Sarah Jessica Parker and Hugh Grant in Did You Hear About the Morgans? / image courtesy of Sony PIctures
Our weekly round-up of cinema reviews
"Gene Siskel, the late American film critic, once asked of a certain rom-com: 'Is this more entertaining than a documentary of the leading actors having lunch?' The answer as far as this Hugh Grant/Sarah Jessica Parker vehicle is concerned is: 'scarcely'. Happy Cinematic New Year from the Evening Standard (2 stars), which seems pained to be even talking about Did You Hear About the Morgans? Grant and Parker are a couple whose marriage is breaking down, but are whisked off to Wyoming as part of the Witness Protection programme. And wouldn't you know, a little down-home folksiness is all they need to solve their uptight New York problems. It leans towards the "blandly predictable end of the rom-com spectrum" (Times, 2 stars), but the Guardian points out "it's amiable and good natured. There are plenty of ostensible comedies that are neither" (3 stars). The main problem seems to be "it's completely vanilla, devoid of surprise; the sort of film to see if you're passing by and it happens to be raining" (Empire, 3 stars).
Isn't Ashton Kutcher a card? In Spread he plays "a lithe, good-looking gigolo whose preening self-regard is almost as irksome as the skinny black braces he wears the whole time" (Independent) who lives off the older women he seduces. See how this film he also produced plays with his public persona? Will falling for a waitress finally make him change his ways? "Marketed as a sex-com, Spread is a difficult film to classify, but even harder to like" says Empire (2 stars), while the Times is exasperated by Kutcher's performance: "To convey "sadness" he does "not smiling", while for "deep reflection" he also does "not smiling". And so on. It's all very Zoolander" (2 stars). Director David Mackenzie made the thoughtful Young Adam a few years ago, but with this film he "hasn't so much nailed LA's culture of skin-deep gratification as produced an advert for it" (Telegraph, 2 stars).
Two Mexican teenagers, railing against the dullness of their lives, go into hiding in plain sight - actually in the attic of one of their homes - in I'm Gonna Explode. "Imagine Bonnie and Clyde as remade by Jean Luc Godard" proposes the Telegraph (2 stars), and the Standard also suggests that while director Gerardo "Naranjo tells his story like a real film-maker, refusing either sentiment or melodrama... [he] has digested so many classics that he isn't quite able to do his own thing without copious references" (3 stars). However, Empire calls it "engrossing in parts" (3 stars) and the Guardian finds it "freewheeling if self-conscious" (3 stars).
Post Grad is a "would-be quirky comedy about the job market" (Independent, 1 star). Ryden is a college graduate whose glittering career hopes prove a dud, so she moves back in with her parents. "There's certainly a lot of material there but none of the comedy works in any way at all" (Guardian, 1 star) and "the rent-a-quirk characters feel like a Little Miss Sunshine tribute act gone wrong" (Telegraph, 1 star). Possibly a film for people who enjoy watching "the most dysfunctional relationship since Charlotte Gainsbourg got creative with the hand drill on Willem Dafoe in Antichrist" (Times, 1 star) as Ryden emasculates the in-love-with-her best friend.
Part of the BFI's Ozu season, Tokyo Story gets re-released. An elderly Japanese couple visit their grown-up, married children, only to find they have no time for their parents. The film "is marked by an indefinable melancholy that settles on the frame as softly as snow" swoons the Independent (5 stars), the Guardian falling over itself to praise the "transcendental simplicity and heartbreaking humanity of Ozu's great work" (5 stars). "Ostensibly a snapshot of postwar Japan in the midst of profound cultural change, it is the movie's painful depiction of familial disintegration that remains universal today" says the Times (5 stars); the Telegraph agrees "the clarity of his social critique here is wrenching and unassailable" (5 stars).
It Might Get Loud comes out on Tuesday. This documentary gathers Jimmy Page, The Edge and Jack White to discuss their influences and just jam. "All three seem decent enough blokes, but they are not fascinating talkers" (Independent, 2 stars) "but fans and tech-heads will be in seventh heaven" (Telegraph, 3 stars). While "it is guitar geekery of the highest order... there are moments of infectious joy" says the Times (2 stars).
Next week: apocalyptic non-fun-fest The Road and Ian Dury biopic Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll.