Melanie Laurent in Inglourious Basterds / image courtesy of Universal Studios
Our weekly round-up of film reviews
For the benefit of anyone who entered a deep coma just before the Cannes film festival, and is waking up around now, the plot of Quentin Tarantino's Inglourious Basterds centres around a group of Jewish-American soldiers on a revenge rampage across WW2 France. Seeing it for the second time, the Guardian was "struck afresh by how exasperatingly awful and transcendentally disappointing it is: a colossal, complacent, long-winded dud, a gigantic two-and-a-half-hour anti-climax, like a Quentin Tarantino film in form and mannerism but with the crucial element of genius mysteriously amputated" (1 star). The Independent finds it "lacking that human dimension" (3 stars) while the Times sighs over Tarantino's inability to "cut to the chase when he can masturbate through endless pages of smarty-pants dialogue" (2 stars). Brad Pitt may be the big star, but he "speaks in a cartoonish Southern drawl, carries himself like a cross between Popeye the Sailorman and Clark Gable" (Telegraph, 2 stars) but the real acting draws are Diane Kruger, Michael Fassbender and Christoph Waltz, who carried away the prizes in Cannes. So, a turkey? Only Empire demurs: "Tarantino's flipped a bloody middle finger at convention... an often dazzling movie that sees QT back on exhilarating form" (4 stars).
Rob, our main character in Afterschool, accidentally films the deaths of two popular girls at his private school. The head asks him to make a 'tribute', but Rob has other ideas. Young writer-director Antonio Campos seems to be channelling Larry Clarke, Michael Haneke and Gus van Sant so strongly that practically every reviewer mentions it, but the Times still calls him a "distinctive and promising voice" (4 stars) and the Guardian says "with its coolly measured visual sense and its almost dreamlike sound design, Afterschool is an elegant and disquieting piece of work" (4 stars). But the Independent notes that by the end, "the balance has shifted irreparably from content to style, and the point of concern seems to have changed from adolescent angst to social surveillance" (3 stars).
"He's only a fortnight gone, and someone is already shaming the memory of John Hughes" laments the Telegraph (2 stars) after watching I Love You, Beth Cooper. A nerdy teen announces his love for the way-out-of-his-league Beth Cooper in his high school graduation address, and of course the blonde cheerleader (Hayden Panettiere, not being at all typecast) and the nerd spend a wacky night together. It's "pretty average stuff" shrugs the Guardian (2 stars), which is much kinder than Empire's 2 star savaging: "painfully unfunny".
Robert Rodriguez experiments with family film formatting in Shorts, a series of short films strung together to tell the story of a 'wishing rock' that gets passed around town. It's "so structurally complicated that it almost qualifies as an experimental film and if it fails - as it does - it would be uncharitable to condemn Rodriguez for that" says the Times (2 stars). It's "bouncy enough" reckons the Telegraph (3 stars), while the Evening Standard thinks "there's more fun to be had from watching the various miracles on display than deciphering the story, or wondering why William H Macy and James Spader took bit parts in it" (2 stars).
Chiko is the street name of a Turkish immigrant in Hamburg, involved in the grubby underworld of drugs and violence. It's a "tough and well-observed piece of social realism" says the Standard (3 stars), and the Telegraph bloody loves it: "written and directed in propulsive, no-nonsense style... and it also boasts one of the lead performances of the year" (4 stars). The Independent's less impressed, however, finding "too much of its urban grit seems in thrall to American precedents" (2 stars).
The Wayans Brothers are still churning out their spoofs - the latest is Dance Flick. The Independent thinks even fans "will notice here a thinning in the comedy and a coarsening in its misogynist and homophobic riffs" (1 star), while the Telegraph thinks "scene for scene, there were probably more chuckles in The Reader" (1 star).
Documentary Shooting Robert King is showing at the ICA, and only picks up one review. The titular American photojournalist is, perhaps, "an accidental subject for cameraman Richard Parry: King shows up in Bosnia, shockingly ignorant and dilettante-ish" (Guardian, 3 stars), and this film is made up of footage Parry accumulates over 15 or so years.
Next week: Almodovar's new film Broken Embraces, bomb disposal thriller The Hurt Locker and the final installment of Mesrine.