Friday, 22 August 2008

Critical Week: Bigger not better

Howdy from Beijing, where I'm working a non-film freelance job for two weeks. As I've been out and about around the city, I've kept an eye out for two movie-related things: cinemas and bootleg dvds. But I haven't seen any sign of either. Apparently cinemas here are pretty low profile, hidden in the bowels of shopping malls. And bootleg dvds have been swept out of sight by officials cleaning up the city for Olympic tourists. I have seen two film posters - one for Hancock (which opened here in June) and the one pictured here - John Woo's forthcoming historical Chinese action movie Red Cliff (which opened here last month).

Anyway, I'll be back in London over the weekend and back in movie mode. Looking back at my last week before I came here, I had three very big movies - and all of them disappointed me in some way. The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor got the earlier film's B-movie tone all wrong, going for mega-budget archaeological thrills in the same summer that Indiana Jones returned. Star Wars: The Clone Wars boasted seriously impressive animation, and some terrific action sequences, but barely enough plot to sustain a 20-minute TV episode. And Guy Ritchie's Rock N Rolla is a roaringly entertaining London crime drama with a superior cast, but it doesn't really add anything new to the genre that Ritchie himself kickstarted with Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels. By far the best film of the week was Walter Salles' small, sensitive innercity drama Linha de Passe.

Next week I already have a few screenings lined up, and have no idea what to expect from them. Babylon AD looks like pretty mindless action fun. Easy Virtue has a terrific cast and a script based on a Noel Coward play. Live! is an overdue mocumentary about reality television. Gardens in Autumn is a French comedy by a Georgian filmmaker. And The Warlords is a Chinese action epic with Jet Li, Andy Lau and Takeshi Kaneshiro. Looks fantastic, but I really want to see Red Cliff...

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