Tuesday, 25 January 2011

Critical week: Close encounter

There was definitely some nervous energy in the air as critics gathered in Leicester Square last night for the first press screening of Pegg & Frost's alien road movie Paul. Universal had laid on vast amounts of pizza and alcohol, which can either mean that they think the film is great late-night fun or in need of a bit of help. But the crowd laughed heartily throughout the screening, and even if comments afterwards were mixed, it was clear that the vast majority (including me) enjoyed it rather a lot.

The other big movie this past week was the Natalie Portman/Ashton Kutcher rom-com No Strings Attached, a relatively engaging film that never quite says anything new.  Much more satisfying were two serious films: from France, Little White Lies is a remarkably involving relationship drama that holds out interest over two and a half hours; from Australia, Oranges and Sunshine is a dark true story about lost childhood with terrific performances from Emily Watson and Hugo Weaving; and from New Zealand, The Insatiable Moon is an emotive drama with odd surreal touches about how society treats people with mental illness.

Back to comedy, we had Killing Bono, from Ireland, starring Ben Barnes and Robert Sheehan as brothers who start a band to rival their high school friends, who go on to become U2. It starts extremely well, but stretches the true story a bit thin. More fun were the unintentional laughs to be found in Age of the Dragons, starring Danny Glover in a dragon-filled adaptation of Moby Dick (yes, really), and the po-faced and extremely low-budget Titanic 2 (surely lightning won't strike twice!), which might be the funniest movie I will see all year. And then I caught up with one of my all-time favourites, which I hadn't seen in at least 20 years, Barbra Streisand and Ryan O'Neal in What's Up, Doc?, written by Buck Henry and introducing Madeleine Kahn. Say no more.

This week in London, critics are being treated to Nicolas Cage in Drive Angry, the underwater thriller Sanctum, the sci-fi thriller I Am Number Four, the medieval British thriller Ironclad, Werner Herzog's 3D doc The Cave of Forgotten Dreams, Alex Gibney's Elliot Spitzer doc Client 9, the Polish drama Essential Killing and, ahem, the Yogi Bear movie. Worringly, half of these films are in 3D.

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