Our weekly round-up of cinema reviews
We last saw Sam Mendes directing classics at the Old Vic but this weekend we can see him back to film. Away We Go is probably not going to win him any more Oscars but it has "an easy, no-particular-place-to-go looseness that doesn't bear too close a scrutiny, but has a certain likability" (Guardian, 3 stars). Written by Dave Eggers and Vendela Vida, and starring John Krasinski (of the US Office) and SNL alum Maya Rudolph as a happy couple exploring different places and lifestyles in which to raise their unborn child, the Times is a bit unsure of it all. It's "supposed to be a comedy, albeit of the light, whimsical variety, and yet there isn't a single laugh-out-loud moment in the film" (2 stars). (If we can interject: everyone we know who's seen the trailer has creased up at some point or other.) Empire (4 stars) are bigger fans: "Happiness is a difficult narrative concept to maintain, being, by definition, free of dramatic incident, but the lead couple are so charismatically written and played that even an uneventful trip on a train becomes high comedy". The Telegraph is also a fan of the director's change of pace, relieved that "no one dies in this new one, and a lot of good actors turn up, do their thing and leave, without hanging around in hope of an Oscar nomination" but they're less keen on the script's "one-sided scorn" (4 stars). With supporting turns from Allison Janney, Maggie Gyllenhaal and Jeff Daniels to name a few, this might make an excellent way to pass a Sunday afternoon.
For a nation obsessed by the weather, Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs sounds like the kind of thing that should have us running for the hills. This 3-D animated film (it's not half-term already, is it?) centres around a mad scientist-type who invents a machine that turns water into food, but when it accidentally gets catapulted into the sky, it starts raining burgers. "Is this supposed children's animation really a parable about runaway consumerism?" asks the Independent (3 stars). If that makes it sound terribly worthy, the Telegraph (4 stars) is on hand to reassure you: "what an unexpected treat this turns out to be", and the Times thinks it "lacks the charm of some other recent offerings in this genre, but it has enough grown-up gags to keep the adults amused and their children will laugh themselves silly at the sight of police officers being drenched in Cheese Whiz". Oh, and the Standard (4 stars) mentions kittens dancing to Public Enemy's Fight the Power, which may or may not be the reviewer's severe hallucination.
Director Nick Love is back with another tale of maleness and violence, this time an updating of Alan Clarke's TV film The Firm. It's about the 80s world of organised football hooliganism, ordinary blokes with decent jobs kicking off at the weekends. (Isn't it illegal to make a film like this without Danny Dyer?) "Highly watchable and perceptive" says Empire (4 stars) and, once it's finished a rant about how directors are billed on films, the Standard gets round to admitting that "there are scenes where the attempt to get close to something real is powerfully inspired" (3 stars). The Guardian also enjoyed the "persistent and welcome undercurrent of humour in the script" (3 stars).
Hippies! Here's a documentary about hippies, in Sweden; Three Miles North of Molkom, in fact. Corinna Villari-McFarlane and Robert Cannan's coverage of the No Mind festival could have been "a smug and irony-drenched send up of its subjects... instead [it's] a delicate, wonderfully nuanced and ultimately very moving portrait of a diverse group of voyagers" (4 stars). The Guardian also saw "a gentle, sweet-natured film populated by butterflies who decline to be broken on the wheel of cynicism" (4 stars) but the Independent found it "overlong... intermittently made bearable by a scathing Australian" (3 stars).
Catherine Deneuve plays a 'French film star' in Je Veux Voir, not a documentary but not entirely a drama either. It's set in Lebanon, where Catherine is driven around to witness the war damage for herself. The Guardian (4 stars) is impressed, noting how "these are scenes of devastation rendered paradoxically invisible by TV news which assumes destruction as a given... this is a potent and intriguing cinema of ideas", but the Telegraph says "the line between worthy and pompous is a tightrope right the way through, and the filmmakers don’t have the shoes for it" (2 stars). The Independent agrees, calling it "sincere and nicely shot, but unengaging" (2 stars).
31 North 62 East is the location of an SAS unit, the information given away by the British Prime Minister to secure an arms deal. "Comfortably the worst film I can remember seeing" howls the Independent (0 stars). Empire manages 2 stars but calls it a "thuddingly boorish thriller. Stuffed with plot but bereft of characterisation", as the Guardian agrees it all "crumbles under an onslaught of machine-tooled plot twists and a barrage of expository dialogue" (2 stars). Still, it's got Counselor Deanna Troi in it, eh?
Speaking of Star Trek, the new Kirk made Blind Dating before taking the Captain's chair and now it's been dusted down and hauled out for our approval. Or not, as it turns out. "Incoherent and implausible on every level" is the Independent's 1 star take on Pine's turn as a blind man who falls in love with an Indian girl, but her parents have already arranged a match. "A dismally unfunny romantic comedy" says the Times (1 star), while "the standard of acting and directing is at a very low ebb" is the Guardian (1 star) politely noting a stinker.
Birdwatchers tells the tale of the Guarani community in Brazil. Dispossessed by European settlers over the centuries, they occupy a wealthy landowner's territory to bring attention to their plight. But then one of the tribesmen falls in love with the landowner's daughter. "It can't seem to decide whether it's a contemporary western or a retelling of Romeo and Juliet" says the Times (2 stars). The Telegraph finds it "dark, but important, too, and both artistically and politically compelling" (4 stars), while the Guardian thinks writer-director Marco Bechis "may not be the greatest cinematic stylist around, but his heartfelt purpose is there for all to see".
"Once a fringe play, still essentially a fringe play" is the Telegraph's verdict (2 stars) on The Agent, a confrontation between an unsuccessful author and his titular representative. Empire has more time for the "acerbic two-hander... a quite unsexy subject handled quite adeptly, with pretty decent performances" (3 stars) but the Independent believes those "decent performances... can't disguise the script's shift from over-determined debate to unconvincingly twisty plot" (2 stars).
With a plot pretty much lifted from 2008's Death Race, Gamer replaces Jason Statham's convict-turned-games-warrior with Gerard Butler, the 'avatar' of a teenage gamer and plaything of game inventor billionaire Michael C. Hall. It "has astonishing moments" says Empire (3 stars), but the Times feels that doesn't quite make up for the "crude and sleazy 21st-century satire, fast-moving, numbing and nonsensical" (2 stars). The Telegraph hates it, awarding no stars at all and calling it a "moronic inferno".
You know that image of Che Guevara. Everybody knows that image of Che Guevara. It's bloody everywhere, from protests to advertising. Chevolution is an "intelligent documentary [that] wonders how it happened" (Independent, 3 stars); it "explores the potency of the famous image and its journey from placards and news magazines to the T-shirts and walls of students the world over" (Times, 2 stars).
Image of Away We Go courtesy of E1 Entertainment
Next week: what, you want more? This onslaught of releases not enough for you? Fair enough; Fame gets a wash and brush up and Robert Downey Jr and Jamie Foxx get sentimental and life-affirmy in The Soloist.