Cadillac Records / image courtesy of Sony Pictures
The weekly round-up of film reviews continues...
Cadillac Records is a 'biopic' of record company Chess Records, which gave the world Muddy Waters and Chuck Berry. But don't expect accuracy: The Times finds this “warts-and-all history of the blues has as much documentary truth as a West End musical” (3 stars). "The storytelling may be jerky and uncertain” (Telegraph, 3 stars) but “the music kicks up a storm” (Empire, 3 stars), especially Beyoncé. If you've seen Dreamgirls or Walk the Line you've probably seen it all before, and the Guardian laments “something new needs to be invented for the genre” (2 stars).
Gran Torino is probably Clint Eastwood's final acting appearance, and he's also in the director and producer chairs. Clint plays Walt, “a mean sonofabitch, a Korean War veteran who spends his days sitting out on his front porch... star[ing] out at the ethnic bums he thinks have invaded his turf and harbours dark fantasies of wiping them out” (Telegraph, 2 stars). But this is no Dirty Harry - Clint's heart is shown to be made “mostly of stone but also a reluctantly revealed gold centre” (Evening Standard, 4 stars). Most reviewers seem to find it a bit clunky: the Independent (3 stars) “wishes that Gran Torino were a little more subtle and a little less earnest in its operations. Does Walt have to voice his every thought aloud?”. The Guardian (3 stars) calls it “an enjoyably big, brash, macho melodrama” and The Times even thinks Eastwood gives “a great comic turn” (3 stars). Anyone watching this film on the basis of the TV adverts is going to be sorely confused.
Everybody hates Push, and everybody's quoting one line in particular: 'What if nothing we do makes any sense?' “Think of that as the scriptwriter's equivalent of an ejector seat”, replies The Guardian (1 star). “It's set in the world of 'psychic espionage',” says The Independent (1 star), but “after about 10 minutes you give up on the plot”. The Times (what else? 1 star) compares it to “a thousand instantly regrettable horrors”.
There's much more fun to be had in Anvil! The Story of Anvil. Anvil are a real metal band, although “everything about the film is naturally reminiscent of Spinal Tap” (The Guardian, 4 stars). They released an album in 1982 that influenced Metallica and Guns n Roses, but they themselves never hit the big time and are still struggling on. “The film accepts the bleak comedy of this, yet its refusal to patronise Anvil's endurance eventually becomes quite moving” (The Independent, 4 stars). Empire (5 stars) loves it, believing it's “exactly what’s needed to slap the recent rash of doomsayer documentaries in the face — preferably with a studded, fingerless leather glove”.
Perfectly timed for the recession, Confessions of a Shopaholic is adapted from the Sophie Kinsella novel, but transfers Isla Fisher from London to New York. The Evening Standard (2 stars) dismisses the film as “romantic codswallop” and love interest Hugh Dancy as “a High Grant clone”. The Mirror gets more into the spirit, calling it a “fabulously frothy and fun fashion film” (4 stars) and even the Guardian admits it's “all so silly and goofy you can't take offence” (2 stars).
Che: Part Two is the second half of Steven Soderbergh's biopic, and “the more interesting of the two films, dealing as it does with the finally doomed campaign of Che’s revolutionary career” (The Times, 3 stars). The Independent savages it as “plodding, one-paced, dramatically inert” (2 stars), complaining that “after more than four hours one knows barely anything about Ernesto "Che" Guevara”. The Evening Standard seems to have got more out of it, finding Benicio Del Toro's Che “brave and noble” (3 stars).
The first of a trilogy, adapted from a huge manga series, 20th Century Boys is a “weird-cute tale of a group of children whose apocalyptic fantasies inadvertently fuel a madman’s career” (Evening Standard, 3 stars). These fantasies then start to affect them as adults... Empire (3 stars) bemoans the “headache-inducingly convoluted plot”; The Guardian agrees the script should have been cut and finds the finished result “very long and unfailingly shallow” (2 stars).
Don't forget the Oscars on Sunday night, and next week we'll have The International and New in Town for you.