The weekly round up of film reviews continues, courtesy of James Bryan...
The big blockbuster this week, The Day The Earth Stood Still, means there’s little room for anything else in your favourite local fleapit. So make way for Keanu Reeves giving one of his signature blank performances alongside lots of seen-them-all-before Earth destroying special effects. The reviews are, on balance, pretty bad. The Guardian (1-star) finds it to be a “stupendously dull remake of Robert Wise's 1951 sci-fi classic in which a strange alien creature comes to Earth.” Reeves himself, as the The Independent notes is “never quite convincing as a human and here at last finds a proper setting for that oddly affectless voice and the innocent vacancy of his posture.” The Times (3-stars) thinks “there are moments of deadpan comedy as the paranoid American authorities try to torture information out of their guest, and blow his orb to smithereens,” and concludes that “it’s divine tongue-in-cheek tosh.”
‘Just how arthouse can a film be?’ seems to be the question posed by The Man From London. The reviews would suggest ‘none more arthouse’. While The Times acknowledges that “there are some elements in the film of extraordinary beauty,” it sounds an extremely challenging watch. The Guardian explains in a 3-star review, “We get distinctively weird and halting dialogue, doomy-eerie organ chords on the soundtrack, monochrome cinematography in which daylight is only slightly brighter than the night, extreme closeups of stricken, immobile faces and glacially slow, hypnotic camera movements. There are moments of deadpan black comedy, often involving strange dancing in bars.” The Times (2-stars) confesses that “ultimately the pace is deadly. Tectonic drift moves faster. The dialogue is delivered in a way that suggests that somebody added a load of extra full stops”.
If you’re really old then you might like Dean Spanley. It’s a “charming and eccentric little family comedy for the older generation. It's like a Werther's Original sweet that's for grandpa only” (3-stars, The Guardian). It gets generally OK reviews and is a “dry-as-dust chamber piece about the relationship between a cantankerous elderly father (Peter O’Toole), and his emotionally crippled son (Jeremy Northam)” (The Times, 2-stars).
The best-reviewed film of the week is Lemon Tree a “well-meaning but somewhat obvious parable of the Middle East conflict” (The Guardian, 3-stars). The Times gives the synopsis (4-stars): “Proud but struggling Salma finds her family lemon grove threatened with destruction because of the security risk it poses to the Israeli Defence Minister’s new villa. Rather than stand back and watch it being uprooted, Salma decides to take the matter to the Israeli High Court.” The Independent's 4-star review concludes “Lemon Tree offers no solution to the ancient struggles of ownership in the West Bank, but it shines a tender, humane light on the individual lives it continues to disrupt.”
Next week lock up your daughters, vampire phenomenon Twilight arrives. In the meantime work out how many of The Times worst films of the year you actually went to see.
By James Bryan