This week: Brokeback Mountain, Match Point and Just Friends. Plus film news and gossip.
Well after the festive break and a whole host of pre-Christmas cinematic dirge isn't it nice to start the new year off with a release that everyone just loves?
That film is of course Brokeback Mountain, Ang Lee's tale of cowboy love based on a 1997 New Yorker story by Annie Proulx and starring Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal.
It seems to weird to say it, but we'll start off with Anthony Quinn's review in the Independent as his four star review is the lowest rating the film gets from this week's broadsheet reviewers.
Although we hadn't really planned to turn up late for this one, Quinn kicks of by imploring us not miss the first 45 minutes of the film because, as far as he's concerned, "they are the most beautiful Lee has ever committed to film," and goes on to say that the 'gay cowboy' tag "hardly does justice to the nuance of texture and feeling that Lee has lovingly finessed."
Quinn also starts off what we expect may be a long list of praises for the two central actors, citing "Gyllenhaal's easy-going slouchiness,", and "the tight jaw and wary gruffness of Ledger's Ennis, who's seen enough of the world to know they are trapped, and probably doomed."
(N.B. even though we've just linked to it, if you don't want discover large chunks of Brokeback's plot don't read Quinn's review, or at least just scan it. When will reviewers learn to stop doing this?)
The film's first five star review comes courtesy of Pete Bradshaw in the Guardian, who can't help but begin eulogising about the film's merits as early as the third line:
The whole movie is a rich, spacious, passionate way of showing, not telling, feelings that dare not speak their name - and doing so with superb intelligence and magnificent candour.
Bradders goes on to say that this "Beautifully composed and wonderfully acted film" is far superior to the last Proulx adaptation (the Shipping News) and much better than Ang Lee's last cowboy movie (Ride With the Devil), and he even gives props to the screenwriters Larry McMurtry and Diana Ossana who, he says, "have developed and extrapolated the source material with flair, in particular giving a dramatic presence to the women in Ennis and Jack's story."
The second five star review comes from James Christopher in the Times, and Christopher is also the first to mention the word Oscar, suggesting that a little golden 'Best Actor' statuette is within the reach of both Gyllenhaal and Ledger.
The Times review is also the only one to mention co-star Randy Quaid who is apparently "terrific as the sour local boss", but it is again the entire combination of performances, the "immaculately shot" framing scenes and the fact that "every secret inch squeaks with authenticity" that makes the film so good.
Judging by all that, it almost seems ridculous to go see any other film but Brokeback Mountain this week, but if you're a true Woody Allen devotee then you might be taking two trips to the pictures over the next few days.
Match Point is Woody Allen's "attempt to revisit the Dostoyevskyan darkness of his last great picture, Crimes and Misdemeanours, if you believe Quinn in the Independent (who have forgotten to include star ratings on their online reviews.... again).
Unfortunately, Quinn also says that Woody's attempts "come a dreadful cropper" thanks partly due to his "little understanding of - or even curiosity about - the unfamiliar environment" that is London:
Allen's picture of London's smart set makes Richard Curtis's hoorays look like models of hard-edged realism, and his grasp of social texture is off the mark: how could an out-of-work actress afford a chichi flat in South Ken?
The other curse on Match Point is the dialogue, which Quinn claims "sounds as if it's been translated, atrociously, from another language," a fact that only strengthens his conclusion that "you'd have to be deranged, or American, to buy into its flimsy caricatures."
In the Guardian, Bradshaw is equally scathing in his two star review, but not before he's built up our hopes regarding Woody's long awaited return to form:"Can it really be true that our country, our capital city, and the film production company created by our national broadcaster has revitalised the career of one of America's greatest film-makers? In a word: no."
There is some faint praise if you look hard enough ("There are moments of elegance and steel. It is stronger than his last couple of films, ") but overall it's just more Richard Curtis comparisons (not what W.A. was aiming for we assume) and cheap shots at crappy dialogue.
Match Point does manage to scrape together three more stars over in the Times, but James Christopher hardly seems convinced:
The atmosphere is stifling, the dialogue audibly winces, and jokes are decidedly thin on the ground.
But there is a streak of absurdity about the cruel and amoral business of luck that is utterly inspired. The opening shot freezes on a tennis ball in mid-air after it hits the top of the net. Which way will it drop? The intimation is that entire lives are decided on these Wimbledon moments.
And by the final line you get the impression that Jimmy is too much of an Allen fan to let hid true feelings show ("every now and then a director deserves the benefit of doubt.").
Last up this week is Just Friends starring Ryan 'Van Wilder' Reynolds as a "high school fattie who returns 10 years later to his New Jersey home as a slimmed-down West Coast music exec and still can't win the heart of his dream girl."
We know, it sounds horrible doesn't it, but we just couldn't reists it mainly due to this sentence from Quinn in the Independent:
The sequences of Ryan Reynolds in a fat suit lip-synching to Boyz II Men's "I Swear" made me chuckle.
Personally we'd have to remove the 'le' part of that last word to get it anywhere near accurate, but don't worry too much about Quinn's sanity, he really don't like the film: "Unfortunately, they bookend a comedy of such staggering unfunniness that even that tiny deposit of goodwill goes up in smoke."
Predictably it's just one star from PB in the Guardian, who rounds off his review with the slightly creepy observation that "Reynolds himself has a strange, waxy look around the eyes and is incapable of acting naturally. Certainly incapable of acting funnily."
The Times is obviously feeling generous today so Just Friends gets two stars over there, but they do redeem themsleves by winning the award for the most cryptic closing lines to a review this week:
Anna Faris is rather better as a deranged Spice Girl with an 8in tongue. The details are loud enough. The logic is Greek. Obviously.
Is that code for something?
In film news this week:
Some more shots from Superman courtesy of Empire magazine.
Jon Stewart is to host the Oscars (we were getting sick of Chris Rock anyway).
For some ungodly reason they're going to make Ocean's 13. Why would they want to do that?
Paul Greengrass' 9/11 film, Flight 93 now has a trailer.
But trailer of the week has to be the teaser for Guillermo Del Toro's new one Pan's Labyrinth (it's in Spanish though, click where is says Rejouer la video).