William Ash in Hush / image courtesy of Optimum Releasing
The weekly round-up of cinema reviews continues...
Owen Wilson, Jennifer Aniston and a big soppy golden labrador star in Marley And Me. What could go wrong? "All of us tough, cynical critics had tears welling in our eyes, swallowing hard; our lips, so often curled in a cheap sneer, were now trembling, because of the same desperately sad thought: 'Owen Wilson used to be really good...'" (Guardian, 1 star). This is the true story of a journalist and his family and how they're taught about, like, the meaning of life by their adorable doggie. The Independent can see an interesting film in there somewhere, "about the very ordinary traumas of married life that Hollywood doesn't care to tackle" (1 star) "but this is mere lint to be brushed off the film's comfy cashmere surface" (Telegraph, 3 stars). Director David Frankel did a great job with similarly fluffy material in The Devil Wears Prada, but Marley And Me has "the artistic consistency of Pedigree Chum" (Times, 1 star).
"What would you do if, driving home on the M1, you saw a truck in which you catch a fleeting glimpse of a caged woman screaming for help?" (Evening Standard, 2 stars). That's the premise of Hush. "There's nothing subtle about this debut feature from British writer-director Mark Tonderai - but nothing boring either" says the Guardian (3 stars) and Empire agrees it "succeeds in ratcheting up the tension" (3 stars). The Times is less happy; "silly" is about the best in a quite dismissive review (2 stars).
Bronson is "a highly cinematic, almost free-form study... based upon Bronson’s life but not necessarily a copy of it" (Evening Standard, 4 stars). Tom Hardy takes the title role, "the kind of high-intensity performance that leaves you as breathless as after a punch to the gut" (Times, 4 stars). The Independent wonders if the film is "The Shawshank Redemption's dark twin, a film in which the hero... far from winning freedom just coils himself tighter and tighter into the system" (3 stars). Everyone's deep into analytical mode, but the Telegraph concludes that, ultimately, it's just "a loud but hollow tough-guy pantomime" (2 stars).
Alone (Issiz Adam) is "a high-flown Turkish romance that alights on these shores like some bewildered, moneyed tourist: too gauche for the art-house, too exotic for the multiplex" (Guardian, 2 stars). Two lovers indulge in a spot of sexual liberation, and we're not sure if there's a double entendre at play when The Times says it's "not a comfortable swallow" (3 stars). The Evening Standard says it's shot with "some poise and it’s decently acted" but was only impressed enough to hand out 2 stars.
Nothing much happens in In The City Of Sylvia. A young writer / artist returns to Strasbourg to try to find the titular Sylvia, whom he met six years ago, visits some cafes, does some drawings. "Graham Greene once suggested that the perfect film showed life as it’s lived" says Empire (4 stars) and the consensus is this film comes damn close. The Guardian (4 stars) writes it a long love letter, calling it genuinely "gripping in its pure normality" and The Times coos that it's "alluring... its meandering, aimless journey takes on a curious compelling tension" (3 stars).
Now for a trio of films only showing in one cinema - this is why we love London's art house scene. Guillermo Arriaga wrote Amores Perros, 21 Grams and Babel and has added directing to his CV with The Burning Plain (only at Odeon Mezzanine). Three separate plot strands coalesce in "a dramatic and sometimes melodramatic story, full of a raw kind of truth about families and tragedy" (Evening Standard, 3 stars). Charlize Theron and Kim Basinger are among the cast, and the Guardian feels it's "well-acted, but something of a trompe l'oeil... an illusion of depth where there is none" (2 stars).
Wonderful Town and Not Quite Hollywood are both on at the ICA. The former is a quiet Thai romance against the backdrop of reconstruction following the Asian tsunami. It's "slow but beautiful and subtle film-making" according to the Evening Standard (3 stars), and the Guardian agrees that it's "highly persuasive and intelligent film-making, the kind of movie that enfolds you in its world" (3 stars).
Not Quite Hollywood looks back at Ozploitation films of the 1970s and early 80s - "a riot of bad taste and secret histories" from Australia that filmmaker Mark Hartley uses "as a prism for exploring changing social mores in the 1970s" (Telegraph, 4 stars). The Times likes it for the "remarkable story to be told of outlaws carving out their own slice of the industry with scant regard for decorum, personal safety or narrative coherence" (3 stars).
Next week. Clive Owen and Julia Roberts go head to head in Duplicity, James Corden and Matthew Horne go subtle in Lesbian Vampire Killers, and Pete Postlethwaite goes green in The Age Of Stupid.