Our weekly roundup of film reviews returns, courtesy of James Bryan…
This week, Stallone takes us back to a simpler age in Rambo, Jack Black goes pretend low budget in Be Kind Rewind, Bono gets his ego blasted out in 3D in U2-3D and Norah Jones stops singing to make her acting debut in My Blueberry Nights.
What option does a faded Eighties action hero really have other than one last trip to his former glories? So, after last year’s (not that bad) Rocky, we now have Stallone’s last dance in the limelight as John Rambo has his corpse jump-started for another outing. What do you expect? Oscars? Of course not. What you crave is lashings and lashings of ultra-violence and that’s exactly what you get. The Times goes with 1-star:
Stallone, who directs as well as stars, clearly has access to some impressive new exploding-head special effects, which he combines with more traditional techniques of mowing down “the enemy”, such as ripping out their windpipes with his bare hands, or mincing them with the spray of bullets from a giant gun.
Nice! The marketing of the film has seemed to rest entirely on this outlandish violence (236 deaths fact fans). To those of us that remember the Stallone / Schwarzenegger glory days, it’s all we need to know, it’s not one for the kids. As Anthony Quinn puts in his 1-star review:
This may win favour with 14-year-old boys taking a break from their X-box, but one still imagines them asking: "Who's the old guy?”
That old guy is Sly and while he may have “a bulk that would find a more appropriate setting on the golf course” (The Independent) we will always have a special place for him in our hearts. The Guardian rewards his longevity with an extra star (2-stars):
Resplendent in a natty bandana, with his jet-black locks cascading around a suspiciously stretched and immobile face, Stallone so resembles his mother that one starts to wonder whether she's been drafted in as a body double for some of the more gruelling set-pieces.
There’s an idea! The next Rocky could see Sly boxing his Mother. Can’t wait. So it’s silly, it’s overly violent, Sly’s too old for the part, it’s politically insensitive, it’s not very good but there’s enough of us out there who want to see it anyway.
Next up Be Kind Rewind.
Be Kind Rewind has video store employees Jack Black and Mos Def making cheap homemade versions of films after they accidentally erase the tapes in their video shop. It’s directed by Michal Gondry and is getting middling reviews. The Times (3-stars) calls it “a shambling, good-natured fan letter to cinema” before going on to say:
Like Gondry's last film, The Science of Sleep, the picture is equal parts flaky eccentricity and brilliant inventiveness. But Be Kind Rewind is more accessible, dealing with the transformative power of watching movies.
The Guardian is equally amused with 3-stars:
Maybe it is too easy to get recognition laughs by doing your own homemade version of well-known films, but it is funny. (YouTubers have been doing this for ages.) The guys' versions of Ghostbusters, Rush Hour 2 and, bizarrely, the Muhammad Ali documentary When We Were Kings, complete with brow-furrowing commentary from George Plimpton, are hilarious.
The Independent is more damning of the central conceit and only stumps up 2-stars:
Yet these shenanigans cannot sustain the central conceit, which is that their makeshift movies become extraordinarily popular with the local residents. There is no plausible evidence that this could be true. While the fate of a run-down video store might touch the hearts of a community, once it goes we know they'll all be off to Blockbusters round the corner – and who can blame them?
Critics love Wong Kar-Wei, director of In the Mood of Love, and you can feel the disappointment radiating from their pens at his first English language film, My Blueberry Nights. It gets a hat-trick of 3-star reviews and appears to full of beautifully shot American road movie clichés. Norah Jones (yes, that one) drives across the US and sends postcards back to restaurant manager Jude Law, once again getting slatted for his performance. The Independent:
Law, doing another "Northern" accent every bit as tin-eared as his one in Sleuth, has become a liability. It's a good-looking picture, admittedly, but it is also fantastically boring
That seems to be the consensus. The film is not interesting enough. As The Guardian says:
An awful banality invades; principally in the conversations between restaurant manager Law and his lovelorn customer, played by the singer Norah Jones
The cast were obviously attracted by Kar-Wei but this is going to end up filed under ‘could do better’. The Times agrees saying that there is “something missing from the picture”.
U2-3D is a straightforward, no nonsense concert film. That’s it. No behind-the-scenes footage or insight into the band. You don’t really need to know any more. If you’re a fan you’re going to be swept away by the incredible concert footage, amazing sound and crystal clear 3D and you’ve probably already got your ticket booked for the BFI Imax. However for everyone else the thought of a sweaty Bono in fully messiah mode and thirty feet high might be enough to haunt your nightmares. For the Guardian it’s 1-star: “U2 just look like four conceited billionaires who are further up themselves than ever” while The Times goes with 1-star, “Whatever the merits of the music, the spectacle of the band on stage is not an exciting one”.
It may have limited appeal but by far the best-reviewed film this week is The Edge of Heaven, which deals with the tension between Germany and Turkey through a love story that crosses the divide. As the Guardian says in its 4-star review:
This is an intriguing, complex, beautifully acted and directed piece of work, partly a realist drama of elaborate coincidences, near-misses and near-hits, further tangled with shifts in the timeline - and partly an almost dreamlike meditation with visual symmetries and narrative rhymes.
The Times also gives the film 4-stars:
The beauty of the film is the lightness with which it wears its three-part narrative device. It's never showy and self-conscious, while the characters that reappear in each episode do so only to justify the film's closing emotional wallop.
Black Water is a horror film that is Jaws meets Open Water with crocodiles. It features adults getting chomped up instead of the standard teens. The Guardian (3-stars) says there are “some great jumps and scares”, The Times (2-stars) says it has some “nice creepy chills” but “ultimately the outlandishness of their real-life adventure deadens the visceral impact”. Astonishingly Anthony Quinn gives the film 4-stars saying that “It's one of the best minimalist shockers since the divers-meet-sharks movie Open Water”.
There’s also a film out this week called WAZ. It looks rubbish although Anthony Quinn amazingly bestows 3-stars “My God, this is nasty, but it's also horribly gripping” – what’s he on this week? However Bradshaw in the Guardian restores the sanity with 1-star “This serial-killer horror is a knockoff of the now seriously knackered Saw franchise”.
Next week, London heist movie The Bank Job starring the always-subtle Jason Statham.
By James Bryan