Audrey Tautou as Coco Before Chanel / image courtesy of Optimum Releasing
Our weekly round-up of film reviews
As the title suggests, Coco Before Chanel focuses on the designer's life before she hit the big time. From humble beginnings, she exploited her relationships with some very wealthy and influential men to work her way up to the point where she would influence the way the world dressed. "The film is sumptuously designed and tailored, with none of life's real filth ever pictured" says the Evening Standard (2 stars), and the Times adds that it's "nowhere near as fascinating and unpredictable as its subject" (3 stars). But it's Audrey Tautou's performance as Chanel that has everyone raving. The Independent admires the way she "retains a cool mystique" (2 stars), while the Telegraph offers perhaps the ultimate accolade: "to recall an actress who could so dominate your memory of a movie, one needs to think back to Audrey Hepburn" (3 stars).
The Taking of Pelham 123 is director Tony Scott's remake of a 70s thriller that eventually helped inspire Reservoir Dogs. "'Remake' isn't really the word, to be honest. Imagine a favourite old caff with formica tables and vinyl banquettes, run by the same family for generations; then imagine someone flattening it with a bulldozer and dumping, say, a Planet Hollywood in its place"; it's safe to say the Independent isn't impressed, even before you get to the 1 star rating. John Travolta leads a gang into the New York subway system to take a train and its passengers hostage; Denzel Washington is the transit worker on whose shoulders the lives of the hostages rest. The Guardian finds it "ridiculous but entertaining" (3 stars), but Empire can't even go that far. "Implausibility shouldn't be an issue in this sort of thriller, where audiences are willing to suspend disbelief in order to be strung along by suspense alone, but this is so unengaging that you have too much time to wonder about the miracle broadband connection in the subway" (2 stars). The Telegraph argues that these days, New York terror comes in the shape of planes or viruses. "John Travolta in a goatee just won't cut it" (2 stars).
Guinea pigs as secret agents is the premise of G Force, a mix of animation and live action from the Disney stable. They're on the trail of a mad businessman (Bill Nighy), and their M is Zach Galifianakis from the The Hangover, "but here he is entirely unfunny and not permitted any of his wacky, dysfunctional shtick" (Guardian, 2 stars). "The story feels thin and faintly incoherent, the action is loud and relentless" says the Telegraph (2 stars), something the Times takes up a notch: "it is as if the film-makers have taken all the movies in the Mission: Impossible franchise, distilled them to their essence and then reproduced that without bothering to create a narrative around it" (1 star). "One or two of the ideas are actually not bad... but for the most part, it's like running on a wheel" concludes the Independent (2 stars).
Based on a US 70s TV show that didn't really make it to these shores, Land of the Lost is met with a resounding 'meh'. Will Ferrell "extinguishes any flicker of originality in one of the worst performances of his career" (Times, 2 stars) as a scientist who's created a machine that can travel in time / visit alternate universes. He and Anna Friel get to meet some dinosaurs. The problem, says Empire, (2 stars) is that it "spreads itself far too thin, trying to please so many demographics that it ends up not fully satisfying any". The Guardian is a lone dissenting voice, finding it "very surreal, absurd, and often quite gross, with loads of very arch and knowing gags", but still can only bring itself to award 3 stars.
Much more warmly greeted is Rumba, "a loony tunes cruelty with the precise comic choreography of the great movie clowns" according to the Times (4 stars). A pair of Belgian dancers with a passion for Latin dancing are involved in a car crash with an incompetently suicidal depressive and their lives change. If it sounds like Euro-seriousness, think again: "it harks back to silent and semi-silent genres with a quieter comic style, and it isn't all about irony and alienation, but rather sympathetic assent" (Guardian, 4 stars). The Evening Standard simply declares that "there's no contest for the most original and charming film of the week" (3 stars).
Mad, Bad and Sad focuses on a British Asian family; "unusually, they are all middle class, unlikeable, dismissive of or hemmed in by their families. Nor do they put much emphasis on religion, ethnicity, or 'community'" says the Telegraph (3 stars). "But what is missing is any sense of warmth between the characters... It's not funny, it's just unpleasant" sighs the Times (2 stars). An idea that comes up more than once is that the story might have worked better as a TV series. "Some of the awkward implausibilities could have been smoothed away", thinks the Guardian (2 stars).
Crossing Over, reckons the Independent, is "aiming to do for immigration what Crash did with race". Harrison Ford plays an immigration officer trying to help a Mexican illegal, and their story is interwoven with that of many other US immigrants. The film "clearly has the best of intentions but is, sadly, botched" says the Evening Standard (2 stars), and it "employs crude racial stereotypes, overwrought dialogue and a kitchen-sink MO... [there's] an absolute failure to address its nominal subject-matter in any meaningful way" says Empire (2 stars), burying it.
Next week: G.I. Joe! Plus, the nation gets to indulge its current obsession with a documentary about Meerkats.