Avatar / image courtesy of 20th Century Fox
Our weekly round-up of cinema reviews
Inevitably, we start with Avatar, James Cameron's over a decade in the making, $300 million dollar budget, part computer generated, revolutionary 3D film about aliens and standing up for what you believe in. In the next century, Earth is running out of fuel; luckily there's a new power source located on a planet inhabited by a tall, blue species. A group of scientists (led by Sigourney Weaver) are trying a diplomatic route, but the military wants to come in and blow stuff up. As they do. Everyone agrees it's a cinematic game changer, but the Times thinks "the sense that we are actually witnessing the future face of cinema - which seems to be a slightly crass, computer-generated salmagundi that celebrates technique over narrative originality at every juncture - is mildly depressing" (3 stars). The Guardian just shrugs and reckons it's "a watchable and entertaining if uncompromisingly ridiculous sci-fi spectacular" (3 stars), while Empire declares it a "flawed but fantastic tour de force", awarding it 5 stars (an extra star for the 3D; is that cheating?). Ultimately, the Telegraph wonders whether it all isn't just a "triumph of effects over affect" (3 stars).
There's pirate gold to be tracked down in St Trinian's 2. "The plot, however, isn't really the thing. A kind of innocuous outrageousness is the order of the day" says the Standard (2 stars), of the oddly sanitised schoolgirls (including the long-past-school-age Sarah Harding), cross-dressing Rupert Everett and camp villain David Tennant, hopefully not demonstrating the kind of role he'll be doing now he's left Doctor Who. The Independent (1 star) found Everett the "sole source of any laughs" while Empire has a summing up as simple as the plot: "if you liked the first St Trinian's, you should find this undemanding romp reasonably entertaining. If you didn't, avoid" (2 stars).
Daniel Day-Lewis is the Fellini-esque director character at the heart of Nine, a musical packed with top female stars - Marion Cotillard, Penelope Cruz, Nicole Kidman - yet the "only choices for [them] are wife, whore or Judi Dench" (Telegraph, 2 stars). As for Day-Lewis, the Guardian asks "can you hear a sort of whooshing and gurgling? That is the sound of [him] flushing his mystique down the toilet" (1 star). The Times (4 stars) is more of a fan, saying it's no "camp spectacle (it might help if it was) but rather gritty and sombre, even melancholy". As for the songs, the Independent declares "you will not tap your toes, you will not come out humming, you will not want to hear their like in a very long time" (2 stars).
Humpday is "a mumblecore bromance with a bizarre high concept that may well have begun as an unrealised real-life dare" (Guardian, 3 stars): two best friends decide to film themselves having gay sex for an art-porn festival. There's "a surprising lack of vulgarity and remarkable realism as writer-director Lynn Shelton goes where the buddy picture has never before dared to tread" says Empire (4 stars), and the Times proclaims that "on a tiny budget, and with razor-sharp improvisations, the director and her two male leads have somehow emerged with one of the year's funniest films" (4 stars).
Alvin and the Chipmunks 2: The Squeakquel is out on Monday, "remorselessly pull[ing] all the levers of the first highly successful box-office attraction" (Evening Standard, 1 star). The Telegraph describes it as "superior, cutesy fare for anyone who can't get enough of 'Surprised Kitty' on YouTube" (4 stars) and while the Times reviewer found it irritating beyond compare, "to judge by the ecstatic reaction of a three-year-old of my acquaintance, the chipmunks will have the younger audience eating out of their horrible, ratty little paws" (2 stars).
Next week: two British heroes come to the big screen - Sherlock Holmes and John Lennon in Nowhere Boy.