It's a common middle-class problem: the complacency which an upbringing amid affluence can lead to as an adult, failing to acknowledge and thus shunning one's responsibilities, clinging onto one's memories of simple student life. That clinging is rendered as quaint nostalgia in Michael Dowse's lame rom-com What If, whose central characters all are afflicted by it, yet affluent themselves, confident and successful. It's a naff fantasy, and it makes these people's pitiful woes seem so insufferable. What If assumes it's upending the rom-com genre somewhat by supposedly emphasising the friendship between the romantic leads. But their relationship is defined throughout as one characterised by its potential for romance, and thus we must endure an elongated sequence of courtship without any actual courting. It'd be an interesting twist were it not for the fact that Elan Mastai's script constantly regresses into meet-cute scenarios and dialogue, effectively providing us with the full exposition of a couple's early days, and truncating it with the detail that it can only stagnate, since they're refused any opportunity to solve their situation. And that doesn't make sense, not that this coy awkwardness can survive for so long. Indeed, much in Mastai's script doesn't make sense, even down to strange little details (the whole 'Europe is not a continent' thing is just odd), and especially limp humour. Actually, on that front, What If isn't a total misfire, and this is what rescues it from the depths of the dreck it threatens to plumb. Daniel Radcliffe has a beguiling knack for easy comic characterisation, and Mackenzie Davis is a fabulous spark of energy in a supporting role. Their mildly, pleasantly caustic vibe chafes against the self-satisfied quirkiness of Dowse's deeply middle-class, middle-brow film, and terrifically so. But, on the whole, What If is otherwise lacking in any such sparks.
Tuesday, 2 September 2014
Monday, 1 September 2014
After a successful Venice debut, David Oelhoffen's Far from Men looks to be one of the festival's most popular films. Here's a few new stills from the Algerian-set drama, which stars Reda Kateb and Viggo Mortensen, including some after the cut.
Italian director Saverio Costanzo's New York-set Hungry Hearts sounds to be a curious cross between romance and horror, starring Adam Driver and Alba Rohrwacher. Critics note the intriguing premise (and they're not wrong about that) and have good things to say about the film's opening, but the reviews are largely negative, with many noting that it goes downhill toward the end. You can read exactly what they think in these write-ups from John Bleasdale at CineVue, Deborah Young at The Hollywood Reporter, Robbie Collin at The Telegraph, Jay Weissberg at Variety and Peter Bradshaw at The Guardian.
David Oelhoffen's Far from Men, an adaptation of Albert Camus' The Guest, has attracted some excellent reviews in Venice, where it's competing for the Golden Lion. Viggo Mortensen and Reda Kateb star in the Algerian Western, which could be a likely contender for awards when Alexandre Desplat's jury makes their choices. Here are reviews from Jessica Kiang at The Playlist, John Bleasdale at CineVue, Peter Debruge at Variety and Boyd van Hoeij at The Hollywood Reporter.
Hardly the most inspiring choice; I'd expected more from the Zurich International Film Festival. They've selected Tate Taylor's James Brown biopic Get On Up as their official opening film. Granted, the film has only opened in Canada and the US thus far - its Zurich screening will come a day after a release in France and a day before one in French-speaking Switzerland. But North America was always gonna be the film's most lucrative region, and it'll only just creep over $30 million there, well under 20% of Taylor's last film, the Oscar-winning fellow August release The Help.
Fatih Akin is a festival darling, but his latest, The Cut, is getting trashed at Venice. His first English-language film tells an expansive story set during, and after, the 1915 Armenian genocide at the hands of the Turks. Tahar Rahim stars in the lead role. None of the reviews are terribly positive: Peter Bradshaw at The Guardian, Jo-Ann Titmarsh at HeyUGuys, Jay Weissberg at Variety, Boyd van Hoeij at The Hollywood Reporter, Jessica Kiang at The Playlist, Tommaso Tocci at The Film Stage and Catherine Bray at In Contention.
If nothing else, Tommy Lee Jones' The Homesman looks like a very interesting project, and Jones a very interesting figure in American cinema right now. Small wonder it was accepted into Cannes. It's looking ever more likely, despite not having made a major festival appearance since May (until Telluride a few days back), the Western has ridden what critical acclaim and industry clout it has to the top of the list in terms of online awareness relating to Oscar nominations.
As the rest of the world was busy forgetting about Katherine Heigl, I was one of the few hoping she'd finally find another project worthy of her ability. Against all the odds, she's found it in a country-music romance set in Utah, starring Ben Barnes and directed by Texas Killing Fields' Ami Canaan Mann, still not willing to leave the American wilderness. Good for the lot of them! Here are Venice reviews from Deborah Young at The Hollywood Reporter, Robbie Collin at The Hollywood Reporter, Catherine Bray at In Contention and Guy Lodge at Variety.
Sunday, 31 August 2014
Laika stumbles with The Boxtrolls, according to American critics at Venice. Early reports are that the film isn't up to the standards of the independent animation studio's previous stop-motion offerings, save for one outright rave from Catherine Bray at In Contention. Less positive reviews come from Peter Debruge at Variety, David Rooney at The Hollywood Reporter and Alonso Duralde at The Wrap. The film is released in the UK on the 12th of September, and in the US on the 26th.
By that, I don't mean that this film's gonna be called 'Lee Daniels' Biopic', though he's bound to get around to using that title at some stage in his career. Here's to hoping that his portrait of Richard Pryor will be better than his one of some fictionalised version of some butler cos it was shit. Funnily, though perhaps putting this casting choice into clear perspective, Mike Epps, who played Pryor in Cynthia Mort's yet-to-be-released Nina Simone biopic Nina, starring Zoe Saldana, will also play Pryor in Lee Daniels' upcoming film about him. I take it he's pretty good in the role then, and reports seem to confirm that.