Our weekly roundup of film reviews returns, courtesy of James Bryan…
This week’s big releases are Brian DePalma’s multimedia Iraq film Redacted and prehistoric CGI romp 10,000 BC.
Redacted, Brian DePalma’s controversial and supposedly anti-American film about the Iraq War might not have impressed many critics (or moviegoers) in the US but it’s getting good reviews this side of the Pond. James Christopher in The Times (4-stars):
Redacted is not just a damning inside account of loud and bullish rednecks patrolling an Iraqi town in which they have precisely no interest, apart from leaving the benighted place. It is a virtuoso piece of experimental film.
The film is a fictional mix of first person video-diary, CCTV, TV newscasts and internet blogs and documentary telling the story of a group of US marines who rape an Iraqi girl. It’s a radical film coming from such an established director as DePalma. Peter Bradshaw ruminates on the film structure and message (4-stars):
>blockquote>The De Palma approach - however crass or questionably motivated - might be in fact the correct one, and a liberal-humanist need for complexity or subtlety might be obtuse.
He notes that, “De Palma may win no new fans with Redacted. But he has intuited something about the nausea, fear and hopelessness of the Iraq war in its long endgame.” Anthony Quinn The Independent gives the film 3-stars saying that of the Iraq films so far this “takes the most risks in its effort to tell the truth.” He goes on to address the charges of Anti-Americanism being levelled at the film:
De Palma is surely only redressing the chauvinist Hollywood mainstream that wants to believe America is still the good guy. And his "anti-American" feeling amounts only to this: if you shove uneducated, ill-prepared, fearful young men into a distant country whose culture and language they have no interest in understanding, disaster is bound to follow.
The Times concludes by calling the film, “damning narrative is cinema at its angry and exhilarating best.”
Next up, 10,000 BC.
10,000 BC looked staggering stupid from the trailers and it turns out, it is! The Guardian (2-stars) says the film:
lumbers along like one of the woolly mammoths that roam across the screen. Members of a prehistoric tribe, all bearing heavy dreadlocks and world-music type jewellery and body-adornments, are forced to do battle with mammoths, sabre-toothed tigers and other quasi-dino-beasties conjured up on the laptop
The Independent (2-stars) calls the film a “junk epic” saying “The bodies are buff, the teeth are perfect, and the tribesmen say ‘Yah’ a lot – so it's just like the Stone Age.” before concluding, “the ‘BC’, incidentally, stands for Bombastic Cobblers.” The Times agrees (2-stars), calling the film a “silly epic”:
The similarities with Mel Gibson's Mayan gore-extravaganza Apocalypto are unavoidable - the relatively unknown stars, the cast of thousands, the sinister pyramid temple from which slaves are hurled as human sacrifices. But 10,000BC seems clumsy by comparison.
So new-age rubbish set in the pre-age. Next.
Paul Thomas Williams, director of the bleak and mesmerising London to Brighton has abruptly changed direction with horror-comedy The Cottage. Reece Shearsmith and Andy Serkis play bungling kidnappers awaiting their ransom money while holed up in a creepy cottage. Our critics can’t see beyond Williams debut. The Guardian (3-stars):
Nice performances from Shearsmith and Serkis, and some outrageous ketchupy grossout, though I have to say The Cottage has nothing like the rigour, originality or power of Williams's debut. It's effective genre material, though, and will, as they say, shift units on DVD
The Independent is even less impressed (2-stars):
The slicings and skewerings might earn the film a minor reputation among Brit-horror aficionados; the rest of us will hope that Williams' debut was a more reliable indicator of his talent.
The Times (2-stars) says that Williams “stumbles badly” and that:
the movie equivocates too much in tone - going from cartoonish banter between the brothers, to even broader comic subplots, to a climax that's half Grand Guignol, half pantomime.
Williams has obviously raised expectations so high after London to Brighton that it seems this is not being judged on its own merit. It will be interesting to see what direction he heads in next.
Water Lilies is set in the world of synchronised swimming. The Times (3-stars) says that, “the casual cruelties and wretched insecurities of teenage girls are laid bare in this impressive feature debut from the writer/director Sciamma”. The Guardian has a very positive 4-star review, “Like the pool itself, it is a humid, self-enclosed universe, a place that Sciamma endows with frantic crushes, angst, yearning and frantically sexualised status.”
Mister Lonely is the bizarre sounding story of two impersonators, Michael Jackson (Diego Luna) and Marilyn Monroe (Samantha Morton). The Guardian (1-star) finds it “pointless and irritating” and “the whole thing is quite without plausibility, dramatic interest or insight into celebrity culture.” The Independent (1-star) goes with “off the graph oddity” and “I'm sure there's a point to the film, but I'm damned if I could find it.” The Times is more impressed (3-stars) calling it “a generous, sentimental comedy.”
Out of The Blue is a true-life drama based on a 1990 shooting spree in a New Zealand seaside town. It’s personal subject matter for the director who grew up in the town and the sensitivity to this has led to some good reviews. The Times (4-stars):
the genius of the film is to draw the audience, almost immediately, into the community. The character sketches are brief but intimate; these are ordinary people who could be living next door to any of us.
Also out is Hannah Montana 3D, one for pre-teen girls. 1-star from the Times calling it the “worst of teen girl cinema” ending the review with the brilliant, “No wonder our children are running around stabbing each other.” The Guardian (2-star) doesn’t even bother trying, “Take your daughter and have a doze.”
Next weeks our critics will be joyously sharpening their insults as one of the worst reviewed movies of all times arrives on our shores, the Paris Hilton ‘comedy’ The Hottie and The Nottie. Bring it on.
By James Bryan