Sunday, April 18, 2010

This week's capsules, uncut

Dear John (12A cert, 102 min)

Existing in a world where sunsets go on for charmed weeks at a time, farewells are uniformly moist, and bouts of terminal cancer are more dramatically convenient than they are sad, Dear John, it hardly needs saying, is the latest epistolary romance from the pen of Nicholas Sparks (The Notebook, Message in a Bottle). All that’s missing from that title is the word “oh”. Channing Tatum stars as a soldier on leave, comporting himself in typical Tatum-ic fashion as if it were a physical burden to be swimming in so much testosterone. He meets Amanda Seyfried on a beach, and impresses her with his ability to create fire. “Very primal.” He’s also good at carpentry. She, an idealist, plans to open an equestrian summer camp for autistic kids. 9/11 intervenes, and he’s called to Afghanistan. Anguish looms, but all Lasse Hallström’s gauzy montages are powerless to coax a believable adult relationship out of this pair, so it’s hard to worry. Instead, they do that thing where you close one eye and cover the moon with your thumb, acting as if it were a thrilling discovery for our race. Are they six? D

Repo Men (18 cert, 111 min)

Nothing to do with Alex Cox’s 1984 cult comedy Repo Man – more’s the pity – this ghoulish and wildly illogical sci-fi thriller is all about a mega-corporatised dystopian near-future in which artificial organs are mortgaged out to the needy. Fail to make the repayments, and Jude Law and Forest Whitaker will come round to collect with a scalpel. The slicing and dicing is unsparingly full-on to the point where hardened critics were hiding behind their hands, and the ending is a daylight steal from Terry Gilliam’s Brazil. But it’s the gruellingly slow pace which really does this in. D

City of Life and Death (15 cert, 135 min)

Very possibly the war film of the year, Lu Chuan’s excellent picture about the Rape of Nanking has a lacerating widescreen immediacy, but also a true artist’s gravity and tact. It’s meticulously assembled and quite devastating, with a particularly impressive first hour. Surveying the mass slaughter of Chinese POWs in silvery monochrome, the director gives these horrors the ghostly, ineradicable weight of historical fact, and achieves humane switches of perspective on both sides which put Saving Private Ryan to shame. B+

Boogie Woogie (15 cert, 90 min)

We learn that the London art world is dog-eat-dog – don’t stop the presses – in a tonal catastrophe which keeps kissing the air and calling it satire. Danny Huston’s Jay Jopling impression consists mainly of affected guffaws every few seconds, and Gillian Anderson has never been anywhere near this lousy. Think Pret-à-Porter, brace yourself, then make it even worse. F

The Market (15 cert, 94 min)

The always-interesting Brit experimenter Ben Hopkins (The Nine Lives of Tomas Katz) began work on this Turkish co-production after 37 Uses for a Dead Sheep, his doc on a migrating tribe called the Pamir Kirghiz. His dolorous parable about a black-market trader (Tayanç Ayaydin) is an astute take on capitalism and its binds, though it might have worked better as a pithy short. B

Crying with Laughter (18 cert, 103 min)

A smashing turn from Stephen McCole as a troubled stand-up comedian elevates Justin Molonikov’s dark Scottish thriller – but the plot takes a wrong turn at the halfway point and never quite recovers. C

The Heavy (18 cert, 94 min)

Watching reluctant hit man Gary Stretch try, for no very obvious reason, to drown a cat affords the biggest laugh in this massively stupid London gangster movie, otherwise only recommended to those who urgently need to see Lee from Blue’s fingers being chiselled off. D

The Manchurian Candidate (1962) (15 cert, 121 min)

John Frankenheimer’s original, delirious, brilliantly acerbic Cold War thriller. A

1 comment:

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