Where the Wild Things Are / image courtesy of Warner Bros
Our weekly round-up of cinema reviews
Hard on the heels of Wes Anderson's Fantastic Mr Fox comes Spike Jonze's Where the Wild Things Are; another hipster director taking on another beloved children's book. This one, though, was beset with problems; originally slated for 2008, Warner Bros hated the concept and the Times can kind of understand why: "Jonze has taken a rumoured £50 million budget and produced an amiably down-at-heel, lo-fi indie movie that looks as though it was handcrafted from bits of felt and sticky-backed plastic" (3 stars). It's "a full-length psychological study of childhood loneliness and dysfunction" says the Guardian (3 stars), with a "wonderfully overwhelming sense... that the Wild Things' world exists at the end of a summer holiday, where every second of play is desperately, sweetly savoured" (Empire, 4 stars). It almost feels like plot doesn't matter, but if you want that kind of detail it's about a young boy, isolated and lonely, who sets sail to an island where he becomes king of these muppety creatures. The Evening Standard declares that "it takes people years to see that there is something un-childish about the condition of childhood... Forget the kids: take yourself to see it" (4 stars).
The Limits of Control "functions more as a wilful act of self-pleasuring than worthwhile experiment" says the Telegraph (2 stars), disappointedly admitting that this is not a good Jim Jarmusch film. A hit man wanders around Spain, meeting briefly with people (Tilda Swinton, Bill Murray) who give him his next set of instructions. "Bereft of plot...the film's refusal to up the pace, or even to break a sweat, means there is little to occupy an audience" (Independent, 2 stars), and while "the movie has some technical polish and style... this only makes its emptiness even more exasperating" says the Guardian (1 star).
Axl has come to London from Spain to find his father, but instead finds himself in an East End warehouse squat. Unmade Beds "is about being young and waking up in strange places, where people you've met but don't remember (and may or may not have slept with yet) blearily introduce themselves the morning after" says the Telegraph (3 stars with a hint of wistfulness?). The largely non-English cast are required by director Alexis Dos Santos to improvise, which the Independent finds "ill-advised; nothing so determinedly shambolic could ever be truly loveable" (2 stars), though Empire thinks it has "a light, appealing vibe" (3 stars) and the Standard leaves it up to you to decide whether the film is "fresh and charming or hopelessly second-hand" (2 stars).
Carriers is like "Zombieland's humourless twin: with none of the gags and, unfortunately, not many of its genuine moments of tension" sighs the Guardian (2 stars).
Captain Kirk Chris Pine is one of four young things fleeing a deadly plague. The film "offers the kind of scares the BBFC would class as 'mild apocalyptic peril'... stealthier suspense, bedded in the stark dilemmas of survival and... the death of trust" says Empire (3 stars), but the Standard (1 star) just snaps "there's one good thing about Carriers. It's short".
Playing at the BFI is the re-issue of Powell and Pressburger's Technicolor classic The Red Shoes. The restored print "just blazes out of the screen: profoundly serious, sublimely innocent, yet deeply and mysteriously erotic" swoons the Guardian (5 stars). It's a portrait of a ballet dancer (Moira Shearer) caught between the demands of her profession and her heart, and "has a quicksilver grace and variation of mood unlike anything else you've seen" (Independent, 5 stars). The Times provides a dissenting voice, however: "time has not been kind... The performances are declamatory, Shearer (a dancer) can barely act, and all the obvious passion has clearly gone into the production design" (3 stars).
The Stepfather is, reckons the Times, one of those films "that boast outlandish premises, fantastically unhinged villains and kitschy line-readings, but mine a deep seam of contemporary anxiety about the disintegration of the family unit" (3 stars). Dylan Walsh (from Nip/Tuck) plays a man who targets single mothers, marries them, then embarks on a massive killing spree about six months later. Except this time he didn't bank on the return of the military-school tearaway son... "If the story had kept itself half as busy as the violinists, you may have excused the plot-holes" bitches Empire (2 stars) but the Guardian doesn't seem to mind, finding it "all very silly, but effective popcorn entertainment" (3 stars).
Next week: St Trinian's 2 and some film called Avatar.