Carey Mulligan in An Education / image courtesy of E1 Entertainment
Our weekly round-up of cinema reviews
An Education is an adaptation of journalist Lynn Barber's memoir of her teenage affair with an older man, adapted by Nick Horby (and with the fabulous Danish director Lone Scherfig at the helm). Young 'Jenny' is supposed to be destined for Oxford when she's picked up on her way home from school by a dashing chap who dazzles her and her parents with his charm, and whisks her into the sort of fun they had back in the early 60s. The film could be seriously dodgy, "were it not for the fact that it is extremely funny. Hornby's screenplay catches the stranger-than-fiction absurdity nicely" says the Guardian (4 stars); "it crafts a beady-eyed drama that embraces ambiguity over finger-wagging moralising" (Telegraph, 4 stars). Though the film is packed with famous names - Emma Thompson, Alfred Molina, Peter Saarsgard, Olivia Williams - it's Carey Mulligan as Jenny who gets the plaudits. "She can enfold delight and doubt into a single smile, and her performance is one of the best by an actress this year" swoons the Evening Standard (4 stars). We'll give the final word to the Times: "I can't call it the best British film of the year because it's still only October. But I'd be amazed if a better one comes along" (5 stars).
Now there are fewer free papers around, it would be a foolish person who'd expect to be subjected to less celebrity tattle, and even expect that tattle being true. Starsuckers has got a lot of attention for tricking papers into printing all kinds of made up sleb nonsense, presented here as part of "a rather gimmicky documentary" (Times, 2 stars) on the cult of celebrity. Chris Atkins - whose previous film was Taking Liberties - spends the first hour on "a shambling mix of strained metaphor and truism in the service of a silly conspiracy theory" (Independent, 2 stars) but finally "pulls out a very entertaining critique of the colossally self-congratulatory Live 8 concert" (Guardian, 3 stars).
What will survive after the apocalypse, when we're all gone? According to 9 it'll be a bunch of rag dolls, somehow invested with the last vestiges of humanity, who must fight against the all-wrecking machines. Writer / director Shane Acker has Tim Burton in the producer's chair and "there's more than a touch of The Nightmare Before Christmas to the film's look, but Acker has taken his photo-surreal imagery in a refreshing direction" (Empire, 3 stars). "Sadly, where it needs emotive magic, it lays on a vague and maudlin religiosity" says the Telegraph (3 stars), and the film undermines its nightmarish design with "a Disneyfied cliché, disfigured by incoherent mysticism and trite warnings about the dangers of technology" (Independent, 2 stars).
Tales From the Golden Age "mixes wry laughs and tiny tragedies to depict Ceausescu's Romania" (Empire, 4 stars) in a portmanteau film comprised of five stories, all created by different, yet unnamed, Romanian directors. The tales are all based on urban myths from the time, and are "bulging with scorn, surrealism and gallows humour" (Guardian, 4 stars). Despite the horrors within, the Evening Standard says it's "still great fun and, through comedy, spears an awful regime with undeniable accuracy while pointing up the indomitability of the ordinary people" (4 stars).
Danny Dyer's in a Brit geezer gangster movie! Quick, everybody, drink! (Surely, surely, there's a drinking game based on Dyer's career? A finger every time he calls someone a muppet?) You can probably guess the plot of Dead Man Running: someone owes some money to someone else (50 Cent - we shit you not), and there's some shooters involved. "Most of the twists - not all of them - are telegraphed a long way in advance" says the Independent (2 stars) and the film "ploughs through underworld fight clubs, dog tracks and drug deals with all the subtlety of a blind man driving a Hummer" (Times, 1 star). "We've run round this track too many times" pleads Empire (2 stars).
"It's safe to say that you will see nothing else remotely like Love Exposure this year" says the Times (3 stars). For a start, it's nearly 4 hours long and "manages to combine slapstick, manga-type action, romance and drama into a weird commentary on religion, morality, sex and the particularly Japanese perversion of tosatsu (covertly taking up-skirt photographs of unsuspecting young women in the street)" (Evening Standard, 4 stars). Yu is forced into daily confession by his father, and ends up thinking he might as well do some actual sinning to make it more fun. "Wonderfully weird" says Empire (4 stars).
In The Horseman, a harrowed father (Peter Marshall) drives around Queensland looking for the men who killed his daughter with heroin while shooting a porn film. "Marshall manages to excel in the lead role, blending heartfelt remorse with barely concealed despair" says the Times (2 stars) but the film's "mounting emphasis on torture puts it squarely in the unlovely Death Wish / 8MM / Taken camp of jerry-rigged vigilantism" says a squirming Telegraph (1 star). As the Independent (2 stars) succinctly puts it, once "you've seen one man beaten about the face with a crowbar, you've seen 'em all".
For anyone still sore over not getting to see Michael Jackson at the O2, This Is It is the chance to glimpse what might have been. Mainly "unadorned rehearsal footage, artfully stitched together to create complete song sequences" (Guardian, 3 stars), there's also the ghoulish opportunity to gawp at a man in his last days, and the Telegraph notes that at times "he seems petulant, tentative and even frail" (3 stars). But let's face it: this is basically an attempt to wring the last drops out of the Jackson legacy by displaying "a two-hour work in progress that Jackson - revealed here to be a perfectionist - would probably rather you never see" (Empire, 3 stars).
There's another trio of films released this week. The Butterfly Tattoo is an adaptation of Philip Pullman's 1992 novel about a modern day Romeo and Juliet. The sole review calls it "just a bit too safe" (Guardian, 2 stars). Citizen Kane and An American Werewolf in London get dusted down and wheeled out, but we've decided that this is cheating and we're going to assume you've already heard of these classics.
Next week: John Keats gets the Jane Campion treatment in Bright Star and Jon Ronson's book The Men Who Stare at Goats comes to the silver screen.