This week: Capote, Lucky Number Slevin, and The Fog. Plus all the usual film news and rumours and Trailer of the Week.
This week sees the release of one of Londonist's most highly-anticipated films of 2006: Capote, and boy did they pick a good week to release it. Everything else out there is pretty much dross (we had to make a decision this week whether to look at The Fog remake or Date Movie - how depressing is that?).
However from all the awards attention it's been getting we already know that Capote could probably hold its own against most other movies on the strength of Philip Seymour Hoffman's performance alone. But films aren't just based on a single performance, at least the good ones aren't. So does Capote have the full package?
Judging by the four stars he gives it, it would seem that Peter Bradshaw thinks it does.
Unfortunately Bradshaw doesn't seem to have quite got to grips with what it is that makes Bennett Miller's film so great (he also calls it a 'biopic' and says PSH 'impersonates' Capote, both viewpoints that the director and actor would vehemently disagree with going on interviews we've seen).
Of course he says Hoffman's performance is "brilliant" and he admires the way that Miller inverts the cold-bloodedness of the book to reflect on the author's actions rather than those of his subject:
Capote is a literary vampire, disarming local cops and townsfolk with his fey childlike manner while all the time drinking in everything that would make a good story.
But the rest of Bradshaw's review is just snapshots from the film, reproduced by Bradhsaw to highlight Capote's 'magnificently unsympathetic' character, but in the end giving us no real insight into why the film deserves four stars (dialogue, story, photography, casting...nada). It's almost as if Bradshaw has been swept away by the movie, convinced into believing that he's watching a documentary created from genuine footage.
In fact the last line of the review (traditionally a quick summary of the film's merits) reads: "Capote sacrificed everyone and everything for his great book. There was a kind of integrity in sacrificing himself, too."
That's great Pete, but what about the cinematic Capote, the one we're going to have to pay to see? The one you were paid to review?
Maybe we'll get a better idea from Anthony Quinn's four star review in the Independent.
At least he starts off well:
The title suggests a biopic, but Capote is a far more intelligent, elusive and disturbing creation than anything that genre could offer.
Once again we're told that it's "the ruthlessness of literary creation, personified in Capote," that's central to the film (that must be why they called it Capote then huh?) and Quinn actually criticises the filmmakers for appending a moral epilogue to the tale:
after In Cold Blood, they note, Capote never completed another book, implying that he was too guilt-racked. Well, maybe, but alcohol was his more likely nemesis.
Could it be possible (in fact it's suggested by Gerald Clarke's biography on which this film is based) that it was the upset over In Cold Blood that drove T.C. to drink and not just that his alcoholism simply materialised from the ether?
At the end of the review Quinn concludes that "Two things are beyond doubt. One, In Cold Blood is the great book Capote intended it to be. And two, its author was a monster of egomania." So, yes we can be sure that Capote the film gives us a good understanding of its subject...but what about the rest?
If we're going to get an answer as to why this is such a great film then James Christopher's five star review in The Times needs to give it to us.
And, thank God, it delivers.
What raises this 'biopic' above it's contemporaries is the simplicity of its plot, argues Christopher. The story is straightforward but "The sapping drama lies elsewhere: the letter-box views of empty Kansas horizons; bleak conversations with friends and witnesses; and Capote’s prison access to the two serial culprits who butcher an entire farming family for a fistful of dollars."
The formal photography, we're told, is used without mercy. Murder and landscape are shot in the same brutal manner, and Capote's fascination with his subjects becomes "the sulphurous tipping point".
"The more we root for Capote, the greater our tainted involvement." explains Christopher. "That’s the film’s terrific twist. It’s more than a portrait of an artist with an aesthetic obsession. It’s a haunting mosaic about ambition, and the all too horrific price we are prepared to pay."
So there you go, finally a decent, intelligent review of a decent, intelligent film (just goes to show that it's obviously much much harder to review a good film than it is to merrily slag off a turkey). Although it should be said that Hoffman's stellar performance seems to have overshadowed the rest of this film's excellent cast. We've heard great things about Clifton Collins Jr's portrayal of Perry Smith and Chris Cooper's role as Alvin Dewey, but they hardly merit a mention in all three of the reviews we've just been through.
As we mentioned before, this week is a bit crappy for cinema lovers, and nothing could sum that up more than the collective shrug of the shoulders the critics have delivered in response to Lucky Number Slevin (that's an IMDB link, we couldn't even find an official site for the film, maybe it just wasn't worth it).
James Christopher , gives it a Times score of two stars, and calls the film "a glossy American disappointment," claiming that "It would be hard to find a more flaky and disingenuous picture this side of a Jacobean farce."
Christopher skims over the plot for us (it sounds bloody awful and includes repetition of Josh Hartnett's name which starts to hurt after a while), before going on to state what we at Londonist already knew: Brice Willis rules!
The film has absolutely nothing going for it artistically, yet there are bits to treasure, notably Bruce Willis as an ice-cool, uber hit-man who seems to drift between the two Mafia queens with impunity. The rest of the film is a comedy of hate between Mr Freeman Esq and Sir Ben. It’s loaded handbags at midnight. Not an edifying sight by any stretch.
It's another two stars from Pete Bradshaw who wastes no time in bringing up the fact that Ben Kingsley insisted he be credited as a Sir in the titles for this piece of tat. In doing so PB offers a tasty little insight into the insular world of film reviewers:
I am sorry to report that when his name appeared on screen, complete with glittering title, there was a tiny squall of bolshie booing from some journalists present. It was as if Marie Antoinette had appeared briefly in front of the 18th-century Paris mob. But all I can say is ... good for Sir Ben. And shame on Michael Caine, Ian McKellen, Anthony Hopkins and all the other in-the-closet knights for making this world a duller place by not displaying their gongs.
Bradshaw then spends three paragraphs trying to untangle the plot (which hasn't got any better) before admitting defeat, unable to find any nutty center in which he can implant his critical fangs: "What, oh what, can this masterplan be? And why, oh why, should we give a stuff? I'm not sure."
Tony Quinn completes the hat trick of two star reviews in the Independent which only serves to confirm that:
The narrative misdirections irritate rather than intrigue, and the brutal revenge killings that constitute its climax are poor reward for the ponderous waiting game that's gone before.
Why would anyone remake The Fog? That's the question any sane person would ask on viewing the trailer for this horror (and we use that word in every possible sense), and it's also the question at the heart of Peter Bradshaw's withering two star review in the Guardian.
"Was there a crying need to remake John Carpenter's The Fog?" bemoans Bradders. "If there was, and established horror brands are a reasonable commercial bet, then this satisfies that need in a workmanlike, completely flat and boring way."
And then Bradshaw...GASP!...makes a mistake: "Based on a Stephen King novel, this is about a smug coastal resort which has manufactured a kitschy local history of four pioneer founding fathers." Doh! Sorry Peter, there is a King story of the same title but the original Carpenter film was conceived and written by JC himself and his writing partner Debra Hill who died of cancer aged 54 just under a year ago (tut tut Peter, must try harder).
That gaff doesn't really spoil the tone of Bradshaw's review though, which is basically: this is a badly made and boring film. A view that Anthony Quinn also subscribes to. It's just one star from Tony who brands it as "fairly risible" and insinuates that The Fog is a fitting title because the movie is "dense, drab, pointless."
Finally, in the Times, it's another half-hearted two stars from James Christopher who can only be bothered to pen one paragraph about the movie and is obviously not a big fan of horror movies anyway: "But honestly, what exactly is the point of oiling a rusty piece of B-movie suspense whose only lasting value was the fact that it creaked so badly?" (an opinion which is frankly bollocks, Carpenter's original is a great example of a genuinely creepy horror/suspense film which has been endlessly ripped off and certainly isn't a 'B-movie'. Just another example of broadsheet snobbishness?).
In film news this week:
Check out this image from the upcoming film of Spidey in a black costume. We like that a lot.
And in more Superhero news, it looks like Chris Nolan's brother Jonah will be working on the script for Batman Begins 2. This kind of hints that Chris Nolan will be directing again, although that's not official yet.
The BBC has got itself a 50% increase in its annual film budget. That's £15m as opposed to £10m to share out among various British movie projects.
Anthony Hopkins' Hemingway biopic Papa has been cancelled. Thank the Lord.
Those shirts from Brokeback Mountain have been auctioned off for $100,000 to an actor and gay activist who has called them "the ruby slippers of our time". The money has gone to Variety a charity that helps under-privileged children in California.
Trailer of the week: Art School Confidential.