Londonist hates Andrew Lloyd-Webber for what he did to the Phantom of The Opera story, so we were going to go on about that for a bit this week. But then we remembered that Pete Bradshaw would be reviewing the film version, so we thought 'why bother?', we couldn't do it better than grouchy old Pete:
"Surrender to-o-o the music of the ni-i-i-i-ght. Or, to put it another way, surrender to Andrew Lloyd Webber. It has been some time now since Lord L-W took the creepily fascinating story of The Phantom of the Opera, suavely removed its balls and let the resulting castrato chorus ring out for year after record-breaking year. The horribly grinning shade of Lon Chaney was well and truly banished to the dungeons."
Bradshaw goes on to say that this film could have been good...if A.L-W wasn't involved in the production in any way...
"how compelling this tale could still be as a Gothic chiller, if the composer, with his legendary counter-intuitive talent, did not insist on smothering it in the rich vanilla sauce of good taste." but then P.B. decides that this is "a film so lifeless and soulless it's almost scary, with actors who glide slowly around, warbling away in their silly outfits, as if being towed on roller-skates."
Pete gives the film one star, just in case you were wondering.
Anthony Quinn in the Independent blames "campy musicals" such as Moulin Rouge and Chicago! For the existence of the Phantom film, and he also absolutely loathes it: "Schumacher somehow drags out this carnival of banality to 142 minutes, though at times it feels more like 142 years,". But in the end even he has to admit the "the abysmal possibility that many Phantom-fans might love it."
Someone else who loves it (ok, kind of likes it) is James Christopher in The Times who seems to have caught the loony bug from Pete Bradshaw:
"Joel Schumacher’s version of The Phantom of the Opera is the best piece of taxidermy I’ve ever seen. The songs are note perfect, the sets are staggering, and the cast is stuffed with Coleman’s English mustard."
Come again Jim? And it gets worse:
"The Point of No Return is arguably the best aria Webber has ever written. The big set pieces, with casts of thousands and 6ft wigs, look like miraculous slices of total theatre, but they tumble into your lap like liquorice allsorts: lumps of colourful dough around vaguely chewy lyrics."
Londonist is seriously considering not featuring James Christopher's reviews here again. He gives Phantom three stars.
And now on to something which we've actually really been looking forward to: Garden State. After all, what's not to like about this film: Zach Braff (best name in show biz?), Peter Sarsgaard and Natalie Portmanm, and a great soundtrack. It has to be a winner...unless, that is, you're Pete Bradshaw:
"a gently self-indulgent, vaguely autobiographical tale in the indie unplugged style, a drama of offbeat vulnerabilities suffused in a genial, but faintly thin-skinned style of humour."
That surely has to be the most descriptive sentence in the history of journalism, but unfortunately Pete can't find enough in the film to like and only gives it two stars. He does however call Natalie Portman a "total hottie", which is the funniest thing we've read all day.
Anthony Quinn in the Independent who adds three stars to Garden State's tally. "Too early to call Braff a wunderkind," muses Quinn a little grudgingly, "but he's on to something".
And it's another three stars from Wendy Ide in the Times, who says that "this gentle, uneven little film is certainly worth a look", despite its "rambling narrative" and the fact it "seems to be staggering under the weight of its own whimsy".
Two pretty exciting teaser trailers have made their way on to the internet today. The first is for Spielberg's War of the Worlds (which we seem to have been going on about for months now). It's pretty exciting, with it's stereotypical London street scenes (lots and lots of black cabs) mixed with terrified Americans in their dressing gowns being blown to smithereens by deadly heat rays.
Londonist also likes the way Tom Cruise is only referred to by his surname these days. Although 'The Cruise' would be even better.
The second trailer is for Tim Burton's Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Now this is genuinely scary - they've done something to Johnny Depp's face which makes him look very weird indeed, and the whole thing is a very Burton-esque freak fest. The music itself is enough to send you barmy (but how cute is the kid playing Charlie?). Can't wait to see the actual film.
As far as London is concerned, the Firecracker Showcase opens today the Curzon Soho - "providing a fresh perspective on Chinese cinema, with films from Mainland China, Hong Kong and Singapore, six of them UK premieres." Films being shown include House of Flying Daggers, Cut by Old Boy director Park Chan-Wook, and horror film Three...Extremes.
And just a reminder that the Portobello Gala Winter Film Festival comes to an end this weekend, and tonight you can see a programme of the winners including the brilliant What Barry Says by Simon Robson which won the Best Animation award.