Tuesday, 22 July 2008

Critical Week: After the break

I'm back in London today after nine days in sunny France - visiting Bordeaux (home of the art cinema pictured here), Biarritz, Bayonne, San Sebastian, Pau and St Emilion, among other stops. It was a terrific time to lounge in the sunshine, enjoy local food and wine, celebrate the wedding of friends, and watch not one single movie.

But taking a vacation is always a risky proposition for a film critic, because when you book the trip you know you'll miss something big. I booked this holiday about eight months ago, and it wasn't until the day before I left that I realised that I would be missing all of the press screenings (plus a chance to interview the stars) for my most-anticipated film of the summer: The Dark Knight. I will now need to buy a ticket to see it on the day it opens in the UK (Thursday) and wait until the sold-out period ends in a week or so before I can see it on an Imax screen.

Other screenings I missed, in descending order of annoyance: Hellboy II, Baby Mama and The Love Guru. I should be able to catch up with these, if the distributors put on more screenings, but these things happen.

Meanwhile, the highlight of the week before I left was, oddly enough, the surprise appearance at the Get Smart screening on Friday 11th July of Steve Carell, Anne Hathaway, Dwayne (don't call him The Rock) Johnson and director Peter Segal t0 provide a rather entertaining introduction to the film, which wasn't too bad actually, as long as you understood that they were completely re-interpreting the source material.

Other films that week were Journey to the Center of the Earth in 3D, which was great, stupid fun (although I'm not sure how well it'd work without the 3D); Keira Knightley's new costume drama, The Duchess, which has a terrific plot and a fascinating performance from Ralph Fiennes; and the hysterically silly 1950s beach movie/serial killer satire Psycho Beach Party. There was also, appropriately, a veritable mini-fest of French films: the Liam Neeson thriller Taken, which is actually a typically enjoyable but far-fetched Luc Besson actioner; Jamel Debbouze in Agnes Jaoui's latest rambling drama Let's Talk About the Rain; the Kristin Scott Thomas stunner I've Loved You So Long; a reissue of Bruno Dumont's controversial and still-shocking La Vie de Jesus; and the Dardenne brothers' The Silence of Lorna (OK, this is technically Belgian).

Finally, this week sees a handful of hopefully promising offerings, including The X Files: I Want to Believe, Brideshead Revisited, Steep and festival favourites The Wave and Blindsight. I also hope to catch up with The Dark Knight and Baby Mama. Not that I expect any sympathy.

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