Drag Me To Hell / Lions Gate Films
Our weekly round of cinema reviews.
Sam Raimi takes a leave of absence from Spidey and goes back to his horror roots in Drag Me To Hell. Alison Lohman plays sweet loans officer Christine, pushed by her boss into rejecting the mortgage extension of a grim old Gypsy lady. Uh-oh. Before you know it, Christine is cursed; she's "smacked repeatedly into the air by invisible assailants, terrorised by poltergeists" (Guardian, 3 stars), bringing up insects and spraying everyone with her nosebleeds. Empire enjoys the film "lurching from wild laughs to beautifully choreographed scares like a locomotive threatening to leave the tracks" (4 stars) while the Times (4 stars) searches for deeper meaning in what it sees as "fundamentally a morality tale that channels the primal pull of the best fables". The Telegraph calls it as it sees it: "Raimi and his fellow screenwriter, brother Ivan, aren’t trying to pander to the kind of moviegoer who only likes horror if it’s gussied up art-house style... They don’t care if Drag Me To Hell is seen as a modern-day B-movie" (4 stars). A word of warning though. Cat lovers (and we say this as we lean over a purring furball to type) may want to nip to the loo at a couple of strategic points.
Were you one of the people who nabbed our free tickets to a preview of Fermat's Room? If so, jump ahead - the rest of you can catch up. Three mathematicians and an engineer are locked in a room; they're given a series of puzzles to solve within 60 seconds - if they fail, the walls move inwards. "But the film - despite its use of ever-increasingly complex puzzles, its references to the great mathematicians of the past - is never as clever as it should be" says the Times (2 stars) and the Telegraph (2 stars) laments "even the fun of the conceit is somewhat muffled by the film’s lurid colour design and headachey close-ups". The Independent finally puts the boot into this Spanish thriller, calling it "dreadfully pedantic...the tension drains away quicker than you can say 'Pythagoras'" (2 stars).
Fugitive Pieces is adapted from a prize-winning novel about a writer coming to terms with his childhood as a Polish Jew in the Holocaust, and its literary origins clearly stand out. "Such daunting high-mindedness it makes The Reader look like Transformers" says the Telegraph (2 stars); "like many literary films, this has to battle hard against a certain inertness, and doesn't always succeed" agrees the Guardian (3 stars). The performances are all roundly praised, especially Stephen Dillane's "typically intelligent performance" (Times, 2 stars), but the actors can't stop the film reducing "the Holocaust and its aftermath to a cosy soap opera" (Evening Standard, 3 stars).
Bunny boilers ahoy in Obsessed, "a fist-chewing embarrassment that has no right to a theatrical release" (Times, 1 star). Presumably it escaped into the open on the strength of its star power: Beyonce Knowles produces and stars alongside Idris Elba (The Wire) and Ali Larter (Heroes). "It could be the least erotic thriller ever made, unless die-you-bitch catfights through broken attic floorboards constitute some sort of kinky subgenre" flounces the Telegraph (2 stars) and the Independent kills it at a stroke: "this lame and laughable stalker-thriller makes Fatal Attraction look thoughtful" (1 star).
John Cena is a WWE wrestler plonked into 12 Rounds as a cop faced with a vengeful robber (Aiden Gillen), and the Times is not impressed. "[He] has the build of an action hero - imagine Matt Damon with gigantism - but when it comes to charisma, he barely deserves to be playing a background thug" (2 stars). Cena must complete a series of tasks to get back his kidnapped girlfriend, but the film is just a "steroidal pastiche of 1990s thrillers" (Independent, 1 star) and there's "so much bang-bang editing that you scarcely know where you are" (Evening Standard, 2 stars).
Funnily enough, the best received film of the week is a documentary set in Wales. sleep furiously is about... well, "it's unclear, and perhaps unimportant, what this documentary is about. It is best to think of it as a series of drifts through time and place" (Telegraph, 4 stars). Director Gideon Koppel returns to the farming community of his childhood and films the inhabitants going about their daily business as the village infrastucture slowly, but surely, disappears. "Furious sleep may be what Trefeurig is now experiencing: a grim, terrible suspicion that their communal death is now inevitable" worries the Guardian (4 stars). The Independent (4 stars) notes an "elegiac tenderness and pictorial beauty" while the Times calls Koppel "a voice to be cherished" (4 stars).
Fireflies in the Garden takes us to "twilight land of the sensitive indie ensemble piece, something American stars gravitate to for reasons of range and prestige" (Telegraph, 2 stars) but the big names of Julia Roberts, Willem Dafoe and Emily Watson "threaten to overwhelm it just by their presence" (Guardian, 2 stars). Grown-up writer son Ryan Reynolds comes home after the death of his mother, and reminisces about his childhood under the control of a tyrannical father. "First time writer/director Dennis Lee is desperate to transcend genre cliches" says the Evening Standard (3 stars) but the judgement of the Times (2 stars) - "saccahrine melodrama" - suggests he largely fails.
Oh sweet lord - here comes the Jonas Brothers: The 3D Concert Experience. "That’s one dimension per Jonas" snipes a distinctly unimpressed Telegraph (1 star) but the broadsheets aren't exactly the right demographic, are they? Mind you, the Guardian reckons "if I were a 12-year-old girl, I'd definitely feel short-changed by the few brief minutes spent on this 'candid' material; it mostly consists of the brothers being led past lines of screaming fans into one record launch or another" (2 stars).
Next week: yet another John Connor tries to beat the machines in Terminator: Salvation and Dustin Hoffman and Emma Thompson romance on the streets of London in Last Chance Harvey.