Christian Bale and Sam Worthington in Terminator: Salvation
Our weekly round-up of cinema reviews.
The much-maligned McG may have hoped that helming Terminator: Salvation would earn him a smidgen of respect. It hasn't. A "£2.50 fairground ride" is how the Times (2 stars) rates the fourth film in the franchise, which sees Chrisitan Bale take on the John Connor mantle, battling a human-looking terminator in the form of Australian actor Sam Worthington. The Times is quite unimpressed by Bale's performance: he "groans and gripes like a tractor", making last year's on-set fireworks all the more risible. The Guardian (1 star) is even less impressed by a "fantastically dull" fourth episode, whose star wears the "resentful facial expression of... a vexed moose". The Telegraph (1 star) is also unconvinced by Bale's performance, bothered in particular by his vocal inflection, an "over-amplified parody of gruff masculinity", while the Independent (2 stars) simply rules that there was "really no need for [the series] to come back". Perhaps unsurprisingly, Empire (4 stars) loved it, lauding the director for "[sparking] a moribund franchise back to life", and extolling Bale as the "best glowerer of his generation". Were they watching the same film?
Dustin Hoffman and Emma Thompson are thrown together in Last Chance Harvey, a "mature" rom-com. Set in London (which, in movie-land, means the South Bank), the film concerns an ad jingle writer (Hoffman) trying to reconnect with the simple pleasures in life after a crushing rejection by his daughter; Thompson is a "perfect foil" for Hoffman, according to the Times (3 stars), the "lived-in looks" of the pair lending the film a depth rarely associated with the genre. In a rather glib review, The Guardian (2 stars) dismisses it as mere "quirky romcommery", while The Telegraph (3 stars) is a little more charitable towards an "unfailingly nice" flick.
In Anything For Her, when wifey Diane Kruger is arrested and sent down for a crime she didn't commit, hubby Vincent Lindon gets to work springing her from jail. But is she as innocent as she seems? The Guardian (2 stars) doesn't really care, the "fundamental silliness and improbability of everything" killing any suspense. Empire (3 stars) champions the film's Seventies thriller pedigree, with "tense set-pieces" and a "meticulously and credibly crafted" breakout, a verdict with which the Telegraph (3 stars) concurs, noting the film's "sense of pulse and urgency".
There's more agreement among the broadsheets on the subject of Sugar. The story of a Dominican minor league baseball rookie, the film succeeds for the Guardian (4 stars) due to its "[exposure of] the whole rags-to-riches mantra as a bright and shining lie". The Telegraph (4 stars) also praises the way the film "weaves through cliches", and hails the writer-director combo of Ryan Fleck and Anna Boden, who also made Half-Nelson.
A hagiographic account of its eponymous hero, who fought for Norway's freedom during the German occupation of Oslo, Max Manus: Man Of War gets a decent reaction, the Independent (3 stars) noting that this "tense drama" was "seen by a quarter of Norway's population in six weeks" — a feat unlikely to be repeated overseas.
A pair of British films from the Sixties are re-released this weekend. The Harold Pinter-scripted Accident doesn't fare too well in the Independent (2 stars), where this story of unrequited love is "full of loathing and meanness". Yet the same qualities are, for the Times (4 stars), part of a "brilliantly cruel" story of "overheated sexual jealousy", and one that is only "slightly dated" despite being over forty years old. The Telegraph (5 stars) goes one further, calling it an "eerie, caustic, surgically calm film". Finally, Lindsay Anderson's This Sporting Life, about a working-class miner's attempt to make it in rugby, is, says the Times (3 stars), a "perfect accompaniment" to the aforementioned Sugar.
Next week: Eric Cantona plays himself in Looking For Eric, another horror classic gets butchered in Last House On The Left, and John Woo returns with Red Cliff.