Tuesday, 19 April 2011

Critical Week: Summer ahoy!

When  remakes and sequels start to take over the cinema, we know that blockbuster season is upon us - that time of year when movies get increasingly disappointing as we watch filmmakers throw away hundreds of millions of dollars in a desperate attempt to fleece dim-witted filmgoers of their cash on opening weekend, before word of mouth sets in. On the other hand, some sequels and remakes actually live up to (or even exceed) expectations. Well, three of these were screened for London critics this past week, as well as a handful of smaller, more original things.

All eyes are on Arthur, Russell Brand and Helen Mirren's solid update of the goofy 1981 comedy. But American society has shifted in the three intervening decades, and billionaire drunken playboys aren't quite as loveable now. Actors from the previous four films all turn up in Fast Five, another loud, big, shamelessly entertaining blast of machismo that benefits from the addition of Dwayne Johnson to the line-up. And Wes Craven plays with the whole concept of the remake/reboot with Srea4m, wryly subverting the received wisdom that franchises need to give over to new, younger casts to carry on.

There's much more inventiveness on display in two British thrillers: Attack the Block is an uneven Shaun of the Dead-style South London alien invasion comedy-adventure, and The Veteran is a gritty action movie following fresh-from-Iraq Toby Kebbell as he's dragged into dodgy activity with the government and the mob. There were also two French dramas: The Big Picture stars Romain Duris, whose life derails, turning him into a likeable variation of the Talented Mr Ripley, while Love Like Poison is artfully and morosely explores a young teen girl exploring faith, fear and sex. And then there's Life in a Day, Kevin Macdonald's fascinating and sometimes annoying attempt to make sense of some 4,500 hours of YouTube footage chronicling one day of humanity.

The big movie for critics this week is Kenneth Branagh's comic book blockbuster Thor. And we also have Philip Seymour Hoffman's Jack Goes Boating, Takashi Miike's 13 Assassins, the Italian drama Angels of Evil, the cricket movie Fire in Babylon, the Formula One doc Senna, and the acclaimed doc Sweetgrass.

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