Gael Garcia Bernal as Cursi and Diego Luna as Rudo / image courtesy of Optimum Releasing
Our weekly round-up of film reviews
The big sell of Rudo y Cursi is that it reunites Gael García Bernal and Diego Luna after the international hit Y Tu Mama Tambien. This time they're in "an entertaining buddy comedy about football, put together with a great deal of Hollywood-style pizzazz, but without the depth or thoughtfulness of that first breakout film" (Guardian, 3 stars), playing brothers brought under the wing of an unscrupulous football agent. The film "mostly trades on the easygoing chemistry between Luna and Bernal and the sunny mood that it engenders" (Times, 4 stars) and Empire notes it's "rarely anything more than an entertaining romp, going for belly laughs rather than satirical incisiveness" (3 stars). Probably one for existing fans, but that's still a sizeable recommendation.
Sunshine Cleaning comes from the producers of Little Miss Sunshine. Spot the theme. Anyway, this time they've made an indie film about a dysfunctional family that centres around crime-scene clean-up. The Times runs away with itself, going on about "the indignity and inconvenient mess of death; the way that our cherished hopes and loves emulsify, at the end of life, into an ominously sticky stain on a malodorous mattress - this is the unpalatable truth at the heart of the bittersweet black comedy" (3 stars); thankfully the Standard restrains itself to "a small triumph" (4 stars). The always brilliant Emily Blunt and Amy Adams play the sisters, and director Christine Jeffs weaves "a nifty balance between tragedy and farce" (Independent, 3 stars). The hype calls it the sleeper hit of the summer; they may have a point.
Jack Black and Michael Cera play hunter-gatherers kicked out of their tribe and made to wander round a series of incidents from Genesis in Year One. Empire is savage: "they're required to respectively bug out and nervously pigeon-step through a series of sub-SNL sketches that deny the guest stars... as many laughs as themselves, relying more on gross-out humour than any alleged religious satire" (2 stars). The Telegraph derides the "numbskull comedy... [that] has a premise which never evolves into a plot" (2 stars), while the Standard (2 stars) relays a quote from the production designer, "'At a certain point we put the research down and began to make up our own rules'" that should tell you everything about how little this film knows what it's supposed to be.
Iranian auteur Abbas Kiarostami's new film Shirin is 90 minutes of close-ups of women watching a film in the cinema. We see their emotional reactions while never being allowed a glimpse of the film they're watching. It's "austerity itself" says the Independent (3 stars), though the Guardian has a different idea for this "intriguing if somewhat exasperating new feature: an installation-type work that might work as well, or better, on a blank wall in an art gallery" (2 stars). The Times admits the film is "gorgeous... But as an intellectual exercise, and an allegedly serious meditation on the nature of spectatorship, it is specious and inert" (2 stars).
Little Miss Sunshine's Abigail Breslin plays a child deliberately created to help keep her older, cancer-suffering sibling alive in My Sister's Keeper, based on the Jodi Picoult book. It's "like a sustained assault on the tear ducts" complains the Independent (1 star) as the 'donor child' starts to balk at her enforced medicalisation. But despite its attempts at medical ethics, the film becomes "a well-heeled weepie in which the family's comfortable existence, despite the misfortunes of fate, is hardly challenged at all" (Evening Standard, 3 stars). The Guardian takes it one step further: "some films have certificates like U or PG; this one should be OMG with a row of teardrops and frowny-face emoticons" (1 star). Ouch.
Wow, Tenderness crept out under the radar. Russell Crowe plays a low-key detective tracking a young murderer, newly released from prison, convinced he will kill again. It's an "odd psychodrama... it has tension but not a great deal of meaning" says the Independent (2 stars), something the Telegraph agrees with: "nothing in John Polson's effortfully bleak crime drama gets past sketchy" (2 stars). The Times enjoyed it, though, and finds space in a miniscule review to call it a "an admirable character piece" (3 stars).
"Fans of meticulously composed static wide shots and a languorous lack of momentum will go nuts for Lake Tahoe" says The Times (3 stars). It's the tale of a young Mexican man spending 24 hours in a small town after crashing his car. "Curiously resonant... funny as well as melancholy" is the Standard's verdict (4 stars), while the Guardian calls director Fernando Eimbcke "a poet of the incidental" (3 stars). Clearly not for everyone, but perhaps something for an introspective afternoon?
An armed stranger out for revenge arrives in a small Bangladeshi town and becomes embroiled in local politics in The Last Thakur. "Taut, well shot and confidently acted" says the Evening Standard (3 stars); the Telegrah is reminded of Asif Kapadia's The Warrior "in the primacy it gives to atmosphere over dialogue" (3 stars). The Times isn't quite as impressed by the "tight little story captured by shifty, restless hand-held camera, but the acting is distractingly over-the-top" (2 stars).
The ICA's New British season continues with Dummy and The Blue Tower. The former is the story of a teenager starting to make a name for himself as a DJ, but is also looking after his disturbed younger brother. "The film doesn't quite know whether to be heartwarming or macabre, but it is certainly trying for something unusual" is the Guardian's verdict (2 stars) and The Times broadly agrees: "admirable... but is ultimately hampered by a stiffly formal chemistry between the brothers" (3 stars). The Blue Tower is "a kind of Southall gothic melodrama peppered with incest and warped with paranoia" (Times, 2 stars). Director Smita Bhide won the Raindance audience award for her "hot-house brew of social realism" (Guardian, 3 stars).
Next week: 3D kids craziness in Ice Age 3 and Johnny Depp goes gangster in Public Enemies.