From the director of Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz comes Scott Pilgrim vs. The World. Adapted from the graphic novel series ‘Scott Pilgrim’, Edgar Wright’s first big budget effort manages to capture an unmistakeable love of anything cultish and geekified. Just as with his previous two films, not to mention cult classic TV show ‘Spaced’, Wright combines engaging wit, fandom, snappy editing and multi-layered jokes which make repeated viewing an assuredly worthwhile venture.
Rarely will you see such an endearingly shambolic picture, and one which celebrates the medium with as much apparent joy and appreciation as Michel Gondry’s ‘Be Kind Rewind’. It’s conceit is kooky and silly, but charming and loveable in much the same way as School of Rock was. It’s kind of indie but not, and it revels in enjoyably bad B movies that we would all prefer to big budget snorathons like Clash of the Titans. You could, if you so wished, say it had ‘stickittodamanitis’.
Kevin Reynold’s adaptation of Alexandre Dumas’ literary masterpiece is an acceptable showing, with such faint praise only attributable because of the legacy of its source. Taken on its own merit, this is a fantastic film with strong performances and stunning visuals. If you’re a fan of the novel, then I think you’ll be happy with Reynold’s work, in particular with its reasonably faithful treatment of the text. Any liberties taken in reworking Dumas’ mammoth work are by and large entirely justified in the transfer to celluloid, and necessary cuts are sustainable for a cine-friendly narrative.
An endearing romantic comedy which harks back to a bygone era, starring Ricky Gervais as misanthropic dentist Bertram Pincus. ‘Romantic comedy’ or ‘rom-com’ is a much maligned moniker to the more discerning moviegoer, but occasionally it is done in such a way as to yield a movie as warm, charming and, importantly, as funny as Ghost Town.
Over-acted melodramatic nonsense of the highest order from the all-star cast of Pitt, Cruise, Slater, Banderas, Newton (Thandie), am I forgetting anyone? Oh yes, also a young Kirsten Dunst and a cameo from Trigger off of Only Fools and Horses. The action centres around the memoirs of Louis, a 200-year old vampire (Pitt), who is telling his life story to a modern-day reporter (Christian Slater). Beginning in 1791 from when he was made undead by the tormented yet savvy Lestat (Cruise), Louis works us through his centuries of historically inaccurate bloodlust and adventure in a fittingly hammy way. It’s ludicrous but loveable.
Claustrophic thriller starring Ryan Renolds as Paul Conroy, a truck driver kidnapped in Iraq and buried alive with only a mobile phone, a lighter and a pencil with which to survive. Utterly gripping and moving in equal measures, a lot has been made of director Rodrigo Cortés’ achievement of filling 90 minutes with just one man in a box. And boy does he achieve it; even without the use of flashbacks or a single exterior shot. Credit also goes to Ryan Renolds, who had threatened to be this decade’s Ben Affleck, but here puts in a storming performance to elicit genuine emotional response.
Robert Zemekis, known for his penchant for high concept and innovative special effects, pulls another corker out of the bag. Starring the excellent trio of Meryl Streep, Goldie Hawn and Bruce Willis is Death Becomes Her, a dark “screwball” comedy exploring the morals and practicalities of eternal youth and immortality.
Nicholas Hytners’ screen adaptation of Alan Bennett’s ‘The History Boys’, containing all of the stage show’s original cast, is a magnificent film of undoubted depth. It concerns the fortunes of a group of charmingly gifted schoolboys from Yorkshire and their efforts to get into Oxford, and deals in academia, sexuality, causality and love. Stirring performances from, among others, Richard Griffiths, Stephen Campbell Moore (who I’ve praised in this blog before) and Madame Maxime make it a thoroughly endearing and thoughtful viewing experience.
It’s 1909 in Austria, and you meet a young artist named Adolf. Even though he has done nothing wrong yet - hasn’t formed any Reichs, hasn’t killed anyone - would you kill him? What if it’s nothing quite so bad as Hitler, but perhaps this person is just a bigot; just somebody with abhorrant views based on hatred and fear. If you knew the world would be a better place without them, would you kill this person? This is the moral quandry, and its impact on a quintet of post-graduate liberals, underpinning this absolute gem of a black comedy. For a fairly obscure film there’s a decent cast, including a pre-megastardom Cameron Diaz, Jason Alexander, Hellboy’s Ron Perlman, and, ok so not an all-star cast as such but if you’re the type who needs a familiar face then you might spot one or two.
Usually when we think of trans-Atlantic film collaborations, we perhaps understandably assume English-American. Here from John Michael McDonagh (the brother of Martin, writer of In Bruges), comes The Guard: a massively cross-cultural delight which brings FBI agent Wendell Everet (Don Cheadle) into the small Irish town jurisdiction of loveable misanthrope Sergeant O’Doyle (Brendan Gleeson). On the face of it a fairly trite ‘original odd-couple’ scenario I suppose, but written with just enough wit, self-awareness and finesse as to forego those misgivings. It’s really more about a clash of cultures; that and the marvellously enigmatic character of O’Doyle, played to a tee by Gleeson.