Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett in The Curious Case of Benjamin Button / image courtesy of Warner Bros
The weekly round-up of film reviews continues...
A cavalcade of films this week, so let's dive straight in with awards-magnet The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. It's got plenty of star appeal, with David Fincher directing, Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett starring, and the whole thing based on a short story by F Scott Fitzgerald. Pitt is the titular Benjamin who “emerges from the womb a tiny shrivelled old man and gets younger and younger until he becomes super-gorgeous... [but] the idea of Button getting younger and younger is not imbued with any great comic or tragic insight. Or any insight at all” (Guardian, 1 star). The Times (2 stars) is only marginally more impressed by the “lengthy ramble... a dismally predictable trudge through decades of hokey, proud, epic Americana”, while The Independent (1 star) wonders “what on earth interested David Fincher in directing this whimsy?”. Everyone praises the “hugely skilful digital make-up” (Telegraph, 3 stars) but Empire (5 stars) demurs from the pack, hailing an “exquisitely tailored piece of filmmaking that puts dazzling visual effects in the service of deeply human stories”.
After a series of misfires Woody Allen returns with Vicky Cristina Barcelona. The Independent (3 stars) is “relieved simply because it's not an embarrassment”. Vicky (Rebecca Hall) and Cristina (Scarlett Johansson) are holidaying in Barcelona where they fall in love with painter Juan Antonio (Javier Bardem), but Penelope Cruz as his wife “looks as if she has wandered in from a more hefty film entirely” (Guardian, 3 stars). As for the setting, The Telegraph (3 stars) finds it all “all Gaudí and guitars”.
Littlest Londonists may be interested in Disney's Bolt, a cartoon dog who “has no idea that he's a famous dog on TV” (The Times, 3 stars). The Independent (3 stars) may think the plot is “sentimental fluff” as the doggie comes to terms with not having superpowers, but the Telegraph (4 stars) calls it “can't-miss family entertainment”. The Secret of Moonacre fares less well: The Independent dismisses it as “more fantasy adventure trying to hitch a lift on the Potter gravy train” (1 star), while Empire (3 stars) likes the “medieval/punk/samurai look” but isn't as happy about the “so-so scripting”.
Doubt is stuffed with acting heavyweights, but according to The Guardian (1 star) it's “a terminally muddled piece of star-studded Oscar-bait”. The Times (3 stars) is kinder to this tale of paedophilia in the Catholic Church, but flinches at “Meryl Streep's monstrously over-the-top central performance”.
The Guardian doesn't pull its punches over rom-com He's Just Not That Into You, saying “you should avoid the way you would a glass of punch with a frothy gob of Anthrax floating on the surface” (1 star). The Independent (1 star) also warns women that “this movie is undermining and traducing your sex”. Ouch.
Of the rest out this week, the “gleefully deranged Korean homage to [Sergio Leone's] spaghetti westerns” (The Times, 4 stars) The Good, the Bad, the Weird “has an unembarassable elan that helps it avoid the pitfalls of campness and silliness” (Guardian, 3 stars). The Times (2 stars) calls Who Killed Nancy “a shoddy, sensational and unfocused documentary that argues that someone other than Vicious stabbed Spungen”. Spain's Time Crimes is “heavy on fiendish cross-currents of temporal interaction” (Guardian, 3 stars) and Empire (2 stars) calls The Punisher: War Zone a “violently unsuccessful attempt to bring this comic book character to screen”.
Phew! Next week, Hotel for Dogs and the life and death of Biggie in Notorious.