Michael Cera in Youth in Revolt / image courtesy of Momentum Pictures
Our weekly round-up of film reviews
Michael Cera gets a dual role in Youth in Revolt, as the typical nerd we know so well and a mean, criminal, French alter-ego, created to win the heart of his holiday romance. “The contrast between Nick [Cera] and his bad angel whips up a pleasing comedy of delinquency” smiles the Independent (3 stars), as the Times (4 stars) calls it “the funniest teen flick in a long time“. But the main praise is reserved for Cera, redeeming himself after Year One. He’s “cranked his comedy presence up a notch” (Guardian, 4 stars) in his “most nuanced performance to date, casually slipping from trademark nervy cuteness into a rather delicious, new thin-lipped misanthropy” (Empire, 4 stars).
“Nobody could accuse Clint Eastwood of having a very complicated sense of human oppositions” says the Standard (2 stars) of Invictus, the desperately-wanting-to-be-inspiring story of South Africa’s 1995 rugby World Cup triumph, set against the tensions of Nelson Mandela’s first year in office. “But in charting this struggle, Eastwood sticks too close to the playbook and frames history as an airbrushed Hollywood heartwarmer” (Guardian, 2 stars) and the Telegraph (3 stars) complains of it simply being dull: “do you really thrill to the idea of going to the cinema to hear over two hours of noble platitudes and political speechifying?“. And as for the rugby? “You hear gristle tearing in tendons, the crack of nose on skull and the squelch of blood” (Times, 3 stars). Lovely.
Tony is “nominally about a serial killer, but in Peter Ferdinando’s remarkable title-role it becomes rather more about urban loneliness and alienation” (Independent, 3 stars). East London inadequate Tony is “hopelessly unable to make any mark upon life except through killing” (Standard, 3 stars) so we see him proposition a prostitute with a fiver, then chop up organs in his kitchen sink. “The problem is that there’s no character development, no revelations and no epiphany” says the Times (1 star) of this former short film. Dalston, on the other hand, “looks amazing – there are some gorgeous wide angle shots of the flats and loads of local colour” (Guardian, 3 stars).
Lewis Carroll’s classic tale gets a London gangland makeover in Malice in Wonderland. Our heroine is an American billionaire’s daughter with amnesia, hooking up with Danny Dyer (Danny Dyer! We’re starting to love Danny Dyer) as a cabbie who worries about being late – he “has some funny lines, and he makes the most of them, proving that he is actually a good performer, all too often marooned in endless geezer knees-ups (Guardian, 2 stars). Empire says it’s “lively and inventive, and has a unique look” (3 stars) but the Times (1 star) thinks the screenplay is “just too flat and unimaginative to justify the larger-than-life cartoon characters that populate the movie“.
Astro Boy is an Americanised version of Tezuka Osamu’s manga classic about a robot boy with superpowers. Here, Astro Boy escapes the evil clutches of a war mongering President and ends up on Earth, as the film “yawns out the usual ‘accept who you are’ moral as Astro hides his circuits from his fleshling friends” (Empire, 2 stars). The Standard (2 stars) goes for the zeitgeisty comparison – “it’s not much less sophisticated than Avatar but hasn’t the eye-catching novelty” – but the Independent finds it has “likeable comic zip that just about carries off its runaway sci-fi extravagances” (2 stars).
Father Anatoli lives on The Island, a stark place where he does penance for his wartime sins by constantly stoking the monastery’s furnace. “The spirit of Tarkovsky is never far from this rebarbative fable of guilt and atonement” says the Independent (3 stars); the Standard (3 stars) agrees “it is a very Russian film, beautifully shot in monochrome colours in its snowy wasteland“. Empire (3 stars) declares it “stunning to look at and ambitious in its symbolic rendering” while the Times lauds “an unsentimental journey of guilt, atonement and redemption, with moments of comic bleakness” (4 stars).
Holy Water is a “fantastically depressing, unfunny and embarrassing comedy” (Guardian, 1 star) about an Irish village where the water supply is contaminated with Viagra. Hilarity, apparently, does not ensue. “It’s staggeringly unfunny and skin-crawlingly unsexy” winces the Times (1 star) but the Independent feels, once it gets going (nudge, nudge) there’s “a silly sort of fun about it” (2 stars).
Next week: Tom Ford gets his camera out for A Single Man and hotly anticipated Studio Ghibli animation Ponyo.