “a film in which my chief emotion was a kind of grinning embarrassment at enjoying it all quite so much” (5 stars), while also noticing a very modern bromance theme: “Why have we filmgoers wasted so much of our time and attention on all those other beta-male bondings and under-par buddy hookups when the greatest friendship of all was right there under our noses?“. We’re back at the start of the Enterprise crew’s careers, when Kirk and Spock were at each other’s throats despite a huge Romulan threat. Although we spotted the lack of any reasonable plot and some alternate time-line gubbins (that opens the door for sequels without having to worry about already-established canon), that almost doesn’t matter.”The whole thing bursts back to life with a resplendence, charm and gusto that are thrilling to see” (Telegraph, 4 stars) and while the Independent (3 stars) complains about a lack of “some small relevance to the world we live in“, Empire (4 stars) responds with force: “The franchise has been permanently shifted to new rails… Trekkies had better get used to it. Welcome to the new ‘verse“. (Squee?)
Chéri reunites the director (Stephen Frears), writer (Christopher Hampton) and one of the stars (Michelle Pfeiffer) of Dangerous Liaisons in another period exploration of sexual politics. Pfeiffer plays an ageing courtesan who falls for a foppish and pampered young man, the titular Chéri (Rupert Friend). “Chéri looks a real treat, which is half the battle” reckons the Evening Standard (3 stars), but it’s not enough for the Guardian, who finds “sitting through this stuffy and over-furnished film is like being slowly deprived of oxygen. (In fact, Dignitas is probably shipping a crate of Chéri DVDs to its Swiss clinic even as you read this.)” (1 star). The problem seems to lie with the character of Chéri: unsympathetic and shallow, “halfway into the film, you start to think that the Great War can’t come too soon for Chéri and his ilk” (Times, 2 stars). Ultimately, the Telegraph finds it’s just “not quite toothy enough as social satire, a little too dry to unlock real pain, full of trinket-sized pleasures that never add up to more” (3 stars).
Neil Gaiman’s book Coraline has been given the stop-motion animation treatment, and the consensus is that it’s terrifying as hell. Coraline, voiced by Dakota Fanning, has moved to a new home with parents that don’t have much time for her. So when she finds a door to the Other World, with Other Parents who cater for her every whim, she’s delighted – until the Other Mother wants to replace Coraline’s eyes with buttons. Eek! “Don’t forget, children are more resilient than we think” reminds Empire (5 stars), before summing it up as “terrifying and beautiful, believable and fantastical“. The Guardian (3 stars) succintly describes it as “scary fun” and the Times points out that “technically, it’s impeccable. But it’s madly out of synch with the 12A certificate” (2 stars).
Little Ashes was made before Twilight, and Robert Pattinson’s teen idol status will doubtless help the box office. Whether the tweenagers will care much for this tale of Salvador Dali’s tentative love affair with Federico Garciá Lorca remains to be seen. It’s a “weirdly sketchy and underpopulated biographical drama… all a good deal too amateur-Brideshead to be believed” says the Telegraph (2 stars). The Times struggles to get past “the most ludicrous fake facial hair since Salma Hayek’s beefy monobrow in Frida” (2 stars), but the Guardian (2 stars) is fairly equanimous about a “discreet, diffident film“.
All the way from Mexico (cue swine flu gags) comes Blue Eyelids, a tale of a lonely young woman who wins a holiday for two and her tentative steps at romance with a guy who insists he’s an old classmate. “Boy-meets-girl is the oldest story in the cinema, and yet this gem of a film from Mexico shows that it can always be made to live again… What a humane treat this lovely little film is: a pinsharp cine-poem of romance” says the Guardian (4 stars) with a dreamy smile. “Not an awful lot happens but the acting is first-rate, if low-key” says the Times (3 stars), something Empire (3 stars) agrees with: “it says much for the nuanced script, charming turns and discreet direction that this gentlest of rom-coms manages to avoid mawkishness“.
The Times hails Momma’s Man as “slyly funny and genuinely original… a truly independent American movie” (4 stars). Mikey is “staying with his parents while on a business trip and is unable to leave. Making all sorts of unconvincing excuses to his wife in LA, he retreats into his childhood bedroom” (Guardian, 4 stars). “It’s a beguiling premise… The allure for any grown man of crawling back into the womb isn’t an obvious gift for cinema, but you can see the appeal” says the Telegraph (4 stars).
Jamie J. Johnson’s documentary about Junior Eurovision – yes, such a thing exists – Sounds Like Teen Spirit “should be awful but it isn’t. In fact, it’s often highly enjoyable” (Evening Standard, 3 stars). The competition is taken very seriously in the former Eastern bloc, and the contestants are often poor and desperate for a bit of success, illustrated by the Times (4 stars): “Miriam, 13, is from a grim Soviet-era concrete block in Georgia. The entire country weighs on her small shoulders“. Empire sees in it “an unorthodox but endearing documentary” (3 stars).
Director Bent Hamer (Kitchen Stories, Factotum) “has a wonderful eye. This deadpan comedy about a newly-retired train driver might be the best-looking film of the week” says the Telegraph (3 stars). The film is O’Horten, an episodic tale, “thoroughly Scandinavian… both quietly downbeat and cautiously uplifting” (Times, 3 stars). “Hamer doesn’t have anything particularly new to say about growing old disgracefully, but the surrealism of the humour is irresistible” points out Empire (4 stars) while the Evening Standard (4 stars) can’t resist a pun: “This won the “Silver Lump” as the Best Norwegian Film of its year. But lumpish it certainly isn’t“.
Last year’s international critics’ prize winner at Cannes, Delta is “a weird, eerie, and utterly compelling Hungarian gem” (Times, 4 stars). Returning home to his widowed mother and her new man, Mihail (Félix Lajkó) develops a relationship with the sister he didn’t know he had – much to the chagrin of the locals. “Melodrama is never far away but it is kept at bay by the intricate precision of the director’s work and a screenplay for which Bela Tarr, Hungary’s leading auteur, was a consultant” (Evening Standard, 4 stars) while Empire (4 stars) loves it as a “powerful meditation on personal freedom“. But the film is spoiled for the Guardian by “what I have come to think of as an ‘arthouse rape’: a flourish of sexual violence that, in some sacrificial sense, pays for the indulgence and drifting dreaminess, and which functions as a brutally corrective assertion of tough reality” (2 stars).
Next week: Tom Hanks in Dan Brown ludicrousness Angels and Demons, and the return of Charlie Kaufman with Synecdoche, New York.