This week - A look at the actions of the Queen and Tony Blair in the wake of Diana's death (The Queen), a lecture by Al Gore on climate change (An Inconvienient Truth) and a thriller about a famous LA murder (The Black Dahlia).
First up, The Queen. This is definately the film of the week, and by the sounds of it, the British film of the year. Her portrayal of the Queen won Mirren the Best Actress award at the Venice Festival last weekend and the reviewers only echo the sentiments of the award panel.
Bradshaw gives the film 4/5. Mirren gives a "cracking impersonation" and "though appreciably taller and younger than our head of state, [Mirren] achieves an eerie transformation with the aid of hairpiece, glasses, frumpier-than-thou couture and brilliant mimicry of the Queen's walk.".
James Christopher in the Times (4/5) calls Mirren a "sensation", describing her portrayal as "unique and daring" and Robert Hanks in the Independent (5/5) throws in his bid to get on the poster with "charismatic, glowing with intelligence".
Hanks notes that not all the acting is as good,
James Cromwell doesn't manage to make the Duke of Edinburgh more than an awkward shell of a man. And Sheen's Blair is an adorable turn, at least to begin with (the fiddling with the cuffs, the ill-fitting suits, the easily flashing smile, they are all spot on); but as Blair's modernising tendencies blur, and Sheen starts to add depth, the portrayal starts to feel less plausible.
However, these small shortcomings are certainly only small. hanks is completely taken by this film. He admits to "a not unmanly tear starting" and asks "Why is a British film as good as The Queen such a depressing rarity?"
For years, we've been busy making versions of ourselves we think will sell abroad - there's the modern one, in which London is downtown LA plus rhyming slang, or the traditional, in which we're either floppy-haired west London fops or salt-of-the-earth unemployed northerners. The Queen tackles a uniquely British theme, and addresses itself unapologetically to a British audience, and it wins awards. Isn't that a lesson?
Yes, I think it is.
If you still aren't convinced, Christopher in the Times describes it "as sharp and addictive as Desperate Housewives"
Next up, An Inconvienient Truth,
Another good film out? Two films worth watching in one week? This must be a Friday Film News first. Robert Hanks in the Independent gives An Inconvienient Truth 4/5 and describes it has "the most important film of the week, perhaps of the year."
It's unnerving, at times inspiring, and, if you lack clarity on the issues, it is essential viewing.
Aside from the lecture on global warming, the film features a sort of monologue by Gore and footage of his earlier years. For Hanks, this "feels uncannily like a piece of canny political repositioning, not unlike Michael Portillo's emergence as the cuddly face of Conservatism". Bradshaw (4/5) is also quite taken by Gore, describing his "quaint charm".
You might wonder why he made so little progress on this issue after eight years in office, and for an environmentalist, he sure does take a lot of planes.
Ian Johns at the Times is less impressed by the film, awarding it 3/5,
It has an urgent message and a wry, likeable messenger but don’t expect An Inconvenient Truth to be much more than a souped-up PowerPoint presentation.
Lastly, The Black Dahlia, an "over-long and muddled adaptation of James Ellroy's postwar LA thriller" (Bradshaw - 2/5).
There was a press furore over Scarlett Johansson's appearances at this film's premiere, what with her being so beautiful and all. According to Bradshaw, in this film her job is to "run in and out of rooms, frowning or sobbing with concern, sporting a fluffy, clingy sweater and a cigarette-holder." Fiona Shaw gives a strange performance, "Her final moments in this film are so hammy that any vegetarians present will come out in a rash... The prefix "over-" in "over-acting" doesn't quite cover it." However, in the Times (3/5), Fiona's performance is described as a "crooked joy" Oh the fickle world of broadsheet movie reviewing.
Robert Hanks in the Independent gives it 2/5, writing, "considering that you've got Scarlett Johansson and Hilary Swank as the femmes fatales - it is amazing just how dull the result is." Bradshaw too concludes that this film is simply "a little bit dull."
Go and see The Queen.
Other films out this week - Allegro (A Danish pianist returns to his homeland to give a concert and reconnects with the lover that he left behind in his quest for fame and perfection.), Dead or Alive (Three women with very different fight skills compete in a martial arts contest, but find themselves uniting against a common sinister enemy - features Holly Valance of Neighbours fame!), Destricted (Seven short erotic films explore the issues around the representation of sexuality in art.), My Angel (A vulnerable prostitute agrees to take care of a boy in the hope that it may induce her ex to return to her.), Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby (NASCAR champion Ricky Bobby has a pact with a friend which allows him to retain his No1 spot. The arrival of a Formula One driver puts this in jeopardy.), The Night Listener (A late-night radio host's life is thrown into dangerous confusion after he develops an intense relationship with a teenage caller), Unconscious (Inconscientes) (Barcelona, 1913. A pregnant woman abandoned by her psychiatrist husband follows clues in his notes on patients to find out why.)
Trailer of the week - Apocalypto
Finally... News that Banksy has vandalized Disneyland. According to the Guardian's culture vulture blog,
He placed a life-sized sculpture of a Guantanamo prisoner by a ride. The logic is so cliched it doesn't need much explanation. Disney stands for banal and kitsch images of a consumerist childhood and for the unthinking supremacy of middle America, and the children and parents queuing at Disneyland deserve to have their noses rubbed in the reality of America now.
Now we at Londonist are fans of Banksy but really, Disneyland?